Do you ever have a yearning for more? Not more stuff. Not more clothes or gadgets or food or holidays. A different kind of yearning altogether. The one that sits in the pit of your stomach that nags and gnaws at you. You can’t put your finger on what it is no matter how hard you try to discover its starting point and so you can’t get rid of it, it just sits and hovers. This nagging and gnawing often does then lead to us reaching out for more stuff in hope that it will settle the feeling and make it go away. We tell ourselves that maybe the feeling is because we are missing something; we need something new and then everything will be ok again. Job done! This leads to internet searches for new cars and new phones, the latest iPad or the newest fad. Long internet searches lead to a swirling of the brain and a new uncertainty as you try and decide which is the best thing to get. When at last you finally get into bed at night even though you switch the light off your brain still feels like there is a light bulb burning bright in there. That search for something new to quieten the nagging does in fact create a whole new problem in itself. Restlessness, poor sleep, distraction, uncertainty. All problems that will result in stress and ill health. And guess what? That nagging feeling is still there yet now its worse because you didn’t manage to solve the problem.
We wont all feel the nagging and gnawing in the same way, for some it will be mild and only from time to time. Maybe life is already so full up and so busy you manage to keep it at bay for longer. But what happens in the lull? When you diary is looking empty and you don’t have something immediately on the horizon. Does that uncomfortable feeling come on? So you instantly reach out for your phone to text someone to make an arrangement? For others of us I think this problem is worse. No matter how busy you are, no matter how much stuff you have, that feeling of dissatisfaction and restlessness just never go away.
How about we give that nagging and that gnawing a name:
Even when written down it looks horrible doesnt it? It’s a hard word, a strong word and rightly so because anxiety is a hard problem and also a very strong problem. The occurrences of anxiety are constantly on the rise with more of us being medicated for the problem than ever before. I myself have been treated for anxiety on a number of occasions throughout my life and hand on heart I can say it is a truly awful feeling. What I think is especially difficult about anxiety is that we can suffer with it for so many different reasons. Sometimes its because we are stressed, sometimes its because we fear being lonely, sometimes is because we are sitting exams, moving house or getting married. A whole number of different things and reasons. But sometimes its because nothing this world has to offer us satisfies us. It is a truly complex feeling and it doesn’t just effect us emotionally, it can actually have a very physical effect upon us. Dry mouth, metallic taste in the mouth, palpitations, shaking, insomnia, upset stomach. The list goes on and on. The question is, how do we manage this anxiety?
I have placed the words from a song called “Oceans” by Hillong United throughout this blog and I will share the recording of it at the end as it is a truly beautiful and deeply stirring song. The essence of the song is that God is calling on us to step out in faith, to step out on the path He has for us and recognising that this path will never cause us harm. He will never let us sink, He will never let us drown because taking the faith to step out on the waters with Jesus is when He is able to support us the most. When we are coping with that gnawing feeling all by ourselves, filling life up with crutches to keep us steady, then He can’t help us because we aren’t asking for help. But as we have already seen those crutches don’t actually do a very good job. When we tell God that we are willing to follow Him wherever He will take us, then He can act and He can take us in His embrace so that our feet will never fail. This isn’t an easy thing I know. I have been a Christian for thirty years, yet I still need to come to God about my anxiety (sometimes every day, sometimes only once in a while) and leave it with Him. Sometimes though anxiety can be used positively to push us on and out to taking the next step in our journey.
Since getting back from South Africa I have had anxiety worse than I have had it for a long time and each day I ask God why. Surely as I step out in my journey with Him in these areas of human rights He is there with me? Guiding me, leading me, caring for me? Yet my anxiety persists. Yesterday this song “Oceans” came to me and when I woke up this morning it was in my head again so naturally I listened to it and read the words and said them over and over. When my husband asked me what was wrong this morning (he always knows!) I said, “I am just so dissatisfied. I want to be doing something, I want to roll up my sleeves and get my hands dirty but I don’t know how to or in what way”. As I said these words out loud I realised that the cause of my anxiety right now is because I want to do so much more, I want to offer more to others and I want to get going with it yet I feel stuck by circumstances. The outcome? This anxiety, horrid as it is, is actually spurring me on to take action and to make new choices and to search harder for what my calling is. It’s there, I know it is, I just need to keep bringing it to God every day and asking Him to show me where He wants me to use my rolled-up-sleeved arms.
Another occasion when anxiety spurs us on is when our spirit is seeking God. The bible tells us that our spirit is what bring us life. The bible describes the spirit as being what gives our bodies life (“It is the Spirit who gives life” John 6 v 63) and that without our spirit we are lifeless (“the human body apart from the spirit is lifeless” James 2 v 26). The Formula 1 doctor who was sat with Ayrton Senna when he died said that even though he isn’t a spiritual man, the moment Senna died he felt his spirit leave him. He said he has never experienced anything like it before (see the end of the Senna movie for his quote) and this is a powerful testimony from someone who does not even believe in God as to the spirits presence and it’s life-giving ability. Even Jesus’ very life was formed by the Holy Spirit. When Mary asked the angel how she will have a baby when she is a virgin the angel replies “The Holy Spirit shall come upon you” (Luke 1 v 35). And so we see that it is the Holy Spirit that brings about life through our human spirit. So then it surely makes sense that our human spirit seeks a relationship with its creator the Holy Spirit, in the same way we seek to have a relationship with our earthly parents. Even for those who have very damaged relationships with parents, there is always a desire to have a parent who will care for you and look after you. Those who have been without that love and protection tend to be damaged by its absence. So, I conclude that our spirit seeks to know God, to have a relationship with the best father we could ever hope to have because our spirit understands that God can truly provide us with all that we need, even if we don’t recognise it ourselves. This is where I think that nagging and gnawing feeling often comes from and why it can be hard to recognise. The feeling comes from a restlessness of our spirit to find God but we push it down by buying something new or keeping our diaries busy to distract the feeling.
Please know that this isn’t a lecture as all these feelings can be true of Christians as well as those who don’t believe in Christianity. We are just as susceptible to being distracted by things that we think we need and by a feeling that we can do things alone. It is the natural human state to think we can manage alone.
So if you are suffering with anxiety, or have suffered with anxiety (as we all have at some point to varying degrees) whilst it may stem from a stressful situation or fear, why not ask yourself if it maybe goes deeper and maybe the stressful situation or the feeling of fear is in fact just the way in which your anxiety is manifesting itself. There is a good chance though that you are in fact being asked to step out upon the water, the great unknown where feet may fail but where you find Him in the mystery and call upon His name, He’s never failed and He won’t start now.
Please click below to watch the acoustic version of this song