The Unexpected Companion

 I will never forget my first meeting with the psychiatrist. His office was in a mental health hospital, and it was straight out of a movie… complete with a creaky gate, old brick buildings, and zombie-like patients walking the grounds in hospital gowns. 

After a litany of questions, the doctor diagnosed me with an anxiety disorder. He said it was too early to tell if this was a temporary result of difficult circumstances, or something that I would deal with long-term. Surely I’d be in the former category; this appointment and a few counseling sessions would do the trick! 

Thirteen years later… 

Although I have received much help, tools, and care (which have been incredibly helpful!), my anxiety has not gone completely away. There are seasons where it rears its ugly head again; new ways that it presents itself. I even received another diagnosis on top of the first one. Barring a healing miracle from Jesus (which I believe He can do), it seems like it’s here to stay.

My favorite book is Hind’s Feet on High Places, a beautiful allegory of the spiritual life. It tells the story of Much Afraid, a disfigured young girl who journeys with The Shepherd to new heights of love and transformation. The Shepherd gives Much Afraid two unexpected companions to help her along her journey. Their names are Sorrow and Suffering. She must learn to take them by the hand and travel with them, and they ultimately get her to places she would never have gotten on her own. 

My anxiety has been annoyingly disruptive at best and debilitating at worst. I spent years (and lots of energy) trying to get past it, to push it aside so I could “move on” with my life and important Navigator ministry. Over time, I’ve slowly learned to embrace my anxiety as a teacher and a guide, showing me new depths of God’s love and grace when I allow it to lead me to Him. It’s become my unexpected companion. 

My journey with anxiety has also led to my most thrilling and fulfilling ministry. As a pastoral counselor with TDC, I have the privilege of journeying with men and women who wrestle deeply with anxiety and other mental health issues, serving as a guide in the wilderness. I’m continually blown away how God uses the comfort I’ve received from Him to comfort others in their time of trouble (2 Cor. 1). 

The apostle Paul knew this lesson intimately. Three times he asked the Lord to take away a mysterious “thorn” in his flesh, but God said no. “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor. 12:9). Perhaps your thorn is also a mental health struggle, or another long-term battle. Instead of running away, may we have the grace and perseverance to walk with our teachers, the unexpected companions of sorrow and suffering, who, over time, usher us into the very presence of God. We may not be fully “healed” in this life, but we “are being transformed into his likeness with every increasing glory” (2 Cor. 3:17).

Caitlin came to Christ through The Navs at Penn State. She is a pastoral care specialist with TDC’s care team. She also serves with her husband, Josh, in collegiate ministry in San Marcos, Texas. Her other passions include jazz dance, New York style pizza, and 90s alternative music. 


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