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Mar21ThuLearning to trust God in the midst of anxiety. March 21, 2019 by Donna Lee Samson
When I went to the doctor that day, I had to take my 10-year-old daughter, Claire, with me. Plans fell through and my husband, Carson, couldn’t make it home. I couldn’t leave her in the waiting room, so I had to admit in front of her that I was struggling with depression and anxiety and needed help. It was an admission that changed my life.
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I grew up in a Christian home. My parents were officers, and many of my childhood memories revolve around church—being in the timbrel brigade, singing company and junior band. I vividly remember committing my life to Christ at a corps cadet camp when I was 16. I had wonderful mentors who came alongside me and demonstrated God’s love.
Even though I was blessed to have such an upbringing, I’ve still had times of questioning and discouragement. After 12 years as a cardiac ultrasound technologist at St. Boniface Hospital in Winnipeg, I was encouraged to apply for a management position. I didn’t feel qualified, and never thought I’d be the successful candidate. On the way to the interview, I heard God say, “I have a plan for your life. Trust me.” But what I hadn’t yet shared with anyone was that I felt called to full-time ministry.
When I was offered the job, I knew it would be a good experience, yet I didn’t know if it was what I wanted, what others wanted, or what God had planned for me. I accepted the position, while feeling pulled in a different direction.
Eventually, I took a step of faith and talked to Carson about my feelings, believing God would confirm his plan and help make the way clear. Instead, it only led to more questions, arguments and distance. What did full-time ministry mean for me? What did it mean for him? How would we support our family? The answers never came.
I was so confused. If God wanted me to follow him, why did doors keep closing instead of opening? It felt like he had led me down a path, and then left me high and dry. This created such doubt and frustration that it began to affect my health and relationships. I couldn’t talk to anyone about it, and began to feel more and more isolated.
Looking back, I think I’ve always suffered a little with anxiety and depression. But over the next few years, it grew worse. Simple tasks became extremely difficult. Conversations and social situations were challenging.
At church, I just tried to make it through the service without breaking down or having a panic attack. At work, I went through the motions, but I was so tired and wanted to run away. When I came home, I avoided spending time with my family. At times, it felt like Carson and I were moving in different directions.
My mother faced many difficulties in her life with strength and courage, and I think I absorbed the idea that no matter how hard things get, you never let others see how much you are hurting. I was trying to be the perfect manager, the perfect wife, the perfect employee. I had to keep going, because that was what was expected of me, but deep down inside I was falling apart.
I opened up to Major Sandra Budden, then my corps officer at Heritage Park Temple in Winnipeg, about my fears for my marriage and my questions about discerning God’s will for my life. She reaffirmed that God loved me and was using me, and prayed earnestly for me and my family. Carson’s work colleagues at the Canadian Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches also reached out and supported us.
After starting on medication and seeing a counsellor, I became aware of how anxiety and depression were clouding my thoughts. And as I studied God’s Word and drew on the resources of the Christian community through sermons, worship music and spiritual formation practices, I began to realize I was trying to control the plan for my life, rather than trusting God. This began my path of discernment and living in God’s time.
I’m so grateful for this path, as it has brought me into a much closer and deeper relationship with Jesus, and it has strengthened my relationship with my children, Caleb and Claire, and especially with Carson.
I’m still seeking, but I’ve learned to let go and let God lead. I strive every day to be an example of Christ—to have a compassionate and servant heart. Wherever I find myself, whatever job I hold, I can minister for him.
Feature photo: Carson Samson