Why You Can't Pray Away Your Anxiety

Believe me. I've tried. 

I've been praying against anxiety for almost as long as I could spell it. But it wasn't until 31 I realized why it wasn't working.

I had finally decided to start counseling because nothing else seemed to be helping my situationnot prayer, not wine, not even JCrew. Things were getting desperate. I pulled up to a tiny white house in the middle of nowhere and wondered if this whole thing was a joke. Or if I was going to be murdered. Neither seemed ideal.

But this particular counselor was working on his licensure and therefore happened to be free of charge. I decided it was worth the risk.

He was younger than I thought he'd be and not even the slightest bit ugly. If he was was going to be my age, the least he could do is be a little ugly. No one should ever have to tell a good-looking stranger their problems. But I reminded myself again that the whole thing was free . . . I had nothing to lose but every trace of dignity.  

"It sounds like you have a bit social anxiety," he said.

I folded my clammy hands tightly in my lap and nodded. 

"And it also sounds like your goal is to get over your anxiety while telling as few people about it as possible, am I right?"

" . . .Yeah, I guess so," I said, shrugging. It seemed reasonable to me.

"Well, the good news is that you can overcome this anxiety. The bad news is that if you do so in secret, you won't have accomplished anything. What you really fear is being honest."

I was getting irritated. 

"People come in here all the time wanting to be healed in secret," he continued. "And the irony is, it's the secrets that keep them from healing."

For an amateur counselor, he was annoyingly profound.

Since then, I've looked at healing in a completely different way. My anxiety is only the symptom of a bigger problem: the unwillingness to let others into the dark places in my heart and bring a little light with them. 

I recently read that the U.S. has the highest anxiety rates in the world. We have more wealth and opportunity than we know what to do with, and yet we are poor beyond comprehension because we don't know how to trust each other.

We don't know how to say, "I'm afraid. I'm tired. I'm weak. I'm broken . . . I need you."

We lock ourselves away in prayer closets hoping God will zap us of our weakness so we can walk into community all confident and holy . . . so we can bring healing to others without asking anything in return.

And our Father isn't getting on board with this plan. He has lavished us in his love through the gift of community, but we will never truly experience that love if we don't open ourselves up to it.

What weakness have you been trying to pray away?

Maybe God isn't saying no. Maybe his yes is waiting for you in community.