During my undergrad of university, I struggled with anxiety. I struggled with it so bad at times, and for years nobody knew – or at least I don’t think they did. The simplest of tasks seemed so overwhelming at times. Things like going to class – some days I would love it, other days my stomach would be in knots. Same with going to campus Bible study, church, hanging out with friends…anything. I was so afraid to tell anyone because at that point it felt like I was the only one I knew who didn’t have it altogether, and everyone else seemed to be doing very well. I felt weird, and so different and would daily wonder what was wrong with me.
I remember reading about a missionary, Amy Carmichael, in my last year of university. She was a missionary in India and I wanted to be her. To hear the call of God, be obedient and go and serve in India (or wherever He wanted me to go). I remember thinking that she was so courageous. I wanted to be like her, I wanted to do great things for God and see Him work in amazing ways, but how? I could hardly make it to class some days without wanting to throw up. The thought of getting on a plane and moving across the world seemed completely impossible.
Then there was this one day. For the most part it wasn’t very different than what I would normally find myself doing during my quiet time. Praying that God would help me with my anxiety, and memorizing Philippians 4:6-7. But I remember pleading with God that day. Pleading with Him to take away this anxiety that was hindering me, and if He did I told Him that I would do anything He wanted. I would go overseas, I would serve Him, but I couldn’t do it with the way I was. There was no way.
It’s cool to stop and reflect on your life and see God’s guidance along the way.
This week at VOH Chongwe there have been a group of visitors. I ended up driving two of them back to their hotel and while we were driving home, the lady asked me: “So Melissa, what was sparked in your heart for you to make the decision to move to Zambia alone for a year?” Immediately I thought about how I read about the life of Amy Carmichael, and about that time I had pleaded with God in my bedroom. It was weird that I thought about that right away – I hadn’t thought about that time in my life for so long. And it really wasn’t that long ago, but in the car tonight it felt like forever ago. I shared with her briefly about those two things. Then she asked me if Zambia was the first place I had traveled to. I started telling her about Thailand, India, and that this was my third time in Zambia, and all I could say to her was that I am here only because of God. The state and condition I was in made it difficult some days to leave the house, but meanwhile in the 7 years since that day I pleaded with Him, He had led me to some of the most amazing places where I saw Him do some crazy stuff.
I was reminded that He heals the broken hearted and binds up their wounds while seeing people mutilate their bodies in Thailand.
I was reminded that He is the light in the darkest brothel lane ways in India.
And I’ve been reminded here in Zambia that in His presence there is fullness of joy. Joy that has the power to liberate the impoverished, where they cry out to Him to meet their needs daily.
I know that God does amazing things in Canada, and it’s not like you MUST go overseas to see Him work. He works everywhere. But I knew, those 7 years ago, that He was calling me to get up and go and follow Him while my comfort zones were destroyed in the process.
And you know what, He never did take my anxiety fully away. I am not the person I was 7 years ago, not at all. But it wasn’t like God took my anxiety away like it was a quick fix. When I look back, I’m actually thankful (now) for what I went through. By spending time with Him, seeking Him, He taught me that it is only His peace that is so perfect that it surpasses all understanding. He taught me to look at things in a different perspective, and He taught me that during those difficult, anxious times (times that I still face on occasion) He is the only one I can go to that understands fully, and will be my very present help.