What Your Anxiety May be Telling You

Unloading the dishwasher, I stack the same three bowls we’ve used for a couple weeks back into the empty kitchen cabinet. This morning, the heaviness in my chest keeps productivity moving at a turtle’s pace.

I walk plates to the island carrying an invisible hard shell of worries with each step. No matter how deeply I sigh, the uncertainty in my circumstance clenches the exhale with a steadfast grip. As soon as I allow myself to dream about the future, joy is shrouded by the what-ifs.

Our well laid plans to move to London are delayed by God’s timing. Instead of navigating a new culture, I am still packing boxes and unloading my kid’s cereal bowls from the dishwasher. A For Sale sign remains front and center, planted among tufts of green grass in the garden.

In the book of Philippians Paul says; do not be anxious about anything. In my current situation this translates, “Do not breathe or the worst will happen.” That feels impossible.

I used to read this verse as a suggestion; a statement written for spiritual athletes who train for sainthood by soaking up scripture, communing quietly with Jesus for hours.

Do not be anxious, I assumed, is a discipline. Practice using your less anxious muscle and no matter what your situation, peace will be your outcome.

While peace is more readily achieved with practice, let’s face it. No one experiences that continual mountain top.

Do not be anxious isn’t a suggestion. It’s a statement of truth in the same way being settled isn’t about circumstances, it’s about trust.

The Lord is near, writes Paul. Do not be anxious about anything. (NIV)

Do you believe that? Or do you think it is a suggestion?

This is what God asks of me as I trudge around my house performing menial tasks. Maybe he is asking you the same question?

And Paul, he extends the grace gift, a but in the sentence after the exhortation, with a prescription for anxiousness.

But in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Do you believe that? Or do you think it is a suggestion?

Could this mean that anxiety isn’t a sign that our faith is a sham when we face difficulty but a reminder of our humanity in the midst of God’s sovereign purposes?

You will have trials, tribulations and anxiety: Jesus assures us this is a certainty.

And perhaps my soul expresses more than sorrow that comes with disappointment as I clutch a soppy dish towel wrapped around a pile of silverware. Trials, tribulations and anxiety don’t usually fit into the boxes I create for my comfortable Christianity.

When we assume control of outcomes is in our grasp, God uses anxiety as a trigger of remembrance.

We have trusted in our well laid plans with the hope of contentment, while Hope stands in the kitchen loving us with abandon. He delights in the outcomes of His purposes but He desires relationship more than success.

He will settle your unsettled heart, not with income, title, position, or place but with Peace that comes from relationship. A bit of honest conversation about what is troubling you, it can work wonders on your outlook about the future.

Where have you been triggered this week?

Photo Credit: klynslis via Compfight cc


  1. Linda August 27, 2014

    Such an insightful post.  Thank you.

    1. Shelly Miller August 28, 2014

      Thank you for reading Linda, grateful you left a comment.

  2. Ruth August 27, 2014

    These are such great reminders!  I love the perspective that anxiety should serve as a reminder to us that we have been depending on our own plans instead of God’s. And also that settledness isn’t about where we are or what transitions we are going through but is all about trust. That might be a quote for the bathroom wall.

    1. Shelly Miller August 28, 2014

      Ruth, sometimes I think I need to wear it as an everyday accessory . . . on my head, around my neck, on my wrist. We always need reminders of truth, yes?

  3. Kris Camealy August 27, 2014

    Shelly-wow. This is so beautiful and rich. There is so much here to cling to, so many lines I want to remember and hold onto, to press them into my head and heart that I would REMEMBER. These may be trying times, but they push out some really great writing, and this is laced in grace that comes only when we’re in over our heads. Your not sinking in it, you’re becoming an olympian.

    1. Shelly Miller August 28, 2014

      I’m thankful for the opportunity to write during this time of transition. I think it is saving me in all the best ways. An Olympian? Maybe more like a novice doing her best to be faithful to the process and discipline of trust, hoping for greater endurance in the race of life. Grateful for your encouragement and friendship Kris.

  4. Kelly Greer August 27, 2014

    Shelly – I was especially broadsided by the eruption in our community here the last two weeks.  Still processing, but it was a spiritual battle, literal, and the only time and place I found peace was in prayer — with my friend who live in Ferguson — with the protesters — with my prayer warrior sisters – with a friend on the phone in prayer.  Prayer turned my pleas to praise.   I would say that this is an exhortation and encouragement – a gift from Paul.  This instruction to be anxious for nothing – but pray about everything……  Thank you for laying  it out for us clearly.   I pray you find peace in the middle of the unsettledness of your life.  <3

    1. Shelly Miller August 28, 2014

      I think this is what adversity, in all its forms, does for us Kelly. We either cling to the cross or create one in our own image. Prayer helps us see the truth in the midst of the chaos and find peace when anxious. Thanks for being here to share some of your own journey. I know its been rough but God is saying something to each of us through it, yes?

  5. mary gemmill August 27, 2014

    I hear you Shelly and absolutely get that you are learning about this scripture at a whole new level at present….in times to come, many will benefit from what you are learning in the hard months of waiting for everything to work out….it’s hard to think about as you’re enduring the wait,,,,,but I know God never wastes any experience, but uses it [eventually !!] for great good. You may have a great ministry in strengthening the brethren in the not too distant future, as you draw on all this experience with its trials and joys.

    May God who has begun the god work of leading you out, complete it, with a moving in.




    1. Shelly Miller August 28, 2014

      Mary, I just said to H last night that I’m sick of myself. I’m tired of being absorbed in the smallness of our situation. I am ready to share hope with those who need it. Thanks for your encouragement.

  6. Beth Everett August 28, 2014

    “anxiety isn’t a sign that our faith is a sham when we face difficulty but a reminder of our humanity in the midst of God’s sovereign purposes” – Really appreciate this! Thanks for sharing!

    1. Beth August 28, 2014

      Love this thank you for sharing…

    2. Shelly Miller August 28, 2014

      I think we could all use some lightening up, yes? We are good at being hard on ourselves when it comes to standards we create for ourselves.

  7. Leslie Durham August 28, 2014

    I really, really needed to hear this today. Such depth. I’ve went back and re-read it several times. I’ve dissected it and looked at the passages individually. Thanks for being so transparent.

    1. Shelly Miller August 28, 2014

      Leslie, I’m praying for you. You have my email address if you need a shoulder. Hugs.

  8. Beth August 28, 2014

    This hits home. We are still in the states. In the transition limbo. And we here from the village that one of our dear friends is having serious issues with his kidneys. He was sent home to die. And I question…why can’t we be there to do (the american way) something. Something. I am anxious for his family. Anxious for the village. I dont understand how when we saw Chico in June everthing was better. His color…the numbers. So we wait. With each email update. Holding our breath. Praying. I just want to be there.

    Be anxious for nothing but through prayer…and I pray. Dissjointed messy selfishly and He listens and loves me through this prep time.

    Thank you for this real. For the struggle.

    I read this this week and have been holding on to it…


    It is when things go wrong, when the good things do not happen, when our prayers seem to have been lost, that God is most present. We do not need the sheltering wings when things go smoothly. We are closest to God in the darkness, stumbling along blindly. There is no such thing as belief without doubt or struggle. Madeleine L’Engle



    1. Shelly Miller August 28, 2014

      I think it is in the realization of our helplessness and weakness that we truly find God to be our Help and Strength in difficult situations. Doubt has always been part of the faith journey. It keeps us on our knees, reminding us that we are desperate for a Savior — not just when things are beyond our grasp. I love L’Engle, she is a warm exhale for my days of doubt too.

  9. Dea August 28, 2014

    There is a great comfort in knowing that Jesus understands our anxiety. All the times he left the crowds to go and pray, we may be thinking it was because he was “Godly”—but maybe, he was being human and feeling anxious from the calling he had to do in flesh and blood on our behalf…I don’t know, of course, but stealing away to pray surely strengthened Jesus for his calling. He certainly had prayer as a priority when he walked this dusty earth. I really love how you have framed these thoughts on anxiety—such an encouragement to me, someone who too often lets anxiety paralyze rather that move me toward pray and thanksgiving.

    1. Shelly Miller August 29, 2014

      Anxiety comes in all forms and all places but mostly reveals our weaknesses and frailties. But instead of seeing it as a negative, I realize this is actually the place of surrender. When we realize that we are flesh and God is sovereign and ceaseless about loving us. Accepting that I have so little control over outcomes is the humbling part. I love your thoughts about Jesus, they give new perspective. Thanks for being here Dea.

  10. kd sullivan August 28, 2014

    Oh Shelly,

    How well I know these deep sighs.  And also how well I know that our Lord carries.  He carries our burdens.  He carries us to the other side…even if it’s the other side of the ocean.  He is working it out, you know.  Working it out for your good.

    1. kd sullivan August 28, 2014

      Yikes!  HOw did my picture get sooooo big???  Sorry all!!!

    2. Shelly Miller August 29, 2014

      I know you get this Kim and you live into it well my friend. Honored that you took the time to be here and connect. Hugs.

  11. Nancy Ruegg August 28, 2014

    As I read your post, Shelly, Job came to mind.  On the one hand he sat in ashes, mourning the loss of his children.  On the other hand, he worshiped God (1:20).  Great sorrow and heartfelt praise at the same time!  Such faith must surely have warmed God’s heart.  You are mourning the loss of what you thought would be.  Yet you are affirming God’s hope and peace amidst your situation.  Again, such faith must surely warm God’s heart.  And he will undoubtedly use these circumstances for much good.  May his strength and comfort uphold you during this wait time.

    1. Shelly Miller August 29, 2014

      I think I have a new level of empathy for Job since going through this season of transition. I read the text and nod. He puts words in my mouth on some days when I don’t know how to express what I’m feeling. Thank you for your love and support Nancy. You are one who constantly instills hope and comfort, I’m grateful.

  12. Amy Young August 28, 2014

    Shelly what I love about this is the reminder that the normal daily things, the things we might want to dismiss, overlook or hide, can be portals to God. In The Dance of Anger (can’t remember the author and she’s not a Believer), but what I appreciated about her writing was the focus not on anger, but what does our anger point us to. Is there a problem, injustice, or relationship that needs to be addressed? Not to focus on the anger, but the deeper meaning/message of it. I can see from your post that anxiety can also be used by God to point us past the anxiety to a great truth or freedom or relationship — all rooted in Him. Thanks for the post :)!

    1. Shelly Miller August 29, 2014

      Your comment makes my heart sing Amy. Because really this is the opus of my life, my tagline on the blog, “Stories that make people think differently about life.” My favorite thing to do is take our knee jerk, following the crowd reactions to life hurdles and roadblocks, and turn them upside down revealing God’s purposes in them. Thank you.

  13. Joy Lenton August 29, 2014

    Oh Shelly, this caught my attention in a vulnerable moment of soul searching when all anxiety was focused on a relationship with my sister which is not as close or loving as I would like it to be. Having just met up with her after a long silence, I felt raw and open to further flaying from her indifference. Then this… all about what a heart needs to both believe and receive to be at peace with God and the life we are living. Anxiety can seem like our default position and an intractable part of our lives as it pervades the everyday with its distracted, polluted air.

    You have described the painful part where anxiety and stress eat away at the heart, and the wonderful way God shows us He is right here, right now in the midst of our messy moments, our trials and tribulations. Peace pours from His surrendered woundedness and into our own. Grace flows like honey to soothe our fretful souls. After reading this honest and insightful post I have come away changed by His tender care exuding from your words here. And more at peace than before. Thank you! 🙂

    1. Shelly Miller August 29, 2014

      Joy, my heart aches with you. And I’m thankful that the Spirit drew you here to find peace and comfort in the midst of anxiety. If I wrote this just for you today, it was worth every minute. Praying for you. Take heart, God is with you.

    2. laura September 1, 2014

      thank you for your words.  i can relate to the journey you are walking. thankful for hope.

  14. Weekend Wanderings - Kris Camealy | Kris Camealy August 29, 2014

    […] Shelly Miller is both my mentor and friend. Her words in this post written for Velvet Ashes are among the many reasons I am grateful to have her influence in my life.  Read What Your Anxiety May Be Telling You and let your heart be encouraged. […]

  15. Rose August 30, 2014

    Shelly, so grateful for the depth and outpouring of your heart to the glory of God.  Keep turning our world and lives upside down for Christ.  Believing and trusting with you in this journey and finding it a greater privilege to pray with and for you day by day.  God is enlarging your heart for things you haven’t seen or experienced yet but it is evidenced in your writing – increasing insight, boldness, strength, hope, comfort, challenge, and grace.  Holy Spirit revelations gently received.  Thank you, Pearl of great price!

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