When our twins were born five-weeks premature, there was a phrase going around the intensive care unit that wasn’t very becoming. To describe the condition of their underdeveloped lungs, the nurses would often use the phrase, “Wimpy white boys.”
I hated that phrase. My sons weren’t wimpy, they were strong, fighting to breathe.
But their condition kept us in the neonatal intensive care unit for nearly four weeks.
Looking back on those days is difficult, not because of the contraptions and IV’s, but because they are anything but wimpy now. They are strong-willed, wide-open boys.
However, when a cold hits, they struggle to breathe and I’m reminded that deep down, they’re still wimpy white boys.
Fighting to Breathe
With three kids under the age of five, anytime a virus ransacks our house, my wife and I go into germaphobic prevention mode. Our home transforms into a madhouse—a type of science experiment gone bad. Diffusers blast essential oil fragrances while we make every effort to keep the kids captive to prevent their wheezing from becoming worse.
As we flip the switch on the nebulizer to administer a breathing treatment, it emits a sound more reminiscent of a jack-hammer than something you would use on a child. The machine emits a vapor lined with steroids to help their lungs from closing off any tighter. As the virus worsens, the machine becomes ineffective and you can see their little bodies fighting to breathe.
My wife ends up in the ER in the middle of the night texting me pictures of the man across the hall, handcuffed to the ER bed, guarded by police officers.
Needless to say, these episodes send me spiraling into a stressful oblivion. But this time, it was worse.
First-quarter demands at work, continued busyness with the book release, and preparation for upcoming talks created a perfect storm—I was a wreck.
I found myself soaking in an epsom salt bath doused with lavender oil to try to calm myself down. In a way, I felt like my sons. My chest was heavy and closing in on me while my mind was racing.
I was the wimpy white boy fighting to breathe.
Anxiety is Real
Anxiety is a chronic liar. It isolates you and makes you believe that you’ll never recover. It threatens to pin you down into submission until you scream, I give up. And you want to, but your body and your mind keep telling you to fight.
I’m writing this today to say that you are not alone. I learned a few things from my recent anxiety attack that I want to share with you because I do believe that place is not a place where we belong.
As much as I didn’t want to admit it, my anxiety was real.
I was too proud to admit that I was struggling. I even tried to hide my emotions over lunch with a friend and mentor. My chest felt heavy and I could hardly eat my food. If I just kept talking, maybe he wouldn’t notice. If I ignored it, maybe it would go away. It didn’t.
I knew all of the Bible verses to quote and I was determined to persevere. Like a bull-headed animal, I kept charging into the wall. Truthfully, that was me succumbing to my anxiety—resting on my own power to overcome it. I needed to surrender.
If you’re struggling, don’t let your pride keep you captive. Ask for help.
Pride is Anxiety’s ugly counterpart. Don’t let them tag-team you.
I reached a point where I just fell to my knees and quit quoting scripture. I physically and emotionally laid my burdens to rest at the foot of the cross.
Jesus was so anxious in the Garden of Gethsemane that He was sweating blood. And He did that so you or I don’t have to endure the same hardship.
A rich life is not free from anxiety, it remains hopeful in the midst of it.
Too often, we focus so much on our life here, that we forget about the life we have been promised. We get tricked into believing that our life here on earth is the heaven that our soul longs for.
While we should embrace the joys here on earth, this world is broken and so are we. It’s not until we’re removed from this world when we’ll be truly free from this struggle.
I’ll close with a thought from Dr. Tim Keller:
After Jesus’s resurrection, He showed His scars to His followers–He even asked them to touch them.
Because He was reminding them of what was done for them—the scars they thought had ruined their lives actually saved their lives. It is the remembrance of those scars which give us hope that someday our suffering will be gone.
Friends, wherever you are today, I want you to take hold of the hope that you are not alone. God’s story is about Him joining us in the midst of our anxiety and pain and removing it forever.
It may be momentarily present, but we don’t have to fear that it will be there forever.
He was made weak so we can be made strong.
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About the Author
Matt Ham is dedicated to guiding others toward rich living. His own experiences have led him to the understanding and freedom of a rich life, and through his RICH Principles he helps folks uncover true richness, identifying real treasure and discovering true joy and contentment.
You can order a limited hardback version of the book at www.redefinerich.com
To contact Matt, visit www.mattham.com/speaking