The Process of Becoming Free
I feel like if there were a title for where I’m at in life right now, for anxiety, it would be the process of becoming free. I didn’t really, I didn’t struggle with anxiety growing up. I was raised–my parents are still together–raised in a Christian household. Grew up Baptist and my family wasn’t really good at like, processing emotions growing up. So we didn’t really talk much about–honestly, we still don’t.
And I think, you know, the more I processed emotions, the more I realize, like, Oh, I’m actually, I deal with a lot more things than I realize and think–you’re just having a bad day. No, actually, it was that text message earlier that kind of frustrated you and you’ve just been carrying it the past two hours and you’re, you don’t even realize, you know, that you’re, you know, kind of angry right now. Or, that it made you feel a little sad inside. And learning how to really process my emotions has been the biggest struggle, waking up feeling anxious and just getting up and going, you know, and running, running away from the pain, but learning how to like, actually sit in that anxiety and that pain.
I remember the first moment of breakthrough I had. I was, I had just woken up it was like 7 a.m., woken up, anxiety would always meet me, right at my bedside. Like, would always meet me right there. It was as if it was just a person and it would just put its hand on my chest. As soon as I woke up, and you know, my chest would get tight, hard to breathe. And at that point, I had been having suicidal thoughts. And instead of running away from the fear and the panic, and like God, my heart is just broken, terrified, and I’m, I don’t I don’t know how to, what to do with these emotions, Jesus. I just remember I told Jesus what the feelings were telling me.
Jesus, these feelings are telling me that my life has no meaning anymore. These feelings are telling me that I’m hopeless and that I should die. And I was like, “Lord, I, I don’t know what to do with these feelings.” As I told Him what they were feeling and what I was, what they were trying to make me believe, I literally felt all the anxiety lift off my chest. And that was like the first moment of breakthrough I had and I was like, it was such a big thing for me–a big moment of breakthrough. I was like, Oh my gosh, this is how you give… Cast your burdens on the Lord, your anxieties to the Lord because He cares for you.
You tell Him what you’re feeling. And you’re telling Him what those feelings are trying to make you believe. And as you give Him these burdens, He gives you peace in return, a peace that surpasses understanding. This morning, I mean, even this morning, I went to a coffee shop and I got there and I just I noticed I was like, I feel a little disappointed and just feel a little weird. And I was like Jesus, I’m feeling disappointed right now, feeling really weird. I don’t, can’t really put my finger on it. Maybe I feel a little bit of shame. I don’t know what it is, Lord, but I give this to You, Jesus. Lord, I invite You into this right now, just speak into me. In that moment, the feelings don’t necessarily go away. But I was just like, this is me giving to You, Lord. This is my relationship with you. You know, and I’ve also had to learn like, in the midst of giving sometimes like, the feelings don’t go away, but I have to continue living my life because I know that eventually within the day this, I’ll swing out of these emotions.
Yesterday morning, I led worship. And we’re in the pre-service prayer meeting. And Lorissa, she, she just told me, she goes, “Cody, like, I encourage you, today, lead with your heart wide open.” I wasn’t expecting when I led worship for anything crazy to happen out of the normal, but I was just like, “Yeah, okay. I will. Thank you for encouraging me to do that.” And it’s so refreshing when your leaders tell you to do that. I’ve been in churches before and they’re like, No, don’t do that at all. You’re gonna make people uncomfortable.
We started worship. And I immediately just started seeing this picture of the throne room of a sea of glass that’s, you know, around the throne and mingling with fire. And the four living creatures surrounding the throne and the throne being as big as a mountain. And Jesus is on this throne. The Father’s there also. We make it probably about 20 minutes into the, into worship and we start kind of spontaneously singing, All Hail, King Jesus. And then all of a sudden I just start seeing this picture of Jesus on the throne. And He was, He was asking us to trust Him. He was asking me to trust Him. He was asking the congregation to trust Him. And as we started trusting Him, He became so ecstatic with joy. And He got off of His throne. He just started dancing on the sea of glass. “Father, they’re trusting Me. They’re trusting Me.” And He’s just dancing. He’s just like, He had like, He can’t contain His joy because He’s seen His, His bride, His children are trusting Him. And I began weeping on stage, which I don’t typically do on stage and, and like, my heart was like, wide open, and I was realizing like, Oh, anxiety is the fear of not having control, no control of relationships, or the control of someone else’s decisions, or the control of your emotions or you want more control and you just don’t know how to get it.
And then Sarah Beth, she was leading worship with me, she started singing “God, You are God, and I am not.” And that, I remember when she started singing, I started laughing as she started singing that, my heart leapt with joy. And I was like, this is how I return to my peace. Realizing I’m not God, and I don’t have to be God, and I don’t have to try to control anything or anyone. He is sovereign. And He is really good at leading, and He’s really good at shepherding. And He’s really good at fixing these relationships, like these problems. He’s really good at fixing my finances. He’s really good at all these other things. And my heart just like, was just undone at this fact that God is God and I’m not. At the end of the day, that’s how we return to our peace and our joy of salvation. Like, realizing that God is good. All He wants us to be is His children and like, to allow Him to be God, to provide and to love and to forgive.
This past week I was, I was reading in John 15. And Jesus, I’d never saw this. It’s crazy how you can read things over and over and you never see something. And then it popped out and Jesus said, “Remain in Me as I remain in My Father. If you obey My commandments, you will remain in My love. ” And in verse later He goes on, “And this is My commandment, love each other.” That’s His commandment. It’s nothing else. It’s literally just love each other. So if you love each other, you will remain in My love. And I will remain in you. And My Father’s love will remain in you. And so my whole prayer this past week and a half is, “God help me to love, to love well. Help me to love well, help me to love myself well, but help me to love my brothers well and my family well. Help me to love those I encounter every day. Help me to love them well. Help me to see them the way you see them. Because if I can become love, the anxiety, like none of that stuff can exist in love, you know. And for anyone who is dealing with anxiety or depression that, even me saying that isn’t a place of shame for any of them. Or for us, or for me because tomorrow I might wake up and I might be having a panic attack. It might happen. It could possibly happen. I don’t believe it’s gonna happen. But something could happen and it triggers emotions. And I’ll have to go back to that place of “Lord, I’m feeling these things.” But don’t feel shame. Like, don’t let your anxiety be a place of shame, because the Lord really cares about your emotions, and He cares that you bring them to Him. And if you feel shame, you’ll never feel free to bring Him your heart, or to cast your cares on Him. If you feel shame, you can’t cast your cares, because you feel like it’s your fault.
I do visualize Him. When I tell Him these things, like, either I’ll visually visualize like the throne room of heaven. Or I’ll visualize Him sitting next to me on the couch or in my car. I’ll close my eyes and just–because He is a real person, something it’s just a place of faith and it’s a childlike thing. You know? Even in acting, we have to visualize things when we’re doing scenes. To visualize that I’m like in a jungle, I don’t know, like things like that, like, so why not bring that little tiny thing that helps me feel more real, for a scene into my actual relationship with God, because He is the invisible God. And Jesus is the visible image of God. Like, visualizing Him, it’s not some New Age thing. It’s the man Jesus. See Him with His holes in His hands, a hole in His feet, the holes in His feet, and see Him on the throne. Really making these prayers personal, like a real relationship, like I’m talking to you. That’s, that’s really how I’ve done it, is realizing like it’s, Jesus is a real person that I’m talking to.
I’ll say this, like for those who deal with depression and anxiety. And you might be thinking, like, visualizing Jesus is weird. You’re already visualizing things in your mind that are causing you panic and depression.
I think it’s pretty weird that we visualize death and despair over our lives. You know, that’s, I think we need to start realizing what’s really weird is we visualize the devil’s schemes. We visualize our bank accounts being negative; we visualize all these things. What if this happened or what if that happens? What if we visualize Jesus, you know, pray to Him.