Faith Column: Like a city that is broken into and without walls – Is a man who has no control over his spirit (Proverbs 25:28, NASB)

Faith Column: Like a city that is broken into and without walls - Is a man who has no control over his spirit (Proverbs 25:28, NASB)Pictured is the First Baptist Church of Owego where Rick Stilson is a “layman”, and what he described as a baby Christian. In this column, Stilson shares his personal journey into faith. Photo provided by Rick Stilson.

This is perhaps not the best way to introduce myself to you in the Pastor’s column, but after much thought and prayer I think it’s the only way. I also need to mention that I am not a Pastor, but a ‘layman,’ and a baby Christian to boot.

Ladies and gentlemen, some of you may recognize my name from when I had the pleasure to write for this publication. As Charles Dickens said, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” It was the best of times because of the wonderful people I got to know at The Owego Pennysaver and in the community.

It was the worst of times because writing was a tortuous experience for me and as a result of that, for the people I worked with. I have anxiety disorder.

The last thing I had in mind was seeing my name in The Owego Pennysaver again. What I wanted was a nice, quiet assignment for our church newsletter. It was a comedy of errors, misunderstandings and mistakes.

But, God being God, He had a question for me, “I believe in you, Rick, do you believe in Me? Do you trust Me?” He set things in motion as He wanted them to be, and here I am.

It’s only with hindsight this became apparent, there was no blinding light or thundering voice.

I had a bout of anxiety while God was doing this, too frozen by anxiety to do anything. I felt like I was locked in a cell with the walls closing in and crushing me. I felt like I was back where I was 10 years ago. I hid it as much as possible, until I couldn’t any longer.

I confided in my church family, and with prayer and reflecting on the word of God revealed in the Bible, began to recover, and understand that God was working in my life how He wanted it, whether I liked it or not. And I did not like it.

But, I have given my life to Jesus, I have submitted to the higher authority, which is available to us all through faith in Christ. I needed to be reminded to trust God, and renew my novice faith in Him.

After completely losing the ability to write I saw a psychologist for over a year to figure out why something so simple and formerly enjoyable as writing had become a horrid thing I avoided until the last possible second, and only after a severe panic attack could I begin to write.

I had never taken Christianity seriously. I was too sophisticated to buy into Bronze Age myths of a sky god who watches over all of us and wants us to do exactly what he says to do. And ‘God’ did not put pen to paper, it was men who did that, so why believe anything the Bible says? I was going to do what I wanted to do and believe what I wanted to believe.

Then I got out my Bible and read the Book of Matthew. Reading what Jesus had to say about sin and life and relationships and anxiety changed my life. Sin can be thought of as a kind of seed that is planted in your heart. First you desire something that is not good for you, and that seed of desire grows into a tree. You take action: you lie to your husband, steal from your neighbor, buy a bottle or a six-pack, or log on to Tinder for a hook-up. The tree that started with that little seed you allowed to take root in your heart has now grown too big to control and produced fruit, any of a variety of sins large and small that degrade your life.

In Matthew chapter 6 verses 25 to 34, Jesus speaks about anxiety. When you accept Jesus Christ as your redeemer you put your trust in Him. “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you,” Jesus says at Matt. 6:33, speaking about the cares of the world which can cause us to feel anxious. Jesus tells us to worry instead about being the best Christian we can be – no easy task; and “do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own,” in verse 34.

This Sermon on the Mount from Jesus, and other passages from the Bible, helped me much more with my anxiety problems than all the counseling and medications ever did. That was one of many things I discovered in a 2,000-year-old book, which spoke more clearly and with more authority to me than anything written since Freud put out his shingle in Vienna a hundred years ago.

Life is a journey, and, as my experience when I discovered I had been drafted to write this article shows, there is no easy solution. It’s work, but with my rather new and growing faith in Jesus Christ, I now know that even when the rest of the world is banging on my door, Jesus is there, and he has my back.

As Saint Paul says in Romans 8:31, “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us?”

(All Bible quotes from the New American Standard Bible.)

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