For the past couple days, I’ve been staring at blank screens, lost on what to write about. My depression had taken over and I felt lost and disillusioned. Then, I logged onto my online portal for work to self schedule only to find that there were no shifts available while I’ve got bills headed my way and a bank account which isn’t going to feed itself. Hello anxiety!
That gripping feeling in your chest, the profuse sweat, the lump in your throat, the shakiness in your hands, the feeling you get right before you cry, the difficulty breathing, the inability to focus, the pacing back and forth. I know this one all too well, and my guess is if you clicked on this post, you do too. It’s the silent screaming inside your head telling you something is not right, something is missing, something is going to go horribly wrong and it is not okay. God tells us, “Do not worry about anything” (Philippians 4:6), which is obviously way more easily said than done. God, don’t you think if we could just not worry about anything, we would just do that? He doesn’t understand. He doesn’t know what it means to feel anxious.
But guess what, He does. God sent His only son to this earth to be humbled by what it means to be human and to die for our sins. Jesus Christ lived on this earth where we are living today. He suffered with anxiety as His looming fate drew nearer and nearer. We see this rare, vulnerable place for Him in three places: Matthew 26:38-44, Mark 14:33-36, and Luke 22:41-44. In each account, we see Jesus grief stricken to the point of death. He begs the Lord God to not drink from the cup, that is His faith. He knows what it means to feel anxious. He understands and He is here for us to take all that worry away.
The way I see it, there are two types of anxiety. It can be “justifiable” anxiety (as Jesus suffered from, which is based on circumstance or fate) or it can be general anxiety (from which there is no identifiable cause, it’s just there).
This could be due to a life event, a phobia or irrational fear, or just life in general. Either way, there is a cause. There is something in your life which is causing your striking fear about something which you do not know. It’s the “what if”. Unfortunately, just because we’re saying there’s a cause and its circumstantial, doesn’t mean it’s so cut and dry. There is nothing about anxiety that is cut and dry. So how do we cope with this kind of anxiety?
Lets look back at God’s instruction not to worry about anything…if we read a little further, it reads “Do not worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all that he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard our hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7). Tell God about your stress and worry. Tell Him how you are feeling and why you are feeling this way. 1 Peter 5:7 says, “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you”. Don’t allow your anxiety to hold you as victim, but instead, get it all out there. Release.
While prayer is our means of communication with the Lord and trusting in Him is all we need for inner peace…this may not make everything feel okay right away. Pray now that God would direct you and give guidance in making a plan to overcome this stressor. Whether it be a test, a bill, an accident, you name it, real world problems do have real world solutions. Make a study schedule, sort out your budget, make a plan to overcome what you are facing. We all know the saying “When you make plans, God laughs”. Guess what, that rule doesn’t apply here. You are asking for His guidance in your planning and you are planning for nothing more than to face your anxiety and cope with it. If things don’t go perfect according to plan, that’s okay. This is simply a guideline, a framework, to give you some sort of peace of mind in knowing what to expect and what to do.
Finally, let’s explore the idea of reframing the mind to help us for the right away when it feels like prayer and planning just “isn’t enough”. To reframe your mind, start with praying for God’s peace and guidance. Pray for your stressor that God would guide you through this. See your stress as a means to grow stronger in your faith and reword your worry as an obstacle which you will overcome. Look at your stress in the big picture and note how small it is. Will this matter 5 years from now? How about 10? Don’t allow yourself to get caught up in fleeting moments.
There is no way to sugar coat it, general anxiety completely sucks. Not only do the feelings grip and suffocate you, but it feels impossible to talk yourself down or cope with it because there is no reason to have it to begin with. In Max Lucado’s book Anxious for Nothing, he says “The presence of anxiety is unavoidable, but the prison of anxiety is optional. It’s the life of perpetual anxiety that Paul wants to address. Don’t let anything in life leave you perpetually in angst.” Anxiety isn’t just going to go away. We have to work on it to come to a place of coping and living despite those feelings. Using God as our strength, we can be more than our anxieties – we can break free from the prison of anxiety.
As talked about above, pray. When you feel this overwhelming anxiety coming on, turn to God. Pray that He be with you and that He restore that feeling of inner peace inside you. Cast your anxiety to God and allow Him to give your soul rest. “So then, banish anxiety from your heart and cast off the troubles of your body” (Ecclesiastes 11:10). Have a conversation with God and let some of the weight off your shoulders.
When we have this general anxiety, we are in a place of irrational feeling. To convert our anxiety back to normal, we must transition our mind to a place of thinking. I know this is a method which is often seen in helping children to cope with anxiety, but I believe it can help us adults too! There are methods like counting, answering simple questions like what color the sky is or what time it is, but we are going to work a little deeper. If you’ve ever experienced crippling, debilitating anxiety, you know those tricks and your mind can work past them. So then how can we do this conversion?
I think for anxiety with no cause, it needs an action to switch it off. You need to physically do something to stop the pacing and the unsettled feelings. The answer to this little problem of converting the mind is simple, then. Open your Bible. Any page. Any passage. Just open it up and read. Read first just to read and then gradually transition to read for understanding. Open your heart and allow your mind to gently open. As you do this, you will begin thinking over feeling and ground yourself in the Word of truth.
What are you anxious about today? What worry do you struggle with? Do you trust that God has a plan and that these feelings are nothing more than just that – feelings? Whatever is on your heart today as you read this post, know that you are not alone. Know that this is just one page in one chapter in one book. Allow your mind to rest as you work to cope with your anxieties.
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