When I Was in a Besieged City
Hopefully you’ve tasted the blessedness of bringing sin into the light of Christ’s love and the fellowship of gracious believers. The step of coming out of the shadows is a challenging one to take—to show we are empty, crooked, and dark. And sometimes even seeing this darkness in us takes a long time; sin desensitizes us as it often subtly invades. And for different reasons, sin causes us to lose some connection to the life outside of our broken selves. This, I believe, is the scariest part.
In the same way that sin curls us inward and slowly silences us, so does fear and anxiety. The places in us that are governed by worry and panic take control of our minds and suck our attentions and demeanors into that darkness. And as with sin, the more we invest in our fears, the more we nourish them.
For the last four years, I’ve been struggling with the darkness of anxiety. Where I once relegated those consumed-with thoughts about death to the fringe Goth kids in my high school, I’ve come to wonder at anyone who doesn’t interpret day-to-day goings on through a sharp awareness of mortality. I am constantly expecting the next tragedy that will turn my life upside-down—the news or the accident that will change my course completely and break my heart.
Strangely enough, but consistent with the nature of fear, these haven’t seemed like thoughts worth sharing: they come in and out of my mind so regularly and so unbidden. I sit with them, mull over them, follow their channels as if hungry for what is worst. I am often afraid, but what is there to say or do about it?
As hidden sin has a way of manifesting itself—even against my own will—so, too, my anxiety has recently begun to take its very physical toll on me; perhaps my body has simply grown weary under the weight of it. The thought patterns that have become so normal to me are in reality such a strenuous game—one that drains my thoughts, my spirit, and my body. Several times now I’ve been driving on the interstate and have found myself unable to breathe well. I’ve had to pull onto the shoulder, feeling I would black out. And this has begun to transfer to more mundane contexts: sitting at my desk at work, taking my dog for a walk, lying down to sleep at night.
This experience became so prevalent so quickly that in the midst of it, I didn’t know if I could ever have my life back. King David suffered attack and abandonment in a besieged city. I felt utterly invaded and taken over, and with him cried out, “I had said in my alarm, ‘I am cut off from your sight’” (Psalm 31:21–22).