“My pain is deeply known by God”: 4 lessons I learnt through my struggle with anxiety

On World Mental Health Day (October 10), Salt&Light acknowledges the journey of all those who struggle with mental wellness and honours their carers.

Gabrielle Chin // October 10, 2023, 3:31 pm


When 22-year-old Gabrielle Chin started experiencing anxiety attacks last year, the Bible became her solace. All photos courtesy of Gabrielle Chin.

The attack begins quickly and silently.

It is triggered by a single thought, something painful that happened in the past. Then another.

Then many, whooshing through the crevices of my mind, filling my brain and overwhelming my senses.

Tears stream down my face and I feel like I am drowning. Suddenly, everything in my view is flooded with a dark bleakness I cannot describe.

It has happened again. This time, it took only a matter of seconds.

God with us

As a disciplined go-getter who prided myself on staying on top of life’s stressors, I was terrified by how these anxiety attacks could leave me feeling absolutely powerless.

I had no control over my body or my thoughts. I could not, as people put it, “snap out of it”.

As a Christian, I also grappled with perplexing questions about my faith: Does God even love me? Maybe I’m not pleasing to Him, that’s why I’m suffering. Did I pray for healing with enough faith? What does God think about my struggle with my mental health?

Through wrestling with God and these questions, however, I learnt four important lessons that have helped me to journey through the past year of anxiety attacks.

1. God understands our struggles

This is not some cliché that we dish out to those struggling or use to wrap up a cell group Bible study. It is a heart truth that, when deeply understood, can be transformational.

I came to a deeper understanding of this truth during a particularly severe anxiety attack. I remember thinking to myself: God, why is this happening again? The anxiety is so overwhelming that I feel like my soul is dying.

I reached for my Bible in search of any passage that could help me see how Jesus handled strong emotions like anxiety and grief. Fumbling through the pages, I turned to Matthew 26:37-38, which describes Jesus struggling to accept His call to the cross.

When her anxiety attacks hit, Gabrielle finds strength and stability in the Word of God.

My eyes fell on the verse: “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.” (Matthew 26:38)

Regardless of whether I am healed in this earthly life, God has already achieved full victory for me in Christ. 

I had thought that since Jesus knew He was going to be raised from the dead, He would not have had that much trouble trying to prepare Himself for the cross. However, it is clear from this verse that Jesus was in absolute pain – and He expressed it vulnerably.

I used to think that God simply acknowledged our struggles from afar. In fact, deep down I believed that, while God acknowledged my emotions, He also felt disgusted with me and judged me for being weak or stupid.

I realised that I had developed an inaccurate idea of God from my own worldly experiences: People hesitant to love me; shame from my past; people pulling away and telling me that my emotions were “too much”.

The way I saw God was a warped amalgamation of the hurts that I’ve experienced from important figures in my life, many of whom were imperfect simply because they were human. I had internalised a great degree of shame at that point and felt like I was unloveable and unwanted.

However, this verse in Matthew showed me that my view of God’s understanding of my pain was all wrong. Because He has felt pain. My pain is deeply known by Him. 

The intensity of Jesus’ own emotions helped me to see that He is not a high priest who stays far away when I am struggling, but is familiar with my difficulties and loves me enough to come to earth to experience the full range of feelings that I had.

2. Even if I am not healed, He still loves me

Complete healing from my anxiety attacks was the end state that I wanted. Ironically, as I continued to journey with my anxiety, I realised that God’s view on healing is not as narrow as my own.

In Luke, Jesus encounters a paralysed man who was let down on ropes by his friends through the roof (Luke 5:19b). From a practical perspective, the man’s sole need was for physical healing. Yet, instead of addressing the man’s need for physical healing, Jesus’ first response was to forgive his sins (Luke 5:20b).

This passage revealed to me God’s broader perspective on healing beyond the aspects of our physical being.

While God can most definitely heal physically and mentally, not being healed does not mean that He has failed or abandoned us.

I began to realise that our God is more concerned about the healed state of our souls than of our physicality. While God can most definitely heal physically and mentally, not being healed does not mean that He has failed or abandoned us.

Regardless of whether I am healed in this earthly life or not, the truth is that God has already achieved full victory for me in Christ (Romans 8:37). Through Jesus’ work on the cross, He has shown His love for me by giving my soul complete healing.

This makes me confident that even if my anxiety attacks were to continue, one reality remains unchanged: I am loved and saved in Christ, and am already fully redeemed by the King of Kings.

As I journeyed with my Christian counsellor, I also found comfort in His promises of a new heavenly body (2 Corinthians 5:1-2) and an eternal future with Him void of any pain and suffering (Revelation 21:4).

While we remain in our human bodies for now, feeling weary – be it physically or emotionally – is normal. But as we fix our eyes on Christ, we can find a spiritual release of joy over our being, giving us a foretaste of our life together with Him in eternity.

3. I can fight my battles with His Word

When I first started experiencing anxiety attacks, I would come up with different coping strategies, yet none of them proved helpful.

Be it watching my favourite variety shows, journalling, calling a friend or heading home to feel safe among my family, none of these brought me as much relief as did the Word of God. I could only silence my brokenness, pain and fear by reading the Bible.

When an anxiety attack strikes, Gabrielle reminds herself of the promises in God’s word.

Hebrews 4:12 says: “For the word of God is living, and active, and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing even to the dividing of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow and quick to discern the thoughts and intents of the heart.”

I experienced what this verse meant. The Word of the Lord was active and alive in targeting my spirit, bringing my anxieties to rest and forcing them to kneel at His throne. Through it, I was able to find peace as His words combatted my fears and worries on my behalf.

With each attack, my soul learnt to cling to the promises in the Bible.

During one particular attack, when I felt like I had no one to defend me or pull me out of my situation, God spoke to me through 1 Samuel 19:20-24.

As David was fleeing from Saul, the Spirit of God intervened and came upon each of the soldiers that Saul had sent to pursue David. Instead of capturing David, they ended up prophesying instead.

All this happened without David’s knowledge, and this made me realise that God was fighting my anxieties on my behalf, though I could not see it. It assured me that the God of David is the same God looking after and protecting me.

With each attack, my soul learnt to cling to the promises in the Bible. Although I have not been promised that the attacks will fully go away, I have found a life buoy in the darkness to guarantee me safe passage out. 

4. There is strength in seeking help

While I confess that I used to be apathetic about mental health issues, I’ve learnt that they are real.

Initially, I was afraid to reach out for help as I doubted that someone else could even understand what was going on within me. I was afraid also of the stigma and how “weak” it would make me look.

However, I eventually learnt that seeking help is not a sign of weakness. In fact, it takes more effort and strength for someone to put aside their pride and admit that they need help.

Asking for help also allows us to treat our bodies as the temple of God (1 Corinthians 6:19), giving it what it needs to be all right again.

Gabrielle believes that as she continues to walk with God through her struggles, He will make all things beautiful in His time.

Despite my initial reservations, I agreed to see a Christian counsellor. She has greatly supported me and taught me how to reframe some of my negative thoughts.

Going for counselling sessions was not easy as it meant ploughing through past hurts and digging deep into my triggers. It was painful and challenging to find out that I had even deeper issues that I never knew affected me.

My counsellor provided me with a safe space to process these things and unpack wounds that I could not have handled on my own. As a Christian, she also pointed me back to God’s view of my anxieties and pain whenever I felt like I was too broken to continue. Being more aware of God’s love for me was fundamental in moving me along the path of healing.

While I was hesitant to reach out for help at first, I now see that God provides wisdom and direction through others. Those He has placed around us are part of His plan to bring us into greater healing, in His time.


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About the author

Gabrielle Chin

Gabrielle is Salt&Light’s intern and loves to write and talk about anything Jesus related. If you catch her talking to the air, it’s likely that she’s talking to Jesus. In her free time, she enjoys a good nap and watching movies with her family.