Valerie Riese
5 min readJan 11, 2020


My story is a journey through years of debilitating anxiety brought on by a series of health issues, including infertility, a rare brain disease that causes vision loss, and breast cancer. I tried to find peace by controlling my life until I realized I can’t do it on my own. In desperation, I began weaving God’s Word into my daily routine. I found peace when I embraced this simple truth:

Victory over anxiety comes only through surrender to Jesus.

I hope my story will inspire you to give up your own frazzled control and instead live in the peace Jesus promises to those who live with Him, His way.

Early Faith

I grew up as the oldest of 5 kids on a traditional family farm in Wisconsin. We went to church almost every Sunday, but I understood faith as a set of rules and routines. I knew there was more, and I searched and prayed for the promises I heard about, but words such as peace, grace, and relationship remained elusive concepts.

Infertility and Anger

My husband and I were expecting our first child shortly after we married. After a complicated pregnancy, I gave birth to a healthy, beautiful baby girl, but within moments her birth near fatal bleeding left me unable to have more children.

For several years, I thought I was no better than one of the spayed farm cats. I was so angry I would never have the house full of children I’d always dreamed of. I yearned to control everything to make sure nothing else would go wrong, so I became overwhelmed. Anxiety settled in alongside the anger and self-loathing.

Vision Loss and Fear

A few years later, I was diagnosed with a rare, incurable brain disease with a prognosis of a lifetime of crippling, untreatable pain, mind-numbing medication, and eventual blindness.

I remember the moment the devil dug his claws into me. I was in my basement, seeking refuge from the painfully bright summer sun when it occurred to me that I may never see my daughter in her wedding dress or my husband’s handsome face as we age and grow old together.

Something broke inside that day. I believed I was a burden and a failure. I thought I had nothing to look forward to but unceasing pain and increasing darkness. Fear, anxiety, and a debilitating panic disorder consumed every breath.

Healing Begins

The disease went into remission and my vision stabilized to a new normal, but the fear of relapse fed itself. One Sunday the church choir sang the verse “Let your faith run free across the raging sea, and walk across the water to Me”. In my desperation, I reached for Jesus.

I read His Word constantly, hoarded commentaries and prayer books, filled my phone with Bible apps, and listened to Christian music and sermon podcasts. By immersing my daily routine in His Word, I calmed down, but I still felt like electricity ran through my veins.

I’d reached for Jesus, but I still hadn’t found His most precious gift to us: joining Him in prayer. Just as browsing my husband’s Facebook page doesn’t compare to his company, so it is with God. We can read and hear all about Him, but nothing compares to sharing His company in prayer.

My life slowly changed, and I felt Jesus calling me to share the peace He’d given me with others. I’d always been a bookworm and a strong writer, so I wrote for Candidly Christian as a guest blogger in 2017. A few months later, I became a regular contributor (a Candid Gal!), and I launched my own blog.

The Test of the Testimony

This might be a nice place for a happy ending, but two tests awaited me.

I was getting better, but the anxiety had taken a toll on my family and everything came crashing down in 2018. The hurt, anger, and betrayal was more than I could take. Many nights I lay awake shaking and sobbing in prayer, “Jesus help me forgive! I can’t do it myself. Please put forgiveness in my heart.” Over time, I understood that my mood and behavior over the years had driven a wedge through my home. Anxiety and fear nearly destroyed my family, but my husband and I forgave each other so our marriage began to heal.

Just as we started growing close again, I was diagnosed with breast cancer on January 21, 2019. During the initial appointments with my cancer team, I learned that I have an increased chance of having cancer again because of my medical history.

I promised myself and my husband that I would not let fear and anxiety break me this time, so I leaned on Jesus even more through prayer, scripture, and music. Anxiety did not control me during cancer because I allowed Jesus to defend me from worry and fear. And because I was more receptive, my husband cared for me during the entire process, and our marriage grew stronger.

Walking in the Victory of Surrender

I didn’t overcome anxiety-I let Jesus do it for me. I am weakest on days I try to be strong on my own, and strongest when I surrender to abide in Jesus by incorporating His Word into my daily routine. I still get angry and I still worry, but I don’t live there anymore.

Victory in surrender is a journey I walk out holding Jesus’ hand every day. I hope that my story and Victory Through Surrender will help you do the same.

No Longer Slaves Jonathan David & Melissa Helser



Valerie Riese

Co-director of Candidly Christian. After suffering years of debilitating anxiety, I learned that victory over anxiety comes only through surrender to Jesus.