The pages of Kaitlin Simmon’s journal from her freshman year of college at North Texas are filled with common complaints.
“Do I weigh too much?”
“Does he like me?”
“Are my grades good enough?”
After Nov. 8, 2009, the tone and subject takes a sharp turn. Kaitlin felt called to return to church earlier that month. At the time, she didn’t know why. It’s obvious now.
At the Denton campus Pastor Beau Hughes stepped to the pulpit and began a sermon called The Age of Anxiety.
Kaitlin brought her journal with her to church and scribbled the first sentence and first step in a life change brought about by Christ.
“I needed to hear this,” she wrote.
She thought it was random, a welcome coincidence for a curious college freshman searching for answers.
“I know now,” she said, “it was not.”
Still today, she looks back on the pages and pages of notes from that day.
“If something else is ruling your heart, it will dominate and control you,” she wrote.
For Kaitlin, anxiety was dominating and controlling her life. Growing up, she accompanied her parents to church every Sunday. It was routine. It was what pristine, perfect families from the Bible Belt did. Or rather, did to appear pristine and perfect.
“I went so I could go to lunch,” Kaitlin said. “For me, there wasn’t really any obedience according to Scripture. It was just a comfortable routine I was stuck in.”
After joining The Village, Kaitlin found a new way to fight her anxiety.
Later, Kaitlin’s parents divorced, and the family stopped going to church. Kaitlin’s identity as the All-American churchgoer was gone. She needed a new one.
“I found my identity in my anxiety. That stemmed from my past,” she said. “I just had a lot of issues bottling my emotions and not dealing with it. I’d take on other peoples’ burdens or my own and dwell on them to the point it was a heavy weight on my heart.”
That continued into college, four years after being diagnosed with an anxiety disorder after suffering debilitating panic attacks “once or twice a week.” Kaitlin began taking medication, but anxiety continued to be a struggle.
It still is. But after joining The Village, Kaitlin found a new way to fight her anxiety.
Before that life-changing Sunday, Kaitlin had never heard a sermon on anxiety before. She’d never heard what the Bible had to say about a struggle so many people battle every day.
“I’d never heard it called a sin. God took this yearning anxiety from us. We don’t need to worry,” she said. “That was truth I’d never heard before.”
She had never crossed Matthew 6:25-34, which commands believers to “not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear.”
Instead, the passage offered reminders of what believers should concern themselves with.
“Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore, do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”
Kaitlin’s heart, and in this case, her mind, grasped the truth. It calmed her, and she committed her life to Christ.
“I remember hearing that and feeling so much comfort in something that I’d never heard before,” she said. “The Lord used it to really speak to me for the first time about anxiety. It’s an issue He does care about and wants you to know.”
She felt comfortable leaving her medication in its bottle. The weekly panic attacks became very rare panic attacks.
“The Lord kind of broke into me a new way of handling it and praying about it and seeking Him through it and not the world,” Kaitlin said.
She joined a Home Group and was baptized at the church. Kaitlin later went through Steps to help deal with her anger and resentment toward her past and her anxiety.
Today, she leans on her Home Group for more help dealing with anxiety. She also yearns to plug into others, including the girls whom she leads in the Middle School Home Group.
“My desire is to walk with these girls and prayerfully remind them of the truth behind the gospel,” Kaitlin said.
For now, the North Texas student is studying social work – a change from her intended photography major in freshman year.
“Once I was saved, the Lord geared my heart to helping those in need and in poverty,” she said.
After graduating, Kaitlin may seek to join a non-profit and work to market their message. She may enroll in seminary or a Bible college for a graduate degree.
Until then, she’s trusting Christ to show her the way.