The funny thing about cancer drugs is that they seem to spit out side-effects cyclically.
I don’t always get hot flashes. They come in waves. Every few weeks I wake up hot and sweaty and know that for a few days I’m going to have some uncomfortable nights. Then just when I think I can’t stand it anymore, the hot flashes disappear.
It’s the same thing with my anxiety. I’ll be feeling very confident and in control of my emotions, when the next thing you know, I’m having wicked scary thoughts about where my children are or what my husband is doing.
This past week I’ve had both hot flashes and high anxiety. I think it’s safe to say I’m a bit of a hot mess.
Saul’s job requires him to be on the road a lot. Timing being what it is, my crazy train pulled into the station about the same time Saul’s flight left. I’d say that was God’s provision for my husband. There is safety in distance.
Anyway, with Saul gone, I was in charge of getting our three kids to volleyball, football, school, church, one parade, and two birthday parties. I was on edge, hoping I’d make it to everything on time and that I wouldn’t lose a child in the mix.
At one point, I was waiting in my car when I noticed a woman and child in the vehicle behind me. I couldn’t get a good view of the woman, but I would have sworn that the child was my youngest son, Ben. Why was my child in a car with a stranger? All of a sudden, my body had a physical reaction to this mental image even though I knew it couldn’t be true. My stomach turned over in dread while my heart started thumping through my chest. I never knew a person could actually hear their own heartbeat.
My brain finally caught up and reminded me that my son was safe and sound at a playdate with one of my dear, trusted friends. I exhaled my gratitude… He’s okay. He’s okay. He’s okay.
Stepping back from myself long enough to realize that logical me and feral me were at war, I needed to make a decision. Who would I allow to win? To which side would I give my energy?
It was then that I realized the irony of the situation. In less than hour I was scheduled to speak to a group of college students about how to unlock God’s great gift of joy in times of trouble.
Am I the only one who thinks it’s a little hysterical when you are forced to take your own advice?
My action step for the students was simple. It included two things: 1) Set a “Get Grateful” alert in your phone and when it goes off, take a photo of something happening at that exact moment for which you can be grateful. 2) Memorize Philippians 4:8 and start running it through your mind when your thoughts begin to darken or fixate on something worrisome.
If you’re not familiar with that verse, here it is: “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” (Philippians 4:8 NIV)
The truth this world sells is that bad things will happen. The other shoe will drop and the only answer is to drive ourselves to distraction trying to prepare for it.
But there is an alternative.
God’s truth. He calls us to give thanks in all circumstances because He sees what we cannot see, He knows what we cannot know and He has proclaimed our victory through Jesus.
When the hot flashes come and the anxiety hits the roof and I’m worried my kid is in someone else’s car, God’s truth reminds me that I don’t have to buy into everyday worries. I’m in this for the long haul and in the end, I already know who wins.