Guest Post by Naty Severson: When bad anxiety happens to good people

Once upon a time, I believed that church leaders who were genuinely seeking after Jesus did not have serious struggles…especially with anxiety. How could they? Wouldn’t that expose a serious lack of faith in the sovereignty of God? I was proven VERY wrong.

When I was 28 years-old, I began a rapid, downward spiral. It came through a combination of life circumstances, including the birth of my third child, our first daughter, and an enormous amount of ministry leadership. I was unable to function. My thoughts were out of control. This culminated in being unable to care well for my children or myself. Prior to this, I had always been very in control and competent.

Thankfully, I was supported on every side. My family moved in with my parents, who watched our children while my husband went to work. My church community rallied around me and spoke truthful, caring advice into my life. Rather than being met with judgment and shame, I was met with love and compassion. As always, they called me to seek God. Lastly, I was surrounded with the help of doctors & counselors.

As time went on my struggle changed. It went from being a moment-by-moment struggle, to and hour-by-hour struggle, to a day-by-day struggle. As the cloud of anxiety lifted, I was able to look back and see clearly what God had accomplished through my struggle.

So much of this learning put me in the place I am today – working with small group leaders and women as a full time staff member at Hope Community Church.  Apart from this battle with anxiety, I wouldn’t be equipped to do what I do. I now have levels of compassion and understanding for others that had escaped me in the past.

My battle with anxiety, which is still on going (but in relative control) reminds me that God magnified in my weakness and I am in desperate need of him at all times. (If you are a zealous leader who is tempted to believe that my affliction was a result of a serious lack of faith, please refer to the apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 12.)

 Key factors that made my battle with anxiety go well:

1.     I had a good theology of suffering going into this difficult time.

2.     I had some incredible gospel friends to see me through this struggle.

3.     By God’s grace, I was able and willing to hear and faithfully follow the wise counsel of Godly people.

4.     I worked hard to understand and believe that God would not waste my pain, but instead would use it for his own glory.

5.     I had an amazing church family, with an amazing senior leader who didn’t give up on me when times were tough.

Things that needed to change in me as a leader:

1.     Killing Pride: Believing I was omni-competent was not a good thing.  I had to learn that Naty, on her own, has major limits.  I can’t do it all.

2.     Pace: I had to learn that life and ministry are marathons, not sprints.  I need to direct my passions and efforts to only the things God was calling me.

3.     Openness: I had never truly learned the value (though I would have said I knew) true openness with others about my struggles.  I learned to share even the darkest corners of my heart and mind with trusted friends and mentors.

4.     Medication can help: In my case, one to the best pieces of advice I was given was, “Take the medication!”  In my pride, I thought if I simply worked hard enough, I would overcome this apart from medication.

5.     I need a leash: I like to run fast in life…too fast…faster than God would have me go…ahead of his good plan.  I notice that when my struggle with anxiety ramps up, I am often running ahead.  Like a dog that runs to the end of his leash, I am forced to STOP and listen to my master.

6.     The Gospel is the Answer. Because of Jesus’ sacrifice for me on the cross, I can engage my battle with hope!  Having hope is the key to putting one foot in front of the other.

Question: Do you know what it’s like to battle anxiety as a Christian? If so, what would you want to share with others reading this?
Posted on by Cor in FAITH

5 Responses to Guest Post by Naty Severson: When bad anxiety happens to good people

  1. Racoon

    Long-time reader; first-time poster…

    This is a great topic and I really appreciate your candor Naty. Putting your struggles online for all to see takes courage for which you should be commended.

    I could write lots in response, but I’d like to focus on one aspect of your post that caught my eye…

    You mentioned that medication was/is helpful in your struggle. I think this could open a broader discussion (even beyond this blog) about the role that psychiatric care can play in Christian life. In many circles, psychiatry and Christianity are viewed as diametrically opposed and mutually exclusive. My short take: Any field of science or philosophy has the potential to push God out of the picture *if* we fail to view it through a Biblical, Gospel-centric lens.

    As an undergraduate student approaching medical school, I’ve often stopped to consider a career in psychiatry. The field could allow me to blend my academic gifts, challenging life experiences, and heart for service to provide compassionate care for others. In doing so, I’d hope to improve the earthly lives of His children in some small way and lead more souls home to Him.

    What do others think of the subject… How can Christianity and psychiatry meet in Godly ways?

  2. Chris E

    Thanks for writing this Naty! Many of the points you made, both about what helped and what needed to change, resonated with me. I don’t pretend to have the best advice, but the passage that sticks out to me as the most direct to the subject of anxiety is Phil. 4:4-7. It commands us to rejoice and lay our concerns before God in prayer with thanksgiving. As we seek to do this with however much we have left in the tank, we have the promise that in time God’s peace will guard us even if we don’t understand how things will work out. There’s something very central about giving thanks to God.

    I like that passage- a lot. It’s not to say a person can just do this and it will fix things, but doing this with the other means and people that God provides is powerful.

  3. Dave Nelson

    Nice post Naty! That took courage and I’m impressed. Keep up the good work.

  4. Angie H.

    Great post Naty! I too struggle with Anxiety and have for quite some time. Like Paul had a thorn in his side this is my thorn. It was very reassuring to hear that Godly people have this issue. I thought too that it could be because I had an issue with my faith but I’ve found that not to be the case. I continue to struggle with anxiety from time to time but I just keep praying and know in my heart that this struggle is here for a reason!

  5. Beth H.

    I just want you to know I appreciate this article. I have had similar struggles and I am still dealing with it. It was a very hard decision for me to start taking medication. I am so thankful that I did. I would like to know more about how you and others deal with the remaining day to day struggle with anxiety.

Add a Comment