I suffer from it.
I’m neurotic, (like, legit DSM-neurotic) and have had and entertained irrational fears from a very young age.
When I five or six, I used to think my drinks were filled with poison. I would carefully taste my juice or milk (to detect any bitterness, of course) before swallowing.
When I was seven and eight, I used to fear that there were needles hidden under my bed, waiting to inject me with poison.
(This is for real, by the way.)
I grew up with a plethora of irrational fears—usually fears that involved my very life. What would kill me? What would harm me?
By the grace of God, I’ve outgrown all of these irrational “someone-is-trying-to-kill-me” fears. But now there is a new, real, enemy I face.
Illness. Disease. Disability.
And I have symptoms. In the past six months, I’ve developed weakness in my limbs, endless muscle twitching, and now, most recently, a kind of tingling “pins-and-needles” sensation in my extremities.
All of which are tell tale of dangerous neurological disorders like MS, ALS etc.
I fear disability. I fear not being able to control what happens to my body.
In a way, my fear itself gives me something to control—and so when I am experiencing and am acutely aware the crazy muscle twitches and the weird tingling feeling in my feet and hands, the only recourse—the only action I feel I can do is fear it.
This is a lie, of course.
Ultimately, fearing something doesn’t fix anything. It makes it worse. But my fear is, as I mentioned, a way for me to feel a certain amount of control over a world I otherwise have no control over. But there is another way. I have an option to lean into God Himself, to trust Him in all things.
And, indeed, this is the fork in the road that all of us who suffer eventually come to. We can choose to grab hold of our own control mechanisms, or we can relinquish our control and trust in the Lord. We may choose faith.
Suffering, fear—they force us into a decision point. We can no longer ignore our mortality or weakness. In the midst of suffering we see our true selves—our true state in life. We see our powerlessness, our vulnerability. And it is from this point of true sight that we make the most important decisions we can make.
In whom (or what) do I place my trust?
Does my suffering have meaning, or no?
In Christ, our suffering has meaning. In Christ, death itself is defeated, and there is life in its place.
Else, we are left to construct our own meaning in the midst of suffering—another form of fear—another control mechanism.
This is a narrative trap that those who do not suffer from anxiety have the luxury of falling into, but it’s a trap nonetheless. The weaving of our own stories do not mitigate or change the reality of our suffering or the meaninglessness of it without the hope of redemption.
Redemption is not monstrous, as Zizek might posit. More on this later.
Thoughts, dear readers?