Anxiety, Filthy Rags, and the Peace of God

I thought I didn’t struggle with legalism. My problem is licentiousness – I dismiss the beauty of God and pursue the dim substitutes of earth. But more and more, I have realized that I that I do try to earn God’s kindness. I’m not often tempted to believe that I can purchase my own salvation, but I sometimes think God withholds blessing until my heart is turned purely toward him.

Wednesday morning was really rough. I had taken a stronger painkiller than usual the night before, which left me uncomfortably groggy when I woke up. I was frustrated with how out-of-it I felt and annoyed that I needed those painkillers. I couldn’t focus on anything, so eventually I went back to bed, while my mom took Blaise on some errands and to the park.

My anxiety rose as soon as I got in bed. It was 10:30 am – I should be working on a curriculum project, writing, doing chores, or reading, at the very least, but instead, I was taking a nap. My heart pounded and my thoughts raced. Accusing voices resounded in my head: “Why are you so weak and worthless? You should push through your pain and sleepiness. Just drink another cup of coffee. Who cares if it makes you jittery? At least you’d be productive. Only losers sleep in the middle of the day.”

I recognized the accusations as lies, so I tried to interrogate my anxiety. What truth about God was I not believing in that moment? What lie about myself was I buying into? If I could only reframe my mind, maybe God would be merciful to me and take away the fear.

At that moment, it hit me. I was behaving as if God would not be kind to me until I realized the correct truth. I was connecting my worth in God’s eyes with my spiritual “productivity,” just as I judge my own worth based on how much I’ve gotten done. I knew God didn’t care about whether I’d swept the floors, but for a long time, I’d been acting as if he wouldn’t extend his fatherly affection to me unless I grasped exactly the right theological concepts. I thought I needed to understand the specific ways in which I wasn’t trusting God, replace them with truths from Scripture, and apply them to my heart, and only then would God show me his love.

Instead, I heard God say, “Stop. I love you right now, just where you are, just as you are.”

And suddenly I was calm again.

I hadn’t done anything. The Holy Spirit broke through the lies of my anxiety and the lies of my spiritual self-sufficiency and surrounded me, body and soul, with peace. Deep truths that friends had repeated to me and that I’d read on social media finally became reality in my heart:

“God is not disappointed in you, or discouraged by you. He loves you and knows your frame, knows that you are but dust.” (Lucy Crabtree, via text)

“I am not lazy. I am not weak. Taking care of this body is part of my job. Tomorrow can only be better if I give myself what I need today.” (Tabitha McDuffee, on this Instagram post)

I know the accusing voices will rise again. I know I’ll be tempted to respond with accurate awareness of my unbelief and God’s truth – good things to know, when used correctly, but heavy burdens when used as conditions of God’s favor. But maybe next time I’ll also remember the peace God gave me on Wednesday morning in the midst of my striving. God could have taken deep offense at the pile of filthy rags I was proudly holding up to him, but instead, he took the rags, laid them on Jesus, and gathered me into his arms as his beloved daughter.


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