Freedom From Anxiety

In this episode, Kymberli Cook and Ben Palpant discuss how anxiety can bring us closer to God and allow us to experience him in a deeper and more intimate way.

About The Table Podcast

The Table is a weekly podcast on topics related to God, Christianity, and cultural engagement brought to you by the Hendricks Center at Dallas Theological Seminary. The show features interviews with guests who are experts on the chosen topic, and each episode is hosted by a member of The Hendricks Center’s team.

Timecodes
01:00
Introduction to Ben Palpant and his current ministry
09:00
What does anxiety mean?
17:02
Anxiety provides the soil for God to work
26:04
Examples of anxiety in scripture
33:12
God is at work in the midst of anxiety and fear
36:39
What does freedom look like?
41:02
Prayer is the key
Transcript

Voiceover: 

Welcome to The Table podcast, where we discuss issues of God and culture, brought to you by Dallas Theological Seminary. 

Kymberli Cook: 

Welcome to The Table podcast where we discuss issues of God and culture. My name is Kymberli Cook and I am the Assistant Director at the Hendricks Center, and today we're going to be discussing freedom from anxiety. And this actually adds to a growing series that we have on this issue. We've already released one called a Christian perspective on anxiety, dealing with grief and anxiety, and ministry in our anxious world. So, if you find this topic helpful or thought provoking, I would encourage you to go check those out too, because the conversation very much continues. But today we are joined by author, poet and dad of five, Ben Palpant. Thank you so much for joining us. 

Ben Palpant: 

I'm honored. It's a joy. Thanks, Kym. 

Kymberli Cook: 

Absolutely. So, Ben, just to get to know you a little bit, let's hear how did you get involved in ministry and reflection on theological truths and in theological areas,?what you've been writing on and that kind of thing. 

Ben Palpant: 

Oh man, how far do I go back? 

Kymberli Cook: 

Maybe to, was it Uganda? Maybe to Uganda? 

Ben Palpant: 

Yeah. So, I'm going to blame my parents for this, because they took me to Kenya, Africa, when I was five and we spent the next five and a half years there. So, those were formative years for me. And then coming back to the States, dad was a doctor and found a practice here. And I would say mom and dad both spent a lot of their energy equipping and filling us for that purpose of ministry. 

Ben Palpant: 

I don't think that there's been a day in my life where I didn't think that somehow living was separate from ministry. Mom always used to say as we'd go out the door, "Go make a difference," which used to drive me crazy. It's a tremendous pressure, but all she meant was go give yourself away to those around you. And so I now get to give my kids the same charge. So, I think it started there. 

Ben Palpant: 

And then I felt very called to teach pretty much even in high school. So, spent time preparing for that in college and then went into teaching full-time and taught for over 20 years and then had some health setbacks that made it impossible to maintain that kind of level of teaching full-time. And so I'm still helping the Christian school that I taught at for all those years, but just in different capacities. 

Kymberli Cook: 

And then what have your current projects been? Your recent, I guess. 

Ben Palpant: 

Yes. On the writing side, the journey through that health collapse was so significant in my life, especially given being the father of at the time we had three kids on the first health setback, then I had a second one related to it later, but that journey had so many mentors in my life come alongside to help guide me through the questions I was asking and just trying to get back on my feet. 

Ben Palpant: 

Especially when you spend all your life so focused on serving God that when something comes along that removes your ability to do that, you end up questioning really who you are at a really substrata level. So, some of the conversations were so helpful in calibrating me to what really ministry looks like and what does God really ask of me in this process that I thought, after about five years I realized I'm losing some of those memories of those conversations. I need to write them down. 

Ben Palpant: 

That effort at remembering the journey and those conversations became a small cup of light. And then from there all of my writing, poetry included I would say, has been an exploration of that relationship with God, even The Stranger, the latest set of poems that I've written are really an exploration of how does a poet communicate the urgency and the dynamism of Christ entering our world? 

Ben Palpant: 

I think it's easy... So, I started that... The book is broken up into sections. The first one is His Advent, and I purposefully tried to undermine our typical view of advent as something that's pleasant and pastoral, because I think the anxiety that we feel in society wide is something that's been around, obviously, but it was certainly alive and well when Christ came. So, those poems, they're very visceral. And I wanted that to be as real as possible to the time then, because I want people to know we're not living in some unique time where the anxiety levels or the things that we fear are different. 

Ben Palpant: 

Maybe we could say the problems are different, but the human heart is still the human heart and poetry speaks to that so well, and I hope my poems do the same thing. So, then Letters From the Mountain was the book that I wrote as a series of letters to my daughter who loves the arts and she's her own writer. She's amazing, better than her dad. Actually, all my kids are passing their father rapidly. 

Kymberli Cook: 

That's a good thing. 

Ben Palpant: 

It is a great thing. So, those letters covered as much as I could of what are the things she's going to face as a writer, as an artist, but most of those things are just human problems, and anxiety is one of them. So, there's a chapter set aside to that, and I find myself always steering towards the uncomfortable areas of our human existence. There's a poet, a French writer, Mauriac, who said, "I didn't get to choose my color palettes, they chose me. I'm not necessarily happy with the color palettes, but all my paintings turn out the same." 

Ben Palpant: 

And he wasn't a painter, but all his stories have that color to them that's a rich depth, and I'm hoping to have that same depth, but I certainly find I can't steer away from the dark parts of our human existence. I think that those are essential. And I think Christians have every right to step into those with faith and hope and honesty and authenticity. I think that's totally achievable. 

Kymberli Cook: 

Rather than avoiding them, which we have historically done. We're trying to gloss over them. 

Ben Palpant: 

Yeah. And to be honest, Kym, that's something I still do. I still try to avoid them. I've told my kids many times when they'll ask me about my writing, that I write as a way of processing with the Lord. So, when scripture says, "Draw close to Him, He draws close to you," writing is that form of drawing close to Him for me. And I know that without that writing, constant writing, that's my meditation on God's word. 

Kymberli Cook: 

So, you mentioned the chapter in your most recent book on anxiety, or the chapter on anxiety in your most recent book. So, we've already thrown that word around several times and I think it might be helpful, just purely academic, it might be helpful to define it. So, what do you mean when you're using the word anxiety? 

Ben Palpant: 

Oh, Kym, come on. Don't hold me accountable like that. 

Kymberli Cook: 

It doesn't have to be like a textbook definition, but just what do you think of? What are we talking about when we say anxiety? 

Ben Palpant: 

So, my thoughts on what does that mean are very broad, from mere worry to phobias that a clinician would be able to talk about more intelligently, but I think we just have anxiety kind of as a hum in the background of life. And sometimes that hum is more apparent, we're quite aware of it. Our hands shake or whatever, or we find ourselves in a moment, or approaching, it's usually in approaching a moment that's unknown that leads us to that sense that I'm anxious. 

Ben Palpant: 

But I think there's a level of that to our existence that's just always in the background. And for some it's more acute than others. So, public speaking has terrified me forever, just terribly fearful of that. The first time that I was asked to speak publicly was at church, and it wasn't that big a church, Kym. I would say maybe there was 150 people maybe at the service. And all I had to do was get up there and give announcements. I probably was early teens at the time and they were just trying to get the youth involved, I think. 

Ben Palpant: 

So, all I had to do was walk out there, give a couple of announcements, and walk off. I went out there and totally froze. I had the notes in front of me, but I just was paralyzed. I stood there for, I don't know, it felt like forever, but it was probably five seconds, and then I just promptly walked off the stage. 

Kymberli Cook: 

You're like, "I'm out." 

Ben Palpant: 

It was the shortest announcement. "I'm out." So, that sense hasn't necessarily left. What I find interesting in my own life is that the things that are unknown are the things that cause anxiety more than the things that are known, but it doesn't remove the fact that even some things that are known can cause that anxiety. But what I've found is that the more I've done public speaking, it doesn't remove the butterflies, but what it does is it acclimates you to the pressures. And so you realize, "Okay, I know what I'm going into. I know what I'm going to feel when I'm up there. How am I going to pray now approaching that moment in a way that's informed and says, 'Lord, you know this is what I struggle with'?" 

Ben Palpant: 

And then you can walk through that moment in faith, trusting the Lord to give you what you need at that time. I had a dear friend who... When I was asked to give a commencement speech for graduating class, I was petrified. But how do you turn that down, right? That's such an incredible honor. 

Kymberli Cook: 

Yeah, it's a big deal. 

Ben Palpant: 

So, I was truly sleepless. And a friend wrote me a note and just reminded me of the story of Moses, that Moses was stuttering, was not this public powerhouse, he was not eloquent. And yet God said here, "I'm sending you and I've chosen you for a reason, and I'm going to equip you for the work." And He did that, right? And He brought, of course, Aaron alongside to help with some of those things. 

Ben Palpant: 

But that in itself, for those of us who are so geared towards ministry, is so helpful to remember that I'm not supposed to be everything. I can do what I'm supposed to do, and actually there are limited things that I can do well, and other people can do really these other things so much better than I can. So, learning to let go. But I've rabbit trailed already off of your question, Kym. 

Kymberli Cook: 

No, you're fine. But when you were describing the idea of going up and that every time you get up to speak, regardless of the crowd or whatever, it still elicits the same response in you, you just become essentially, like you said, more aware of what you will experience and you can deal with it better. It reminded me of a different, I think it was either a podcast or a chapel we did here at this center on grief. 

Kymberli Cook: 

And the woman who was the guest was talking about how grief itself isn't something that ever goes away. It's not something you get over. It's something that you get stronger and you are able to bear. And so in that way, I think perhaps anxiety from the way you're talking about it, it made me think of that. That anxiety might not necessarily ever go away, but you can strengthen yourself, you can practice, and you build up those muscles. And to a degree you can then be able to bear it in a way that you hadn't been able to in a prior sense. 

Ben Palpant: 

Yeah. I would agree with that. But even as I was talking, Kym, I felt inside the sense that I'm making this too simplistic. And I think your illusion to grief is a good one, because that is truly complicated and something also that we run from. But we can't, you just can't run from it. And God loves to woo us actually into places of grief and fear and anxiety and suffering. 

Ben Palpant: 

And in those places sometimes we experience his presence more than we would on a normal day when everything's clicking along. It's not always the case. Sometimes it does feel very, very lonely there. So, I do think that the grief comparison is a good one. And I don't want to fall into the trap that Christians often fall into of saying that anxiety is something you can get through, or grief is something you can get through. 

Ben Palpant: 

I had one of my mentors, Jerry Sittser, who wrote A Grief Observed, one of the great books on suffering and grief that I've ever read. But Jerry, when he read A Small Cup of Light, I really wanted him to tell me, is this true to God's word, and is it true to the human experience? Because I don't want my story to sound anything other than true to both of those things. And he said one of the things that he did appreciate was that I wasn't communicating this is something you can get to the other side of. 

Ben Palpant: 

So, his story is a tragic one involving an accident that he confessed at, we had dinner together and he said, just that week he had driven into a place that had flares and cars were pulled to the side and there were all these emergency vehicles and Jerry, as he passed that scene, just lost it. Just started sobbing. So, is that a bad thing? I don't think that's a bad thing. I wouldn't even say it's something that you just have to live with. I think that that's a place that has rich soil for the Spirit to do His work, because there's a softness there. 

Ben Palpant: 

And when we have grief revisited, or pain, or anxiety that comes back, that can be a potential place where the soil in our hearts is soft enough for the Spirit to really start doing some great planting. One of the more irritating comments someone made to me when I was having my second health collapse and I realized the first one I had tried to work my way back into the classroom. The second time I realized I'm not going to be able to do this thing that I feel God has called me to do. It's impossible. 

Ben Palpant: 

And he said, he took me by the shoulders, hugged me and said, "I'm so excited for you." Like "What are you talking about? How can this be exciting, especially given that everything that I've built around me is crumbled completely?" And he said, "Ben, it's so exciting to know that God is taking you somewhere that neither of us knows, but we both trust him to do something beautiful in your life. And if we have the faith that He's about something good, then this seismic activity is shifting things in a way that they ought to be." 

Ben Palpant: 

If I have the eyes to see that as that potential, and if I have the eyes of faith to trust him to be doing that good work. But it sure feels like seismic activity and when the houses are all falling down, then panic sets in. 

Kymberli Cook: 

I like what you said about it creates the softness and, again, going between a parallel of grief and anxiety, it's soft because those are the places where... I mean, there are a few others in life, but those are the places emotionally where you recognize the end of yourself, or what you cannot do, your inabilities. And so it can either turn you hard or it can turn you soft, and I think that that's beautiful and it's beautiful to think through that in your own life and to not fight it. 

Kymberli Cook: 

I feel like our culture especially that likes to put a gloss on everything, encourages you and rewards people for white knuckling their way through those things. And really the best thing we can do is just kind of sit down. I mean it's trite at this point, but true, sit down like Job did and just kind of sit in it and recognize what's going on. And we have history of anxiety in my family and there have been times where my family members have had to do that. They just kind of take a break from work, take a break from this, and we're just going to have a good old time with the Lord and a good old time revisiting who we are as people. 

Kymberli Cook: 

And it's not what we do, it's not like anything other than we are children of the Lord and he has called us to set aside this time. And we didn't really expect it, but here we go. 

Ben Palpant: 

Amen. Yep. I think we're so hardwired... I was going to say this as an American phenomenon, but I don't think that's fair. I think it's more and more universal. We're so hardwired to be all and to do all, and that it really does depend on us. And if we can't be tough enough, brave enough, courageous enough, competent enough, then our identity, we really don't have the vocabulary. I don't think we have a vocabulary of grief, and you already articulated things that I find rather rare in my conversations with other people about grief, but about anxiety as well. We don't have a vocabulary for that. And we certainly don't have the lens to be able to see ourselves apart from this full competence. 

Ben Palpant: 

Chesterton wrote once, I hope I'm not putting words in his mouth, but I think he was the one who said that if we could go out under the open sky and let the sheer enormity of the universe, if we could actually see it through all the light haze that we have, if we could see the enormity of the universe, it would crush us and then explode us into a thousand pieces and we'd finally be happy. And I think that it's so counterintuitive to the way we're hardwired, but that's true of the Psalmist. 

Ben Palpant: 

Job is certainly a great example of how to sit into that grief and suffering and just be with God. But the Psalmist is where we go for that authentic human experience that we say, we understand. Even when he's giving himself self-talk, when he says, "But I will praise the Lord," and he'll repeat that in multiple places in the Psalm. He follows it immediately with these moments of fear, grief, anger, all sorts of things that it's easy to say, "But look, he's resolved this in the way he says, 'But I will praise the Lord.'" Well, okay, I'm not saying I'm the Psalmist, but as a poet I can tell you that when I write things that sound hopeful, this is self-talk. 

Kymberli Cook: 

Yeah. You're preaching to yourself. 

Ben Palpant: 

I haven't solved it. And now my next poem is going to be full of hope and resolve and we're good to go. So, one friend told me, "Ben, you are a human doing, you're not even a human being anymore." And that's because truly ministry was everything. I was doing a thousand things plus raising all these great kids. And so when I realized I can't do all those things, the time I was struggling even to walk or feed myself, that is so shaming to a dad in particular, but I think to all of us. 

Ben Palpant: 

But I thought, "Oh, this can only result in awful things in my kids." I was terrified for that. So, he said, "Ben, your kids are going to finally see you as a human being and that human being, just being with God, is a far more effective testimony to the grace and power of our Lord than you doing everything." In my weakness is his strength. And I've found that so true. Some of the things I could never teach my kids, compassion being one of them, you can try to teach that, but that's very, very hard to teach. 

Ben Palpant: 

A lot of that compassion that they have has come from just having to help me, take my arm and help me to walk. And those things that we're embarrassing are things that have created in them a deep compassion for people. 

Kymberli Cook: 

And a recognition when it's happening in someone else's life. And I even, again, anxiety and all of these things, I think we've been talking about, they till up the ground and it remains soft, not just in your own... And it can remain soft, not just in your own life and in your relationship with the Lord, but in how you interact with other people. When I see or hear that somebody else is going through a major problem with anxiety in their family, I have a deep front row view of what's going on to them. 

Kymberli Cook: 

And I'm like, "Here's the deal? What do you need?" Because I've been there and I know, at least to a degree what you're feeling, and I'm here to help. Real quick, as you've thought through these things, how do you see anxiety? And we've already talked about some of it. We've talked about this a bit, but let's dig a little bit more into where you see anxiety in scripture. I think we talked about what we talked about grief and that kind of thing with Job, but where do we see fear and dread? You talked about the Psalms, bad decisions, suffering, where do we see those things in scripture? 

Ben Palpant: 

Oh, wow. So, life experiences, I think one of the reasons why the book is the book is because your life experiences awaken you to passages you've read a thousand times, or heard, and you start to see them in a different light. Or not a different light, they become more three dimensional the older you get. So, I would say that anxiety, and I'm going to avoid another pitfall that I think my brothers and sisters and I struggle with, is finding particular passages that address a topic. 

Ben Palpant: 

Sometimes that's helpful, but generally speaking I would say anxiety is laced through the entire scriptures. The New Testament will address it outright at times. But when I look at the Old Testament, I look at Moses, I look at Gideon, oh my goodness. I mean Gideon is such an encouragement to me to realize here's a guy who actually hid from the Lord, right? Jonah hid for different reasons, but Gideon just terrified, like you got the wrong dude. And I find that so comforting to walk through all of these mothers and fathers of the faith who are now put in God's holy word forever as an example to us that we're just not alone. 

Ben Palpant: 

So, when we have a moment like Christ weeping blood in the Garden of Gethsemane, that shouldn't come as a place of, "Gosh, what is this?" moment. Or we brush it aside as something less than what it actually is, which is just terror on a biological level. So, I find that the examples of fear and anxiety that are laced through all of the scriptures, all point, just like the characters themselves, to Christ himself who has come, not as some deity like the Greeks would've had it, who comes out of the sky and can fix, or in their case cause the problems. 

Ben Palpant: 

He has come and actually taken on the human flesh, and that has to involve some of those things that we wrestle with on a daily basis. And so all of those characters in the Old Testament, all of those moments when there is clear sense of fear moving forward, the entire Israelite story is full of those moments. Those are all pointing to this great deliverance himself who felt what we feel and also has come to save us. But it doesn't mean that he's come to eliminate fear, right? So, when he says, "I have not given you a spirit of timidity or of fear," depending on the translation, "But of courage and a sound mind," in my opinion that passage is not saying, "Guess what? You are now hope filled, optimistic, brave, and you have nothing to worry about anymore." 

Ben Palpant: 

What it does say is, "Look to me, I'm the one." All along God is the one saying, "Look to me." So, the passage where Moses has the golden serpent raised has been a life saving passage for me on multiple occasions, because really the Israelites were called to do nothing except look to that golden serpent. Nothing. And I think that call transcends that moment. I think that is the Christian duty. That's all that God asks us to do is to look to him, and He's the one who does all the work anyways, right? My son, when we were putting on an addition to our house, would've been, I don't know, four or five or something. And of course he wants to do all the work. "Dad, I can do it." 

Ben Palpant: 

And so I would let him carry the two by six and he would feel like he's so accomplished. He dragged this two by six by eight board, whatever, but he didn't realize that I've got it on the other end. I'm actually carrying this majority of the weight for him. I think that that's just how God loves to work. He loves to say, "I'm sending you out, do this thing that's very terrifying to you." And you can do it because God's the one doing the work. So, even when we have a total debacle, let's just go back to my public speaking thing. 

Ben Palpant: 

I'm going to forget his name now, but there was a famous speaker who was exhausted one day and gave a speech, and he knew it was the worst speech he'd ever given. It was entirely embarrassing, not to him only professionally, but he could tell by the audience that they were like, "Wow, this guy is a wreck." 

Kymberli Cook: 

Underwhelmed. 

Ben Palpant: 

So, he got in the car and he just broke down in tears. And his wife comforted and said nice things to him and encouraged him, but they both knew this was a total debacle. Well, it turns out a week later or something, some important guy wrote him and said, "I want to come to your house. I need to talk to you about your talk." So he was like, "Oh great. Now I have to relive my absolute failure and the shame of it." So, the guy showed up, very famous man, and sat him down and said, "Look, you and I both know that that was one of the worst speeches I've ever seen, but there was one line you said and it's haunted me ever since and I have to come to terms with it." 

Ben Palpant: 

I don't know what that line was, Kym, but that was the line that ended up bringing this man to the Lord. So, in all of that absolute professional failure, you would expect, especially the way I said it before that you get acclimated. Well, here's a guy who's totally acclimated to that pressure, but we still fail and anxiety is still very real. And even in those moments where we're like, "Wow, the worst nightmare come true. Everything I feared, real. I've just lived it." Even then God is so at work that He can take those moments of complete shame and turn them to something really beautiful. And if we don't have the hope of a God who can do that, then I don't know what we're doing. 

Kymberli Cook: 

Well, yeah. And I was thinking of, I mean so we talked about where you see anxiety in scripture and you took a theological approach, which I am working on a program in theology, so I'm very much in favor of. But I was thinking about the relationship between anxiety, and we'll get to freedom in one second, but addressing anxiety in the gospel. And I think you're right on, what you're saying is the gospel in that it is a recognition that we really can't do anything in and of ourselves, and certainly anything that matters. Even your son who was carrying, let's say he even carried one of those boards on his own, that doesn't build a house. Like it's just completely beyond his capability. 

Kymberli Cook: 

And that's okay, because that's where he was, and you were the father and you knew that. And we are completely beyond any capability to do anything that is truly spiritually eternally meaningful apart from Christ. And so anxiety just lets us know that and brings us to the opportunity that we can have those chains broken, those chains of slavery to that, broken. And it doesn't necessarily mean that everything is all hunky-dory and we're all sanctified saints and all of that. 

Kymberli Cook: 

But it does mean that I don't have to stay in the prison anymore. I still have to get up and walk out and all that, but I don't have the chains around my hands and my ankles. And so at least there's a way to begin, but it's only because he breaks those chains. 

Ben Palpant: 

Yeah. And maybe I'll riff off that a little bit and you can disagree or agree, I don't know. But the chains for me, Kym, are me actually. And so when it comes to recognizing my dependence, if I were to take your metaphor and say I get to wake up and walk out and I don't have to have these chains, for me walking out without those chains would be walking out without the old man inside me telling me that I am absolutely essential. So, if I'm able to walk out into my day or into this interview with a sense of freedom, that's going to require letting go of the ego that is me, the whole kit and caboodle, and being able to say, "No, Lord, I'm dependent on you." And when I'm in that frame of mind, that gives me a stronger sense of gratitude. 

Ben Palpant: 

And truly, I have never seen this fail. Those who are really thankful people down to their core, or who practice gratitude on a regular basis, they're able to handle grief, suffering, anxiety, much better than those who just don't practice it. So, when I realized that by looking around at all these people who've lived better lives than my own and who've exemplified the Christian walk better, I've found that to be one of the common denominators. What do I find that they do more than others? They're just grateful people. And so when I practice that, that takes those chains off and allows me just to say, "Lord, thank you for this moment to just roll with whatever's about to happen." 

Kymberli Cook: 

Well, and you're taking the camera off yourself and it's like I'm recognizing that there's more going on here than just me and just what I want. And I don't want to minimize anxiety in any way. It's not just you not getting what you want. That's overly simplistic to the point of being unhelpful. But there is still very much when you are even in the midst of a panic attack, or in the midst of a true anxious state, there is a lot of insular feeling and you're just trying to cope with these fears, or concerns, or insecurities, whatever they are. And the gratitude forces you to loosen that a little bit and recognize, "Well, this has happened and that's really good, even though I'm scared about all of this." 

Kymberli Cook: 

And so I love that with gratitude as a practice, to really help. So, in the last couple minutes that we have, what are some other resources or practices that you have found helpful, or that you've heard about and you think are helpful? 

Ben Palpant: 

So, do we have about 45 more minutes? Is that what I heard you say? 

Kymberli Cook: 

We've got like three and a half. 

Ben Palpant: 

Okay. So, my daughter, when she was a little girl, used to have these horrible nightmares and she just couldn't sleep. And so I would go into her room, we'd pray together, I'd read her the word and I'd have her pray. Or no, I would just pray for her. And after a while this was a nightly thing forever. And I finally just was like, "You know what? Are you praying?" And she said, "Dad, of course I'm praying. I am praying all the time." So I said, "Great, pray. I want to hear your prayers." 

Ben Palpant: 

So she said, "Okay, okay." So she says, "Lord, please, please, please save me from the purple monster with the big teeth. And please save me from the yellow one that's in the closet." And she just started naming all of these things that are terrifying for her, not just naming them, describing them in detail. And I just stopped her. I'm like, "Whoa. Whoa, whoa, whoa. This is not what I'm talking about when I talk about prayer." So, I bring that up because I think her experience is my experience, which I think is common for us, which is that when we... One of the, I don't even want to call it tactics, but one of the calls that God has given us is to pray, to talk to Him. That's conversation. 

Ben Palpant: 

So, it does involve being honest with him, but I don't think it says I'm going to name this addiction and think about it and describe this thing, or this fear, or this thing that's causing anxiety. When God calls us to pray, He's saying, "Look at me." And when He says, "Praise me," that is not an ego move. The gods of the world would say, "Praise me because I'm awesome." No, He's saying praise me because I know the human heart better than you know it, and I know that the way you're going to function best is when you're constantly praising Jehovah. 

Ben Palpant: 

And when Jehovah Jireh comes to save, that's a reinforcement that our eyes are where they ought to be. So, I would say that prayer has been one of those key aspects, but the right kind of praying. I would say some simple biological things like taking walks and saying no to certain things and having the ability to just sit down and breathe. There are certain aspects of this that are just simple biological responses that we can help at any rate by getting the right amount of oxygen going on. And I would say the other part is practicing the gratitude that comes with serving with other people who can attend to your needs and being okay with that. 

Ben Palpant: 

That's one of the hardest parts is accepting help. I'd much rather give help. Accepting it's a different deal. So, learning to accept it and be thankful for that. And then I would say there's a strange balance, and I think each person's unique, but you do need time alone with the Father, and you also need time with people. And so figuring out how to hear yourself, hear your body, and know I need some time to be alone, or you know what, I'm just getting insular and I'm thinking about myself too much. I need to give myself away. 

Ben Palpant: 

Mom was right. When I told her, "Mom, I'm too exhausted. I got nothing left." She said, "You go give yourself away, find people who need you and when you give yourself away and pour out what you think is empty, you find that God has filled you with what you need in the giving yourself away." So, there is a living by way of death that I think is a great Christian calling, and it's beautiful when we accept it and when we embrace it with gratitude. 

Kymberli Cook: 

There's one other practice that I've come across. Actually it comes from a book, but the idea behind it is just trying softer. So, instead of trying harder, the whole point is that you actually try softer. And that involves all of the different things you're talking about. And it's this idea of you just have to take a deep breath and do what you know you need to do, and all of these things that address you, again, as a human being instead of a human doing, and actually in that you will accomplish more than you think you will. 

Kymberli Cook: 

We hear all those things and we think, "Oh, goodness, then I'm just stepping out." And it may involve some of that, but even if it does involve stepping out, you usually get further than you think you will, but you do it in a way that is way better for you and for everyone around you and it brings you closer to the Father in a way that you wouldn't be if you thought you were doing it all on your own. 

Ben Palpant: 

Which is the goal. 

Kymberli Cook: 

Yeah, absolutely. Well, Ben, our time is up. I just want to thank you so much for joining us today and just chatting with me and reflecting on anxiety. It was a real joy. 

Ben Palpant: 

It was a joy for me too, Kym. Thanks for your thoughtful questions, and it was a treat to have this conversation. 

Kymberli Cook: 

Awesome. Wonderful. And we also want to thank those of you who are listening, and we just ask that you be sure to join us next time when we discuss issues of God and culture. 

Voiceover: 

Thanks for listening to The Table podcast. Dallas Theological Seminary, teach truth, love well. 

Ben Palpant
Ben Palpant is a memoirist, poet, novelist, and non-fiction writer. He is the author of several books, including Letters From the Mountain, A Small Cup of Light, and Sojourner Songs. He writes under the inspiration of five star-lit children and a dog named Chesterton. He and his wife live in the Pacific Northwest. 
Kymberli Cook
Kymberli Cook is the Assistant Director of the Hendricks Center, overseeing the workflow of the department, online content creation, Center events, and serving as Giftedness Coach and Table Podcast Host. She is also a doctoral student in Theological Studies at Dallas Theological Seminary, pursuing research connected to unique individuality, the image of God, and providence. When she is not reading for work or school, she enjoys coffee, cooking, and spending time outdoors with her husband and daughters.
Contributors
Ben Palpant
Kymberli Cook
Details
September 13, 2022
anxiety, mental health, prayer
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