Escape from the void

Don’t let anxiety eat up your life, says award-winning author Sheila Jacobs.

When I was a kid, we lived for a time in a cinema. Sounds exciting, but actually we lived in former dressing rooms that had been converted into a flat.

There were many flights of stairs, and right at the top of them all was a room called ‘The Void’. It was large, dark and scary.

It should have been bright, warm and welcoming, but it wasn’t. I was frightened of it.

I was frightened of quite a lot of things, growing up.

I became quite an anxious adult; never more so than when I became ill with Meniere’s disease in my early thirties, a condition of the inner ear which causes terrifying vertigo.

I was so afraid of the illness that I didn’t want to travel anywhere in case I was ill. So my life became very small.

My physical health eventually improved – the doctors told me I only had Meniere’s mildly – but by that time the fear had become a far greater issue. I couldn’t even go to church without having a panic attack.          


When my mum became ill with what was eventually diagnosed as early on-set dementia, I decided I couldn’t live this way any more.

I needed freedom from fear. But was that even possible?

Someone agreed to pray for me – someone with a very powerful ministry. Before they prayed, they asked if I had any unforgiveness towards anyone.

‘I’m a Christian,’ I replied. ‘Of course I’ve forgiven everyone.’

Not true.

I was surprised to discover I had quite a ‘hit list’.

I struggled for a while but eventually forgave, and felt peace about it.

Then I had prayer around fear and was stunned by the result. I was able to go to church. I travelled to London and other places for the first time in years.

Back to The Void

Many of us would call ourselves ‘natural worriers’, and some fears may be legitimate; but when anxiety dominates your life, when it becomes life-limiting, then it can become a very big problem... as I discovered.

Truthfully, walking in freedom from anxiety has been an ongoing journey. I can still be reluctant to travel great distances.

The difference is, I know now that I have a choice. Fear is not my master.

I had a ‘Void’ in my life that I didn’t know existed – a dark space full of unforgiveness that was blocking my walk with Jesus.

But the good news is: he really can set us free. We don’t have to live in a ‘Void’ – whatever that ‘Void’ means in our particular situation.

We have a Prince of Peace, in whom there is no fear. He loves us; he invites us to rest in him, to let go of everything that prevents us from living free.

When freedom comes, it might be immediate, or it might be a journey. It could start with forgiveness, as it did for me.

But whatever prevents us getting close to the One who bought us freedom, let’s let go of it and trust him to set us free to live our lives as he wants us to live them.

When I remember ‘The Void’ now, I think, as an adult, I’d just switch on a light and see it for what it was: a big, empty space that actually did serve some purpose as access to the roof.

It was unredeemed, brokenness and shadows, but nothing to really be afraid of.

Don’t let fear write over all the pages of our lives. Let’s let Jesus write our stories – of finding rest and peace in him.

Sheila Jacobs is an award-winning author, writer and freelance editor. She is a member of Elim Braintree. Her latest book, A Little Book of Rest: Walking Out of Anxiety and Fear (Malcolm Down Publishing) is available now. Sheila shares her own backstory of living with severe anxiety in this gentle, five-week devotional, which facilitates a space for the reader to meet with Jesus – in whom there is no fear.

First published in the June 2022 issue of Direction, Elim’s monthly magazine. Subscribe now to get Direction delivered to your home.

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