I can’t say for sure when or where or how I realized that the outdoors was the antidote for my crippling anxiety, but I know it happened sometime after my family of five people moved from Virginia to California, entirely on our own. We drove, with my husband driving the largest box truck we could rent and me following behind him in our Ford Explorer. It was somehow fun and awful at the same time. I had been to San Diego, our destination, once before, but that was a 4-day trip by plane and staying in a hotel, and it was in 2002. So by 2016, when we were scheduled to move there for at least two years, I didn’t know what to expect at all.
The first thing I remember as we got off the interstate was that there were mountains of dirt. I had pictured beaches and palm trees and flat land. So when we pulled into the town where our rental house was and saw that it was surrounded by mountains, I was surprised, not just by their presence, but by their terrain. Growing up in eastern Pennsylvania, the mountains I knew were smoother and greener, and not nearly as high in elevation. But the San Diego mountains were desert-like, with patches of green trees here and there only near the top.
A year or two into our time in California we started camping. We’d been family camping before while my son was in Cub Scouts, but now it became our main method of vacationing. We bought a used camper, filled it with stuff, and drove several hours north to camp among the Ponderosa pines. And at one moment during that trip, I remember standing under a pine tree so tall that I couldn’t see the top, and thinking God made this for us. That moment was the first of a long series of awestruck realizations for me that came from the recognition that God designed the world for His people, and His people for this world. From that perspective I recognized, over time, that the same God who made pine trees and rocky sandy mountains and tree covered mountains and oceans surrounding it all, loves His people the most.
So what am I worried about?
I wish I could tell you that that thought caused me to become instantly fearless and anxiety-free, but it definitely didn’t. What it did do was give me a reason to stop being worried and afraid.
Matthew 6 is the chapter I go back to again and again when I feel anxious, or nervous, or afraid. This discourse Jesus provides here, The Sermon on the Mount, is like the Cliff’s Notes version of what a relationship with God really is, but for today, let’s focus on Matthew 6: 25-34. My Bible gives this section a subheading, “The Cure For Anxiety.”
“Therefore I tell you: don’t worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Isn’t life more than food and the body more than clothing? Consider the birds of the sky: They do not sow or reap or gather into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Aren’t you worth more than they?” (Matthew 6:25-26, CSB)
Have you ever seen a worried bird? I haven’t. And while I know God loves birds because He created them, I also know that we, humans, are His most-loved creation and the only creation made in His own image (Genesis 1:27).
I still have anxiety, I still worry about a lot of things and sometimes nothing. But one of the best things I’ve done for my anxious self is to learn how to answer my worries with Gospel truth. So now, when I’m worried, panicking, or just nervous and stressed, I look for a tree, or a bird, or a mountain, or a flower. None of them are worried, and yet there they are, beautiful and free.
I hope you enjoyed this detour off the topic of anxiety management. My biggest hope for you, my reader, is that you see your worries and fears in light of who you are, who God is, and how He feels about you.