Dear Troubled Believer,
I see you.
I know it feels like you’re army-crawling through morning and afternoon. I know how your soul slinks on the ground, breathing in the dust, while everyone around you seems free as birds in the breeze. They don’t understand the willpower it takes to do the ordinary, the effort in the “easy,” the crushing of the commonplace.
I know you feel like you’re an alien among humans, struggling to carry out basic functions on planet earth. And sometimes your mind is suspended just above your body so that you stare at yourself—your arms, your fingers, your feet, your legs. The moving muscles and twitching tendons. You tongue the back of your teeth, rub the enamel off your fingernails, bounce your knees, breathe in deeply. How strange it is to be human . . . Why does it take so much attention?
And I know about that anvil on your chest—the one that keeps the wings of your lungs from expanding. I have felt that aching sensation that lingers on top of your heart when your breathing has been labored for hours. And that thudding pulse in your chest—a constant reminder that you have to keep trying, keep moving, keep living. I know that life seems essentially problematic.
But I see you.
My dear reader, you are not alone. There are others. We are here. We are clawing our way up the mountain of life with you, tooth and nail, scrapes and scratches. We are behind you, before you, and beside you. We are with you.
I have climbed long enough to know that there are only two directions on the mountain: up or down, to the peak or to the base. And no matter which direction you choose in this moment, no matter where your footing falls, know this: Your anxiety is no accident.
Your hypervigilance, your tingling limbs, your pulsing panic—these are tools and utensils. Shining and sharp, they may cut and bruise; they may mark you. And on some days, they will even weigh down your heart in the black of doubt. Day after day, they may draw you down.
But you must rise. You will rise. And when you do, the wetness of your weary world will turn you into clay. The sediment will start to drip and slide. Something bright and strong will start to emerge, something you cannot put into words—some aged and refined version of yourself, wiser, long-suffering, patient, sympathetic, thoughtful, genuinely ready to offer yourself for another. The weakness will open you. It will show you the inside.
And then, my troubled kin, after many years, you will start to feel the very words of God our Father—mountain maker and mountain shaker—settling into the soil of your heart: “There. . . Now I can see him. Now I can see my Son.”
Pierce Taylor Hibbs is the award-winning author of Theological English, Finding God in the Ordinary, and The Speaking Trinity. He has also written a first-hand account of his own experience with an anxiety disorder, Struck Down but Not Destroyed: Living Faithfully with Anxiety (releasing January 15, 2020). To see his other writings on anxiety and join his email list, visit piercetaylorhibbs.com.