If you read this blog post, you got to hear about Kellie Furlan’s battle with worry and anxiety. Today we’re taking another look at how anxiety manifests through another Collide community member and staffer, Kristen Mattila’s, story.
In our beautifully designed, colorful ten-part Bible study titled ‘The Birds and The Lilies’ that we released on November 2nd, we center around the passage in Matthew 6:19-34 where Jesus speaks into worry through engaging with Scripture, reflecting on deep questions, and reading personal stories from women who have collided with Jesus as He teaches them how knowing their value can cancel out worldly worries.
Today we’re pleased to share with you the second in a three-part series of blog posts highlighting some of the personal stories that are found in the book, in hopes of encouraging and inspiring you out of your own posture of worry. We hope you enjoy these words by Kristen Mattila…
Fear was an unwanted presence that dictated my experience for twenty years. It would come and go, sometimes arriving on the scene as a quiet voice in the back of my head or rearing its head like a loud, thundering voice that threatened to overcome me. I struggled with anxiety and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). In case you’re not familiar with what OCD means, here is a definition: Obsessions are intrusive, unwanted thoughts that trigger anxiety, distress and uncertainty. Compulsions are learned behaviors, which become repetitive and habitual when they are associated with relief from anxiety.
It’s not an ideal way to live life, but it was my reality. Apart from the constant static of fear in my mind, the time it took to make sure none of the bad stuff happened, through my compulsive behavior, was exhausting.
My OCD stayed with me from my childhood up until college. It was 100% exhausting, both mentally and physically. On top of that, it was isolating because I always felt like I was the only one who struggled with it and I was too scared to ask around to find community to lean on. At the end of the day, the whole experience of anxiety weighs on you: the racing thoughts, the constant stomach ache, the inability to rest, the exhaustion, the loneliness; the list could go on.
I honestly believed I would never experience the rest I knew existed on the other side of anxiety. I envied people who could walk through the day without any worries. I remember craving a break from it all, but holding a tight grip on anxiety in my efforts to make sure none of the bad stuff I was scared of actually happened. It felt unbearable. I assumed nothing would ever shift for me – until one morning.
I got desperate for something I knew could only come from pressing into the presence of God. I had heard about it and read about it, but never made the connection between my head and heart until that one random routine Monday morning drive to class. For the first time, my mind finally got a taste of what the Scriptures refer to as the ‘renewing of our minds’ as I began to declare the peace of God over my thoughts. I began to dedicate my 20-minute drive to school every day as a time of prayer, opening up to God about what I was scared about, no matter how silly it felt. I realized I didn’t have to hold anything back and as I brought to mind Jesus’ words from Matthew 11:28, I was released from the burden of dealing with life alone.
I started memorizing Bible verses about peace to rewire my brain with the word of God- Romans 8:15 reminded me I’m no longer a slave to fear and gave me authority over my thoughts. I made sure to incorporate worship songs into the start of my day to help me center. All this helped me refocus my nervous energy and I found that getting into HIS PRESENCE allowed a sound mind to become a reality in my life.
I’ve always loved sermons, books or articles on anxiety because I wanted healing quick and fast. I was constantly searching for three easy steps to peace. But, for me, healing was a tough fight over many years that ended in chains being broken and a life of peace. It was a combination of Jesus, trusted council, community I could relate to and rewiring my brain with scripture and prayer that propelled me in the opposite direction of fear.
I’m not who I used to be. You can ask any of my family members. They’ve asked me before, “How is it that you are who you are now, when we remember who you used to be?” It’s incredible that this transformation started with simple steps of getting into His presence. I don’t want to over glamorize my story of healing, because, like I said before, it was a tough fight. God did miraculously set me free for about four years, but then, my anxiety came back like a ton of bricks. By that point though, I had the tools to navigate anxiety so it doesn’t take me down like it used to.
For many years, I had one goal that centered around erasing pieces of my story in an attempt to look strong and fearless. At the time, I didn’t realize that everything I kept hidden prevented me from being utilized by God to encourage others. By not being authentic with my story, I was unable to fully walk into the spheres of strength and freedom I longed for.
I started owning my story and sharing it with confidence because I saw the way my honesty allowed other people to be honest about their struggle and in turn step towards peace and healing. I love the opportunities God has given me to encourage other people through my experience and breakthrough. My mission is to tell people that they are not alone in the midst of fear and to provide hope that there is peace on the other side of anxiety. That’s what it’s all about. My prayer is that my story reminds you, lovely one, that you ARE ANOINTED with a peace that gives you authority to thrive as a warrior and not a worrier.
Let us know in the comments below how this story impacted you and be sure to check back in next week for another snippet from The Birds and The Lilies Bible Study. Books are available now at wecollide.net/store.