Jen Neufeld

Praying About Anxiety

My name is Jen. I'm 19 years old and I have been a Christian for as long as I remember. I made the decision to follow Jesus for myself when I was 15. Right after I graduated from high school, I was diagnosed with Panic Anxiety Disorder. Looking back, it's easy to recognize moments of sheer panic, days or even weeks of anxiety, and specific panic attacks. However I did not know what I was going through at the time, so I thought it was normal - a byproduct of the stress I was feeling about leaving home for the first time to take a year off school at Torchbearers in Germany. Upon my diagnosis I felt a mild amount of comfort that what I had been experiencing was in fact not normal, but a result of my anxiety disorder. I also struggled a lot with feeling weak and like if I had just been a stronger person, this wouldn't have happened to me. My parents bought me a book written by a Christian psychologist called "The Anxiety Cure". In this book the author stressed that anxiety was not a result of weakness, but rather strength. Anxiety happens to strong people as one of the ways Satan tries to destroy us. I was determined not to let that happen to me. While at bible school I experienced an incredible amount of general anxiety as well as panic attacks. The living conditions were some of the worst for an introvert with anxiety - roommates, no alone time, forced to meet new people for two straight weeks until you know everyone. But even after those two weeks it felt like I only knew people on a surface level - no one I could really talk to about serious things. This left God as my only option, and now I am incredibly grateful for it. I cried out to Jesus everyday, asking him to help me and to give me strength to get through the day, sometimes just the hour. He continually provided for me.

I remember one specific instant when I was on outreach with my music team. We were in an unfamiliar town with people who spoke limited English, and we were about go to on stage to perform our set when I felt a panic attack coming on. I told our staff leader who immediately comforted me and told me about a quiet place in the basement where I could go to be by myself. He asked me if I needed anything and then assured me that the team would be okay without me. I spent the next hour or two in that little room, which had couches and darkness and quiet. Later on I came up back upstairs to find the others worried about me, but they didn't know I'd had a panic attack. Our staff leader had told them that I simply did not feel well. This was a huge relief to me because having panic attacks was never something I enjoyed sharing. I found them embarrassing and thought that others would see me as weak if they knew how often I got them. The night went on and I enjoyed myself fully. It ended with a dance party with the youth of the town! God provided so much more than I needed that evening.

The anxiety continued, but I continued to rely on Jesus. There were many times that I cried out to God in both anger and pain, questioning his motives behind it all. "Jesus I trust you" became a continual mantra, even though it wasn't always true. I often had to say it multiple times out loud before I believed it myself.

In August of 2015, just over a year after my diagnosis, the anxiety got really bad. So bad that while I was working at camp I had to switch from counselling to the kitchen, and even then I had to take days off to just lie in bed. There was one day I only left my room twice. The physical pain was unbearable. I talked to a good friend about how difficult it had been recently, then she shared an interesting perspective: that it was so difficult now because something really, really good was going to happen in the future. I liked her outlook and wished it could be true, but I never thought it possible. Over the course of my anxiety, I had many people praying for me and had seen no improvements. This caused me to think that God wouldn't heal me but instead would give me the ability to handle my anxiety. But on August 29, 2015, I went to morning staff meeting like any other morning. We had our cabin debriefs and went to meet with our prayer partners, just like any other day. God used this ordinary day to do something amazing. While I was praying with my prayer partner, she felt like God wanted to heal me. She prayed, and as she did I felt this anxious knot tighten in my stomach for a few moments and then loosen. The empty space was immediately filled with a sense of peace and warmth - the presence of God. The joy in my heart and in my prayer partner's heart were both indescribable. We sang to the Lord and praised him with our whole beings. Many tears of joy were cried, and hugging was abundant. Jesus had done a miracle. He healed me from my crippling anxiety! This is a day I will never forget.

One of my favourite moments in that day was walking up to two of my closest friends, my prayer warriors, and telling them that I had been healed. There were more joyful tears and grins and lots of hugs. Each person I told was filled with joy and I got to experience that joy many times that day. Jesus is good.

I have had absolutely no issues with anxiety since then. God told me that it would be gone forever, a concept I still can't comprehend. I occasionally catch myself expecting it to come back in one way or another, but it still hasn't. I think I will be surprised by this for a long time. God is so good to have healed me, but I still have questions. Why did he choose that exact moment? Why heal me when he could have healed others with more serious problems? I have no answer to these other than to say that God is good and his plans are perfect. He uses everything for his glory, no matter how terrible the circumstance may seem. God is SO good! I am still so thankful for the work he has done in my life, short as it may be (so far). He taught me many things during this trial, the biggest one being that I can hold on to him and he will keep me standing when everything feels like it's falling apart. He will hold me together when I feel like I'm losing it all.