In God’s Hands

by Scott Scruggs

I’ve always been a very driven, perfectionistic kind of person. But around my thirtieth birthday, I started to feel anxious and worried all the time. I was stressed out more during the day and unable to sleep well at night. I literally had to change deodorants because I was sweating all the time. Too much information, I know. I remember sharing this with a close friend of mine who said, “I wonder if you should talk to someone about it.”

“Aren’t I talking to you about it?” I thought to myself somewhat sarcastically.

“Someone like a counselor,” my friend said.

A few weeks later, I made an appointment and the counselor told me the last thing I wanted to hear, “You have anxiety.” Those three words reverberated through the room, and I could feel my whole body trying resist them. “I don’t have anxiety,” I thought to myself. “I’m a smart and gifted young pastor in a large, influential church.” Yet there I sat in that counselor’s office, thirty years old, waking up to this painful reality that I was struggling with anxiety and patterns of negative thinking—and it was only getting worse.

To be honest, my first response was to feel angry at God. Why did I have this struggle? What purpose could it possibly serve, other than to make my life more difficult and my ministry less fruitful?  Beneath the anger, I felt ashamed. How can I be a great leader if I’m anxious all the time? How I can help lead others to Jesus if my faith is clouded with worry or doubt?

The Bible says, “God’s kingdom is never in danger and his plans are never in doubt. So even when I don’t feel like my life is in good hands, my life actually is in good hands.

Those questions were just the beginning. For years, I prayed, I met with a counselor, I confided in close friends, but God didn’t take this burden from me. Instead, I began to experience what God told the apostle Paul when he prayed for healing in his own life. “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” In other words, “My grace is enough. When your mind is racing, when you feel anxiety in your body, when you feel like you can’t write a sermon because you worry it will be a colossal failure, my grace is still enough.”

Turns out, it was. Those years were filled with moments that proved how faithful God is. I met and married my amazing wife, Nina. I took on a new ministry leadership role that helped a 145-year-old Presbyterian church launch new multisite campuses and grow its existing ones. I received more encouraging feedback about my teaching during the difficult days than in any other time in my ministry. When I shared my story with our church, as a young pastor I feared I would lose my credibility with them. But, the congregation embraced this part of my journey and it created a deeper connection between us.

More importantly, I discovered something amazing about God. That while I might be worried, God isn’t. While I might experience anxiety in my body, God never feels anxious. “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD (Isaiah 55:8).  You see, God has never had an anxious thought because his mind is filled with thoughts of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, and goodness. God’s kingdom is never in danger and his plans are never in doubt.  So even when I don’t feel like my life is in good hands, my life actually is in good hands.

Today, a moment of anxiety can still strike at almost any time. It’s never welcomed or convenient, but it doesn’t have the same power it used to. I can now recognize it for what it truly is: an opportunity to surrender my self-sufficiency, to ask for help or prayer from friends or family, and to actively trust God with whatever circumstances come my way.

Honestly, I think I’ve learned as much about God from this ordeal as I have from all the theology books on my shelves. In a way, I’m even grateful for the lesson.

 


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2 Comments
  • Jean Uhrich
    Posted at 08:53h, 26 August Reply

    This is a tough world we live in–full of reasons to be anxious. You’ve bravely faced your fears and anxiety and have come away with valuable insights to help you manage future attacks. Your revelations have been helpful for others who might have thought as being a pastor, you ‘had it made,’ you had ‘arrived.’ Walking alongside Jesus is how you arrive – step be step, day by day. Thank you, Scott.
    Jean
    from Mountainview Presbyterian Church in Marysville.

  • Kirsten Brady Shaw
    Posted at 16:42h, 24 August Reply

    Thanks for sharing Scott. It was a good glimpse into the man that you are – willing to be vulnerable and also relying on God’s strength with life’s issues.

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