If this is your first time here, welcome! You’ll notice that this is part 4 in a series on anxiety, and this will all make a lot more sense if you read the whole story! So please click through to read part 1, part 2 and part 3.
I could hardly wait for the MRI. Not because I particularly enjoy lying perfectly still in a claustrophobia-inducing machine as it takes countless scans of my brain, but because I was desperate for answers. The neurologist I’d been referred to was convinced I was having optical migraines. I’d read the symptoms though, and I wasn’t so sure. Yes, some of my issues were consistent with optical migraines, but the fact that I wasn’t having any respite from the symptoms (and the tingling episode) caused me to believe that this was something else entirely. Still, the appointment with the neurologist was a turning point in my walk through this struggle. Not because of anything the neurologist said or did, but because of what I heard following the appointment.
As I got into my car to leave his office, I heard a voice speak into the stillness of my trembling soul: “I’m proving my goodness to you. You’re not sick. Trust me.” It wasn’t an audible voice, but it was so lovingly authoritative and it echoed in the deepest, darkest places of my fear that I could not deny it. I knew then that this was in the Lord’s hands, and that He would see me through … whatever that might be.
Meanwhile, I’d also started seeing a chiropractor. I had been wearing my anxiety like a wet, wool blanket, draped thick and heavy around my body, and its weight was taking a toll. There was a chronic tightness and an ache in my shoulders and neck. I hoped the chiropractor could alleviate some of that pain, and I also hoped that he could perhaps shed some additional insight on my other physical issues.
It was at my first consultation that the chiropractor asserted that most, if not all, of my symptoms were likely a direct result of anxiety. He believed that the fear that I had allowed to take up residence in my mind was manifesting itself in tangible ways throughout my body. I was beginning to slowly come out of the fog to see God’s protection and goodness throughout my struggle, but I still wasn’t convinced that my physical ailments were stress-induced. I still feared the worst.
And so with trepidation I went for the MRI on March 27, 2012. Dear friends of ours–a couple who have served as mentors to several young marrieds in our church–had agreed to read the MRI scan for me that very day. As a radiologist, he graciously met my husband and I at his office to review the scan and (figuratively) hold my hand as he did so. My heart pounded as I handed him the CD and prayed in ernest for the scan to be clear. He pulled the scans up and began reviewing them, but much to my dismay, the imaging center had only scanned my cervical spine. They had failed to scan my brain! The scans we really needed to review hadn’t even been completed. I fell into a mess of tears. Where were my answers?
Again, climbing into my car, I heard the Lord repeat: “You’re not sick. Trust me.” I was beginning to realize that the answers I was desperate to find weren’t going to come from a scan … they could only come from Him. And while I knew this in my head; my heart had been doubting. Finally, my heart was beginning to turn the corner.
The next day I returned to the imaging center for a second MRI. And later that night my husband and I drove across town to return to our friend’s office so he could read the scans. As he talked me through what he saw, my inhaled breath came out with a rush of tears. The scans were clear. There was absolutely nothing to indicate MS, and there certainly weren’t any tumors of any kind. Relief washed over me like a soothing balm, and again, I heard the Lord say, “I’m proving my goodness to you.”
A few days later, the neurologist repeated the good news I already knew: the scans were clear. He then told me that he still believed I was having optical migraines, and he wrote me a script. I never filled it.
Slowly, I was beginning to notice the weight of my anxiety lifting. I clung to God’s promises, and repeated Jeremiah 29:11. It became like a banner over me. “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
As the departure date for our Belize mission trip neared, I found that the fear that had nearly paralyzed me when I first committed to go was loosening its grip. I was still anxious, and worst-case scenarios still occasionally peppered my mind, but they didn’t consume me like they had. The vision issue still lingered, but with less severity. I remained a bit fearful, but I was trusting God in spite of my fear, instead of letting my fear override my trust in Him.
Several months prior to the start of this journey, when I’d originally told my husband I would consider going to serve the Belizean people, I also told him there was one caveat: I would not go if we happened to become pregnant. The chances of us conceiving a third child prior to our departure were slim to none (my body didn’t appear to be ready), so this was a last-ditch effort that I threw at my husband in fear. Still, I committed to the trip knowing that if by some miracle we did conceive number three, I’d have an excuse to stay. I insisted that traveling to a developing Central American country in my first trimester wouldn’t be wise. But in reality, I knew that this was nothing more than my fear and anxiety speaking.
Two weeks prior to our departure, I discovered two little lines on a pregnancy test. We were indeed expecting baby number 3. I had my exception to forfeit the trip, my chance to give into my fear and stay home. And yet, in that moment, a peace that passes understanding overcame me. God had been proving His goodness and His faithfulness to me in the midst of my physical struggle, and I knew He would prove good and faithful throughout our mission trip as well. I also knew that this child, conceived in His perfect timing, was part of God’s plan in walking me through my struggle with anxiety. Given the chance, my flesh was going to use this pregnancy as an excuse to give into fear, but God was going to displace my fear with peace. God graciously gave me the one beautiful circumstance that I said would hold me back, so He could prove that He was bigger than my circumstances, bigger than my fears. So I laid what anxiety I had left at His feet, and I went. I hugged the necks of my two kiddos, left them in the care of my mom, and went with my husband and others to Belize for a week. Newly pregnant with baby three and with the effects of all-consuming anxiety still lingering, I was given the opportunity to show Christ to hundreds of Belizean schoolchildren, not because of my own strength, but because He was at work in me.
I’ll return later this week with a few last posts in this series: one that details the mission trip and one that talks a little bit about how my anxiety has played out since the trip. Even today, it’s still a journey for me, and I’d love it if you’d join me back here! I’d also love to hear from you! If you’ve battled a similar struggle, are still in the throes of that battle, or merely felt this resonate with you, please leave a comment. We can all find encouragement in community.
*The copyright to these original images belongs to various people who attended the trip with us. Unless otherwise stated, all other content and images on Faith & Composition are ©Shalene Roberts.