There is a way I feel when fear and anxiety are crouching at the door of my mind and heart. It’s as if a mixture of lemon juice, vinegar and a splash of Sriracha hot chili sauce is seeping through my muscles, creating a sort of burn that is mostly sour and a little hot.
What I’m describing is just a feeling—a nasty feeling, to be sure, but not something chronic or requiring professional treatment. It comes on suddenly, and later—just as suddenly—it goes away.
Even so, I hate feeling this way. It saps my energy and makes me wander around aimlessly—even on weekend days that are absolutely perfect for gardening—unable to do anything at all productive.
I used to feel this way a lot; lately, not so much. Recently, however, there were a few weeks when the burn was back, with a vengeance.
I’m not exactly sure what brought it on. It might have been a delayed reaction to the changes of autumn—kids going back to school, adjusting to a new routine at home, that sort of thing. “All good things, all good things,” as the snowman Olaf says in my daughter Molly’s favorite movie. But change is change, and in my world, it tends to be hard.
A nasty sinus infection that kept me feeling bad long after I took my last antibiotic may have been the culprit. It might have had something to do with depleted hormones, or launching this blog—the excitement of starting something new coupled with the nervous anticipation of baring my soul to some tiny percentage of the online world.
Or it could have been some areas in my life where no news was definitely harder to deal with than bad news. Oswald Chambers wrote that the “nature of the spiritual life is that we are certain in our uncertainty.” I’m sure he was right. But few things bring on the vinegar/lemon juice/hot sauce burn for me like waiting for an answer that may or may not come.
There are antidotes, of course. A 30-minute run on the treadmill. A short nap. A brisk walk in the sunshine. Lunch.
I tried all of these (especially lunch), and they all helped. But this time, the thing that brought the most relief were the words of an ancient shepherd-turned warrior king—the psalms of David.
I don’t care much for poetry. I can’t write it, and I usually don’t like to read it. But David’s verses—those speak to me. I love how he pours out his heart to God, holding nothing back, and how that always leads to praise.
“God is my helper; the Lord is the sustainer of my life.” (Psalm 54:4)
“When I am afraid, I will trust in You. In God, whose word I praise.” (Psalm 56:3-4a)
“This I know: God is for me.” (Psalm 56: 9)
“I call to God Most High, to God who fulfills His purpose for me.” (Psalm 57:2)
“But I will sing of Your strength and will joyfully proclaim Your faithful love in the morning. For You have been a stronghold for me, a refuge in my day of trouble.” (Psalm 59:16)
These words? Sweet, peace-filled relief, more powerful than any combination of fear and vinegar.
I saw a friend in the bathroom at church on Sunday. She asked me how I was doing, and, after briefly considering various answers, I told her.
“I’m hoping this week will be better than last week,” I said.
And you know what? It was.