I snapped one weekend. I was at a college football game. The few weeks prior had been full of high stress, and as an introvert, I knew that a crowded event would take significant energy that I didn’t have at the time. There were tens of thousands of fans at the game. I generally tend to avoid crowds, but I go because my husband loves it. In the right environment, I can enjoy watching football with him. As a compromise, we bought our tickets on the end of a row toward the back of the stadium so that I would not be so overwhelmed by the throngs of people around me. I felt in control of the situation, and I was proud to have manipulated an environment where I could enjoy one of my husband’s favorite pastimes with him, despite the exhausting few weeks I had experienced. At least, that’s how I felt during the first half of the game.
Then, half-time came, and I decided to grab dinner at the concession stand. As I meandered down the stairs and through the stadium, I found that I was in no place to keep a relaxed state of mind. All around me, people were rushing in all directions to get food or find a restroom. Some were on my heels because I was walking between them and where they wanted to be, squeezing through small spaces and creating others. Personal space is not an option in this environment, and those with similar aversions to crowds who were more familiar with that environment had waited in their seats for the game to start up again. The stress that had been building for weeks kept rising until finally, I snapped. I yelled at someone, and while the situation turned out to be harmless, I was filled with unshakable anxiety for the rest of the evening that made the second half of the game difficult to enjoy for both my husband and me.
That Sunday, I found myself longing to be away from any size crowd again, even if it was more familiar and slower paced. I felt silly. Why does such an environment stress me out? Why can’t I handle this? I knew that I didn’t have the emotional energy to accomplish what I needed to do in the coming week, but I had to find a way to do it anyway. Then, it was if God whispered, “So use my strength.” Instead of trying to pull energy from an empty bucket, I could pull from His overflowing supply. I wasn’t really sure what that meant, but I knew it was the only solution to getting through the week.
So I started trying a new approach. Whenever I was frustrated with a situation, I would remind myself to face the situation in God’s strength, and suddenly, I didn’t feel so worked up. I didn’t feel the pressure to bear the stress of the week on my own. Philippians 3:14 took on a new meaning to me when it says, ” I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.” I found myself having a little more energy after being in situations that would normally leave me feeling completely drained.
When we are anxious, people often tell us to give whatever worries us to the Lord. However, I had missed that there is a second part that follows. Yes, we can give our anxiety to the Lord, but it has to be replaced with something. We have to be willing to accept God’s peace and strength in place of worry and stress. He wants to give us so much more than we can ever give Him. We just have to be willing to receive His strength.