I am a writer. And for a long time, I considered myself a writer first—everything else fell in line after that. Including my relationship with God. My whole identity was wrapped up in the dream of being a successful writer. I truly believe God gave me a gift with words and that my purpose lies somewhere in the world of stringing them together. But God won’t accept second place for long, even if it’s second to the gifts and talents He’s given you.
After graduating with a degree in journalism, I worked as a freelance writer and editor for four years, and took whatever projects came my way. I wrote blogs and marketing copy. I edited manuscripts and covered city council meetings. I interviewed people and wrote articles.
But freelancing took a toll. I was constantly looking for more clients, working all hours of the day, and constantly worrying about paying the bills. What had initially come naturally and brought so much joy was leaving me exhausted and so, so stressed.
Enter: panic attacks. One December morning, I had some client emails to shoot off before my shift at the coffee shop. I was rushing around getting ready when everything stopped. My heart started pounding, my mind racing, and in two minutes flat, while gripping the edge of the bathroom sink, my mind whipped through the worst-case scenario of my life and affirmed all of the worst things I believed about myself—I couldn’t provide for myself, I was a burden, I had no real talent, I was unlovable. It left me gasping for air and feeling utterly alone. But I had things to do and no time to be derailed, so I brushed it off as best I could. But anxiety will not be ignored. A couple days later, another panic attack. This one stopped me in my tracks. It left me flattened and terrified. My life came crashing down.
In the wake of this, God started showing me that for years I had been finding my identity in what I could accomplish and achieve—not in Him, not as a child of God. And, as a result, I was exhausted, disillusioned, stressed beyond belief. I see now that He tried to redirect my priorities along the way, but I was too busy to listen. Even though I would always have said that God gave me talent as a writer, that He opened doors of opportunity and guided me along the way, I was edging Him out. I wanted to be a successful writer more than I wanted a good relationship with God.
So, for a season, He took it away from me. My words dried up and there was nothing left in my head—only fear, dread, and emptiness. My writer’s sharpness and creativity had fled with anxiety’s arrival, and even stringing together sentences in my journal was impossible—let alone writing for paid clients. And without writing, I believed I had nothing. My talent was gone. My confidence shattered.
And finally, I began to realize my deep, profound need for God. I held onto Him for dear life, because I was drowning and I finally admitted that I couldn’t save myself. And I began to trust Him in a way I never had before.
The same week as my first panic attacks, I started a temporary job at Eagle Brook. Even before they hit, I knew I desperately needed some stability and predictability. I needed work to be one less thing I had to feel anxious about. And it became a safe haven.
Two months in, I was at a staff meeting and Tyler Gregory, who is now the Executive Pastor, said something that rocked my world. He was talking about our staff culture and priorities, and he said, “We care about you, as people, more than we care about what you can do and how you perform. Of course we want you to do well at your jobs, but if you aren’t doing well spiritually and emotionally, you’re not going to do well in other areas. We want to make sure you’re ok and support you when you’re not.”
It slowly dawned on me that this is how God sees me too. I don’t have to be my definition of successful for Him to love me. I don’t have to achieve this and that for Him to consider my life well-lived. I am a child of God—that’s all the prerequisite He needs.
In that meeting, it was as if God was saying, “I created you with a unique voice, and I want you to use your gifts to make the world a better place. But if you try to do this on your own, you’re going to crash and burn. And I need you to be rooted in Me if you’re ever going to use your gifts for My glory. I want you to live a joyful, passionate life, but you can’t do that if you’re holding all of your dreams and accomplishments so tightly. So, let them go. Let me fill your hands instead. Will you be ok if you never write again? Am I enough for you?”
During that season when anxiety hit, my life became a desert. It felt like everything around me was dying, and the person I had been before anxiety entered my life had died too. I was no longer sure of my purpose, my talents. But in that desert and that season of wandering, God filled me with His truth, helping me to become rooted in my identity in Him. He became enough for me.
My old life died away. But new life sprung up. Where I thought nothing could live anymore, I found hope, refreshment, direction. And slowly, words started returning. I began to write again and started to see where God might be leading me with it. And while anxiety is still something I battle most days, rather than casting a shadow over my whole life it now serves as a reminder to me of my helpless state without God. It reminds me to lean on Him and trust Him. It reminds me that I am a child of God first—and everything else falls in line after that, including my talents and dreams.
“Forget the former things;
do not dwell on the past.
See, I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
and streams in the wasteland.”