A Testimony of Grace and Anxiety3
At the age of 6, I remember walking into the living room, where my father was watching a movie on TBN. It was about death, and mainly consisted of angels throwing hoards of people into hell. Consequently, I prayed the sinner's prayer that evening, but I'm not sure I really understood it.
My relationship with the Lord at that point, and for most of my life, was based on fear. I thought the outward sins were the ones that mattered most, so I confessed those, but often found myself too afraid to confess my deeper, more systemic problems, like pride, lust, and doubt. I didn't think "good" Christians were supposed to struggle with such things, so I pretended I didn't either.I wouldn't say I enjoyed my relationship with God.
Fast forward to age 20: I was diagnosed with obsessive-compulsive disorder. My anxiety was reaching a dangerous point. I slept for 10-12 hours a night, wasn't eating due to stress, and lost about 20 pounds. I hardly remember that 6-month period of my life, and it's a blessing from God that I somehow kept my job and didn't end up in a mental hospital. I spent every free moment I had worrying about whether I was truly saved or if I could lose my salvation. This period was simultaneously the most painful and grace-filled chapter of my life.
Christ purposefully put people in my path to comfort and strengthen me when I had no strength left. I met a psychiatrist who, unbeknownst to me, went to RiverOaks. I also cross paths with a pastor at another church in Tulsa who has OCD as well. He explained to me that at the point of repentance and faith, we receive irrevocable status as a child of God. Jesus also used RiverOaks to make a huge impact on the way I viewed myself and Him. I was refreshed by Pastor Ricky and other church leaders' honesty in confessing their own sin. I was also encouraged by the practice of confession together as a congregation, and that we always receive a promise of forgiveness.
It was here that I truly began to understand the Gospel, and interpret the whole Bible as Gospel. I learned the importance of the fact that Christ has made a covenant with me, and that "when I am faithless, He still remains faithful." Instead of being a source of stress, my relationship with Jesus became a place of peace and rest for me. Church became the highlight of my week, because I would get to worship with people that were just like me: aware of their utter sinfulness, brokenness, and inability to fix themselves, but equally convinced of their acceptance in Christ Jesus.
For a long time I was afraid to voice my doubts for fear of condemnation by the church, but I found that River Oaks is a safe place to ask questions and be honest with God. And amazingly enough, I found that even some the most mature believers I know struggle with the same doubts I do. I have not been healed of my anxiety disorder, but the Lord has done much better than that. Through this He's shown me that He is far more merciful and loving than I ever gave him credit for. He loves me with my anxiety, fears and doubts.
Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that [my thorn in the flesh] should leave me. But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Corinthians 12:8-10