Finding God’s Comfort Amidst My Anxiety

April 29, 2018-one year and one day ago, I woke up feeling anxious. I live alone. It is a feeling you don’t really want to experience, more so, experience alone. You feel worried that something bad would happen to you. I later learn, after telling my therapist about it that it is like a cross between an anxiety and a panic attack. One thing I quickly learned, it’s best for me to go for a walk and be with people, not alone in my apartment.

So even if the sun was barely out, I got ready to go for a walk. Then out of the blue, I got a message from my Facebook friend, Cristina. She asked me on Facebook Messenger, “Sis, are you ok? I heard a lady calling for help in my prayers.” It seemed odd to me. I went for a walk to ease my anxiety. But I could still feel it. I then sent a message to Cristina telling her I was having an anxiety attack. She then told me, the girl was crying out so loud. She thought it was a person outside. She even walked out to the balcony of the home of her friend in BGC to check. It was only 6am. I sat by the park near my home. Surrounded by greens, I sat in the al fresco chairs outside a café still preparing to open for the day. There I called Cristina on the phone, and we talked for nearly an hour. I told her what was going on. Then we prayed. She prayed for me. As we prayed, I imagined God hugging me. I was crying. As I cried, my anxiety slowly slipped away my body along with my tears.  I was consoled.

Cristina told me, “Your prayer is Psalm 91. I am in awe of people who can quickly quote bible verses. Cristina is belongs to the CCF community, and she has this gift. She reads to me the entire chapter of Psalm 91:

Psalm 91 Good News Translation
God Our Protector
91 Whoever goes to the Lord for safety,
    whoever remains under the protection of the Almighty,
can say to him,
    “You are my defender and protector.
    You are my God; in you I trust.”
He will keep you safe from all hidden dangers
    and from all deadly diseases.
He will cover you with his wings;
    you will be safe in his care;
    his faithfulness will protect and defend you.
You need not fear any dangers at night
    or sudden attacks during the day
    or the plagues that strike in the dark
    or the evils that kill in daylight.
A thousand may fall dead beside you,
    ten thousand all around you,
    but you will not be harmed.
You will look and see
    how the wicked are punished.
You have made the Lord your[a] defender,
    the Most High your protector,
10 and so no disaster will strike you,
    no violence will come near your home.
11 God will put his angels in charge of you
    to protect you wherever you go.
12 They will hold you up with their hands
    to keep you from hurting your feet on the stones.
13 You will trample down lions and snakes,
    fierce lions and poisonous snakes.
14 God says, “I will save those who love me
    and will protect those who acknowledge me as Lord.
15 When they call to me, I will answer them;
    when they are in trouble, I will be with them.
    I will rescue them and honor them.
16 I will reward them with long life;
    I will save them.”

Psalm 91: Good News Bible

When the tears stopped and we finished praying, Cristina and I tried to trace how we knew each other. I thought I knew her from the advertising agency where I once worked. But as we traced our work histories, we realized we never met. She left before I even started working in Saatchi. It was as if she was truly God sent. We connected because we both had back pains. We learned we had much more in common, than our advertising past, anxiety and back pain.

That same morning, I asked my neighbor Geegee to pray for me. I barely knew this woman except for our few exchanges in the elevator. We had common Jesuit friends. I knew she was prayerful. So, I felt compelled to make this request via a text message. She replied telling me she offered an entire rosary for me. I was touched by her grand gesture. All my life, I found praying the rosary repetitive and boring. When I was a kid, I would even fall asleep praying the rosary with my family, waking up only when it ended. I thanked her profusely.

The next day, April 30th, Geegee sent me a message checking if I was okay. I told her I felt better. She told me she continued to pray for me. We agreed to meet up at the evening mass, next to our home and to have dinner together. Over dinner, I told her about my anxiety. Then she blurted out, “I have a book perfect for you. It is called, ‘Jesus Calling.’ A friend gave in Canada gave it to me. I can’t find it here in Manila, but I bought several copies in the US to give other people. It’s a daily devotional, with a prayer for each day of the year. The author is not a Catholic, but it’s beautiful. I’ve been praying it everyday for years.” She asked me if I would use it, I said I would. She also told me about the Novena of Our Lady of the Knots. Pope Francis has a devotion to her. And she told me about handing over the knots in our lives to Our Lady. Like a strict principal, Geegee asked me, “I will only give the novena to you if you will pray it.” I was not averse to novenas, but it had been years too since I last prayed one. I said, “Yes, I will pray it.” She was aware not many people pray novenas, and she didn’t’ want to waste the novena on me. I promised her I would.

Feeling anxious, I asked if we could head back home. We passed by her unit, and I lay in her sofa to calm myself down. Her home was a beautiful place filled with beautiful crosses and paintings displayed in bright red wall. It turned out Geegee was into painting before. She handed me the Our Lady of the Knots novena, a rosary, and the Jesus Calling. That night, as I lay in bed still feeling anxious I started praying from the Jesus Calling. I read the entry for April 30th, the very same entry for today. It consoled and comforted me. It hit me right where I needed it. Each day’s prayer has two or three verses from the bible.

This devotional book from Geegee led me back to prayer, and a life of surrender.
The readings on the very first day I prayed with Jesus Calling.

So for the past 365 days (see my Instagram for daily posts), I have been praying Jesus Calling every day, with a few misses here and there. I started sharing it daily on Instagram and Facebook. Faith wasn’t exactly my usual posts. It was not my usual repertoire of food, travel or fitness, but I felt compelled to share the spiritual inspiration daily. Before I knew it, I felt compelled to add the hashtag #byebyeanxiety as I found my anxiety disappearing. When I clicked on the hashtag, I found others with anxiety praying Jesus Calling daily too. I also started praying the Novena to Our Lady of the Knots. Every day of the novena seemed to have been written to calm my worries and woes. The novena requited praying the rosary. And for the first time in my life, I prayed the rosary with all my heart. The repetitive prayer is no longer boring. Each bead calmed down, as I uttered my Hail Mary. I have been praying the rosary everyday since.

These two angels have sparked a renewal in my faith and prayer life. I revived my relationship with God. My anxiety subsided as I surrendered to God. I repeatedly utter, “Lord, you are greater than all of this.” With therapy, I learned that surrender is part of healing. Because when you surrender to a Higher Being, you no longer have to be in control. You no longer have to fix things or make things better. Yes, I did therapy, acupuncture, took essential oils, did yoga, meditation, and so many other things to get better. But I also worried less and handed the pieces to Him.  After all, He is in control.

So, if you’ve been wondering, why I’ve been sharing Jesus Calling everyday and why I openly talk about my faith. It is because I can’t live my life without God and my faith. And if you don’t believe your life can change in one year, think again. My life has changed tremendously in 365 days. Thank you, Lord. Thank you to these angels, and many others who have lead me back to a richer relationship with You.

Thanks to my anxiety, angels led me back to prayer, and I finally learned to surrender. Photo credit: Joshua Earle

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