As summer keeps flying by, I have been finding myself searching for something to cling on to—some sort of support, a constant, something that will ground me. With college approaching faster and faster, my life has been getting hectic and overwhelming. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous about living on campus in August. While I’ll only be about 25-30 minutes from home, it’s still scary thinking that I’ll be by myself, no family to help me when I’m overwhelmed, or for me to run to with my problems. This is a huge deal for me, because in the past, I’ve always relied on someone being with me to help me get through situations. The situation that scares me the most is my panic attacks. I got my first glimpse of having one on my own this weekend when my parents went down to Indiana. I got sick and started throwing up, which led into a panic attack, and then an ever present anxiety that stayed for nearly two days. While I did cheat a little bit and call my mom at 11 o’clock at night, crying because I didn’t want to throw up, it was technically my first time being sick without anyone physically there with me.
Nonetheless, I’m realizing I cannot cling to family, friends, or something tangible to keep me grounded in anxious and scary situations. Instead the only thing that remains constant is God. I tell myself over and over that, “The word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12). I wish I could say that I’ve always relied on God’s word, but that isn’t true. I had a wake-up call a few weeks ago and it became clear that God’s love and care for me is so unfathomable and that I needed to trust him fully. I’m still learning to go to his Word and to Him first, but believe me, it’s hard. It’s so much easier to try to call someone so I can actually hear a voice to help me through a tough trial. But with all the “tangible” noise I have been craving, it has been putting God’s voice on mute, and not allowing him to speak to me at all.
Anxiety speaks louder than God most days, especially this past weekend. But anxiety hates when I make God a priority and purposely sit to soak his word in. I cling to the fact that his word is living and active and it has the power to cease any anxiety I have at any moment. Which leads me into finding my Psalm.
This is something that the Pastor at my church has brought up many times. The principle is fairly simple; when you are looking for God, start in the Psalms. Start at Psalm 1 and keep reading until one of them speaks out to you; until one reaches out and connects to you; until you find God in a specific one. One sleepless night it took me 51 chapters until I found my Psalm. Upon finishing Psalm 51, I immediately fell into tears—and I am not an easy emotional crier.
In a historical context, Psalm 51 is a Psalm of David. David had committed adultery with Bathsheba, had her husband—a great military man—killed, and had fallen deep into sin. David starts the Psalm out “Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love, according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin” (Psalm 51:1-2). David goes on to talk about how he has sinned and done evil in God’s sight, he asks for God to clean him and wash him, and for Him to “Create in me a pure heart…and renew a steadfast spirit within me” (v. 10). But the verse that always stops me in my tracks is 11 into 12:
“Do not cast me from your presence
or take your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation
And grant me a willing spirit, to
I always pray specifically over those two verses. God don’t cast me from your presence because it is your presence that I find peace and comfort, where I find all that I need. Don’t take your Holy Spirit from me because it runs deep in my soul and gives me strength to keep going. I want him to constantly restore to me the joy of salvation that even when I sin, which separates me from Him, that I can be reminded of the salvation I have through Jesus Christ. And when I feel like I cannot continue on, I pray that he does grant me a willing spirit that will sustain me.
“O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise” (v. 15); I only ever want his praises to fall from my mouth, I want all I do to be edifying to his Kingdom. I want him to know that I’m sacrificing all my life for him because, “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise” (v 17). If David, a horrible sinner could find forgiveness and mercy in God, then I am confident that I too can find it if I pray and confess to God all of my shortcomings and sins. Psalm 51 is a reminder that I am not perfect, I make mistakes, and I need God’s grace and mercy to restore me and lift me up. Because all I can give to him is my broken and contrite heart—he gladly takes it and lifts me up. I have no other way to express my gratitude than with lifting his name with praises.
Yes, anxiety can be crippling for me, and I can feel like I’m going to die. But God is bigger than my anxiety. His word can read louder than any of the thoughts of anxiousness running through my mind. When I’m overwhelmed, all I have to do is open up His word, and wait for Him to speak. I know He’ll always find me in Psalm 51. My goal is to meet with him every time I read His word, no matter where I find myself in it. For it truly is alive and active.