The world and its problems are encroaching on my space. My own mind is increasingly crowded with thoughts of worry and frustration, of feeling out of control. My soul cannot breathe. There is no. more. room.
I am a pastor by profession and a spiritual director in training. My ministry calling is to make space for people to share their anxious thoughts and fears, to find a haven for hearing God’s voice reminding them not to be afraid. I am also a person who battles anxiety,  at times intensely. I both fiercely believe in God’s calming presence and occasionally I wonder how I can possibly find the strength to trust God with my darkest worries. This is an ongoing tension, a human experience not unique to me.
How do we hold our fears and God’s promises in the same hand?
I’m in love with the Psalms because they express virtually every human experience and emotion, sometimes more than one at a time. No feeling is off limits in this beautiful and challenging collection of heart songs, cries from the people of God who know what it is to feel confusion, hatred, compassion, exultation, and longing.
In my Bible, the Book of Psalms is littered with my own pen marks made throughout the years. With my pen I make comments in the margins. Things like “2020” or “Lent 2015”, or “Aunt Mary’s Psalm”. These little titles remind me how I was praying during a certain season of my life. They remind me that I was longing or giving praise or expressing confusion and God met me in Scripture no matter what emotion I carried with me.
Next to Psalm 4 I have written in blue ink: “When anxious…” Because I am often anxious, I know this Psalm well. It is not a psalm that promises an end to all of my worries or problems. It is, however, a song about God’s character as it relates to our worries, to my anxieties.
The Psalmist writes early in the psalm: “You gave me room when I was in distress.”  You gave me room. In Hebrew this word for “room” can mean to broaden or enlarge. When we feel like life is closing in, God makes room for us. God broadens the space in our hearts. This is perhaps one of the most refreshing promises for me when I am caught in a web of soul unrest. I cannot make room. The world is certainly not going to give me room. But God…God makes room.
There is a lot to worry in the world right now. I feel no need nor have the ability to make sense of life’s injustices and suffering, in this blog post or anywhere else. But God…God will make room. God will make room in my heart, maybe moment by moment, to bring my distress and to “lie down in safety.” 
Howard Thurman wrote in his meditation Not Pity, But Compassion: “God is at work enlarging the boundaries of my heart.” There’s the word again: enlarging, or as we know it from Psalm 4, “to make room.”  In this short piece, Thurman reflects on the resistance we humans feel when God invites us to show compassion to other human beings. He invites the reader to imagine God pushing out the fences of our souls to make room for the longings and cries of another. Just as God makes room for us, so we are asked to make room for others.
As a minister and soul companion, I can make room for people because God makes room for me. I do not have to be perfect at trusting in times of distress. God will make room. God will make room for my worries and my fears, for my rejoicing and my praise. God makes room.
How has God made room for you in the past?
Is God inviting you to make room for another right now? If so, what could that look like?
1 Remedies for anxiety are unique to everyone. This blog post is not intended to offer a solution for anxiety, nor does it take the place of the opinion of a medical professional.
2 Psalm 4:1b, New Revised Standard Version
3 Psalm 4:8b, NRSV
4 Thurman, Howard. Meditations of the Heart. (Boston: Beacon Press, 1981), 49.
Alyssa Bell is a tent-making Co-Associate Pastor at Emmanuel Presbyterian Church in Spokane, WA along with her husband Matthew. They have two daughters, Theresa and Susie. While serving the church, which she loves, she pursues complimentary vocational avenues like teaching and spiritual direction. Alyssa recently completed her Doctor of Ministry degree in Leadership and Spiritual Formation and is in the Spiritual Direction Training Program through the Companioning Center. She has a heart for mothers who minister, either in a church setting or elsewhere. For fun Alyssa enjoys walking, making music, reading mystery novels, and completing puzzles.