It’s been a rough couple months for me. As some of you may know, I’ve struggled with intense anxiety for a number of years. And just to clarify, phsyical anxiety and sinful worry are two very different things. When we worry, it often manifests itself in a sense of physical anxiety. I often (95% of the time) experience physical anxiety when I’m not worried about a thing. I feel like a large hand is squeezing my chest. I need to breathe deeply. It’s hard to concentrate. Worry is a sin. I’m not worrying about anything when I feel anxious. Something is malfunctioning in my body. Neurons are misfiring, or serotonin is not being properly absorbed by my brain.
Thankfully, God has given men and women wisdom to create various medicines that can alleviate the symptoms of anxiety. Over the years I’ve taken different medicines that have really helped me. But here’s the thing: sometimes these medicines quit working. It’s like one day the medicine says, “You know what, I’m sick of doing my job! I quit!” Recently one my medications turned in its resignation. So, for the last month or so, I’ve felt like a piece of dirt.
But in the midst of feeling like a large animal is sitting on my chest, and being unable to concentrate, and generally feeling awful, I’ve been particularly reminded of 2 Corinthians 12:7-9:
…a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”
The great Apostle Paul was given a thorn in his flesh. He pleaded with God to remove it. He begged. He cried out. But instead of removing the thorn, God did something better for Paul: he gave him sufficient, powerful, sustaining grace.
God has used this thorn of anxiety to teach me some things. He’s taught me that I’m a weak, frail, fragile, easily broken creature. He’s taught me that I can’t do anything apart from him. I can’t breathe, or preach a sermon, or utter a prayer, or play with my kids apart from the empowerment of God. He’s taught me that if I have any success in ministry, or in being a dad, or in being an author, or in being a husband, it’s because his grace is at work in me. I need to learn and embrace these truths. These are hard, yet sweet truths. The anxiety I am experiencing is a severe mercy.
God may take away my anxiety. I pray that he does. But if he doesn’t, I trust him. I trust that he will give me sufficient grace for each day. I trust that his power will be sufficient for me. I’ll embrace the thorn, because I know the thorn is ultimately held by my Father.
Have something to say about this article? Leave your comment via Facebook below!
Stephen Altrogge serves as a pastor at Sovereign Grace Church of Indiana, PA, where his main duties include leading worship, preaching, and working with youth. He also has written a number of worship songs that have been included on Sovereign Grace Music albums. Stephen is the author of the book Game Day For the Glory of God: A Guide For Athletes, Fans, and Wannabes, published by Crossway Books in September 2008, and The Greener Grass Conspiracy: Finding Contentment on Your Side of the Fence, published by Crossway Books in April 2011. When not shining his dad’s shoes, you can find Stephen drinking coffee or playing video games.
Find out more when you visit his blog, The Blazing Center.