2 Strategies for Fighting Against Anxiety

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People with anxiety have fear. They have worry. I think some people are born with anxiety. Like me. Stories of my childhood depict me as difficult, even as a baby. I even sort of felt disliked. Sometimes I still do.

Anxiety is also sometimes an inner conflict resulting from choice. When I make choices that go against the person I believe I should be and what I know is God’s best for me, the anxiety is a self-inflicted wound.

Anxiety crippled my decision-making ability in high school. How I wish I had known the Lord during that time, so that I might have lived a life that was a model to my friends. Instead, I am left to wonder if my friends made it safely into the Lord’s ways or if they were not able to turn away from the poor influence I provided. I can only hope that is giving myself too much credit.

Anxiety followed me into my marriage. It has hurt my boys. I was in my late 20s before I realized that I was living a life under constant condemnation. For me, with anxiety came suicidal thoughts. Even as a child, I didn’t have the will to truly live. Living, for me, was more like hiding.

I believe my anxiety was the root of my suicidal thoughts. Once when my oldest child was but a young child, maybe six or seven, he and my husband left our home for a simple visit to my in-laws. I remember being in the bathroom alone, running some water in the sink, and hearing, “Now is the perfect time. They have left you. They don’t need you, and they don’t want you.”

But that is one way anxiety consumes people when they are not suited up. It was a big moment for me.

Aloud, I said, “No!” It was my first real attempt at fighting evil and kneeling in surrender to God. I found my will to live in this endless moment, though it wasn’t really about me. It was about Him. Except that, to Him, it has always been about me. And about you.

Anxiety as a Christian

It is hard for those who suffer with anxiety to properly perceive how others react to them. At times, their thoughts are turned inward, and they don’t care about others. In certain scenarios, they can be paranoid with fear and worry, turning small things into rejections. If you have anxiety, your struggles may look like mine. They may not. But there is a common thread to anxiety and Satan’s other chief ploys and that is to keep us from God.

If anxiety is a reality for you, then it is time to enlist. You must train, and you must fight, not only for yourself but for those you love (and who love you whether you believe it or not).

For me and for many people I have worked with as a therapist, this battle with anxiety is a life-long one. Luckily, the armor of God is available to us all. These powerful verses are long, but stay with me. It is a part of God’s battle plan for believers. Ephesians 6:10-18 states:

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people.

One morning at church a year or so ago, I must’ve looked bothered while I was waiting on my family to meet me. A man I have seen frequently greeting other people came up to check on me. He talked about worry. I was impacted by his concern, though nothing he said was new to me, until he said, “Well, you know what Bob Marley said.” I had not. He quoted Marley: “Worrying is worshipping the devil. “

I can’t say I have ever confirmed that Marley actually said that. Whether or not he said those words, even if they sound drastic, I see truth in the statement. God tells us not to worry. Therefore, worrying can’t really be worshipping Him, can it? I think of that saying often, and it propels me to fight back. To fight for the Lord instead.

How to Treat Anxiety

We can treat anxiety through teaching ourselves to think differently by the way we choose to perceive thoughts and events. This means we meditate not on anxious thoughts or what might happen, but instead focus on what is good and positive in the moment.

While the word “meditate” is often associated with Buddhist or New Age practices, it simply means to contemplate something or clear one’s mind, and is a spiritual discipline found in Scripture.

Psalm 19:14 (ESV) states, “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O LORD, my rock and my Redeemer” (emphasis mine). At my previous church, we said these lines at the conclusion of every service.

In focusing on what is good, we overcome our negative thoughts. Jesus redeems us, and His redeeming power extends to our thoughts about ourselves, our problems, and our world.

For instance, I could choose to remember that I was made fun of as an awkward 4th grade child with the wrong clothes. I was unpopular and shy. One day when my socks didn’t match my outfit, multiple peers laughed at me; it felt like the entire school was laughing. However, in meditating on the good from this experience, I can instead recall the kindness of Mrs. McSwain, a teacher that made me feel loved and unique in spite of my wardrobe inadequacies. It still hurt to be laughed at. But it also taught me how it feels to be ridiculed, so that I can now protect others from feeling that pain.

Again, in this situation and others — even reflecting back as an adult — I get to choose my attitude. An attitude focused on this world leads to anxiety. An attitude focused on God leads to peace.

Clearing your mind from negativity and focusing on what is real and good cannot be credited to Buddhism or any other false religion. A healthy attitude comes from God; it always has and that won’t change. Philippians 4:8 (NASB) says, “Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.”

Another way to combat anxiety is to focus on others. Anxiety can stem from internalizing your thoughts, even to the point of making everything about you. When I am focused on helping others, there is no place for anxiety because I am not thinking about myself, going over the long script in my head of everything I said and did that was wrong.

Conclusion: Being Free From Anxiety

In writing this, I am not trying to say that I don’t still have anxiety. I do. There are occasions when it is even quite severe. I have worked with some people who cannot leave their homes because of anxiety. They are too afraid. I can relate to an extent. Meditating on good rather than bad and focusing on others are two therapeutic avenues that can help.

The difference between myself now when I experience anxiety and the person I used to be is that I am aware of and utilize the armor provided by God. I fight to live the life God created me to live. Though I may fail me, He never will.

If you have anxiety, decide to fight. This might mean making an appointment with a pastor or counselor or setting aside time each day to give it to God and rest in His peace. It might mean getting out of the house, even if the first step is simply onto the front porch. You simply have to be a willing vessel God can use to gain the victory.

2 Timothy 1:7 (NKJV) says, “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” You don’t have to lose the battle to anxiety and fear. With God’s help, you can overcome.

Rebecca Lindsey

Rebecca Lindsey

After “retiring” from teaching in 2013, Rebecca is currently back at it as a high school Teacher on Assignment where she is able to help students identified as at-risk for not graduating on time. The in-between years, she worked as a therapist in private and public practice. Her interests are in helping others, hiking, kayaking, gardening, dancing, and reading. She loves exercise, nutrition, and natural healing. After completing her doctorate in organizational psychology, she plans to lead others to improve leadership, career, and personal life-skills and maybe even author a few works. In every role, she feels there is an opportunity to model the grace and redemption given to us by Jesus. Rebecca lives in Dallas, Georgia, with her husband and three boys (the middle child is a Weimeraner).

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How Sugar Became an Idol in My Life

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I see these cute Christian shirts that make me think, “Ah. That expresses my faith well.” I am a quiet person. Perhaps one of these will give voice to my faith. One in particular states, “I love Jesus, coffee, and naps.” I love all three, and, while I rarely actually get a nap, I often feel desperate for one.

Another shirt states, “It is well with my soul.” Overall, that is true for me. But do I really represent that all the time? Absolutely not. And then I wonder if I am too worried about appearing hypocritical. Would I be making a stand for God or turning those who have no faith even further from God? Having friends who do not know Christ makes me shrink from purchasing such a garment for fear of presenting a conflicting message.

And then, I think, it is just a shirt.

I have been pondering which shirt to buy for some time, even though it is unlikely I will ever buy any of them.

How God Revealed an Idol

In the process of contemplating the messages of these T-shirts, God opened my eyes to a more profound perspective. It really began with sugar, specifically, the sugar in my coffee. The coffee, of course, was listed on one of the shirts as one of my “needs.”

For a little background, I am in the heart of writing my dissertation which will earn me a PhD in psychology when I complete it. It’s tough. I have a family, a church family, and a full-time job. My mother lives with me. My mother-in-law is still learning to live alone after the death of my father-in-law. There are many reasons I feel continuing my education is a selfish endeavor.

I began brainstorming ways that I could function more effectively, disappoint as few people as possible, and still complete this dissertation. Let me also say that at this time I had been researching some strategies for pre-menopausal women, feeling like my hormones have been doing somersaults since my last child. I found that even in my late thirties, the hormones can create problems.

One strong suggestion from this research, because I am not into fake medications but prefer to utilize what God gives us naturally when possible, was to quit sugar.

After a nasty sugar detoxification period, going without sugar was supposed to leave me energized, focused, and steady. Those are qualities I would like to hear used to describe me from people like my husband, sons, family, and co-workers.

Sugar. My friend-for-life. How could I give up sugar while going through such a difficult task as a dissertation? I have quit sugar before — in all but my coffee — but I need that sugar in my coffee. It is such a comfort. I look forward to each cup (probably more like three or four). I can get through most situations knowing that a cup of coffee with sugar is at the end.

However, I realized that if I am asking my family to sacrifice for me, then I must also make sacrifices. I knew I would suffer, however superficial it seems. Since I was giving up sugar, why not give up gluten, too? I have gone gluten free in the past, and it left me feeling much better. Healthier. Stronger.

Thus, in order to feel better and find the energy I needed, I went off sugar and gluten. By day three of no sugar, my husband was begging me to go back on it. I had a headache. I was irritable. I had no comfort.

But I am stubborn. I thought — if this substance has this much control over who I am, then I want nothing to do with it.

Several weeks into this new life-without-sugar, I learned a wonderful lesson, as are all lessons from the Lord. This one I know was from Him: At times when I should have been taking comfort in the Lord, I turned to sugar instead.

That was a blow to the person I believed myself to be. Sugar was something so trivial that I let become a god to me. Judges 10:14 (ESV) states, “Go and cry out to the gods whom you have chosen; let them save you in your time of distress.” Bingo. That was me.

Gaining Self-Control: Making Jesus My Comfort

Since giving up the sweet stuff, I no longer get tired in the afternoon. I can work for crazy amounts of time, still give my kids attention for their homework and antics, and perform well at work. I lost weight that no amount of exercise has ever gotten rid of. It was a struggle that ended with me on top, infused with God’s power rather than the power of “things.”

How many times have I heard at church that anything we rely on has the power to become a god to us? I chide myself that I didn’t see this sooner, yet, since I am human, I know something is bound to sneak up on me again. I can still enjoy sugar since my detox, usually every weekend, with no side effects. The sugar no longer controls me. I control it.

I did fall off the wagon once. I slowly let sugar creep into my day-to-day routine. However, when I began waking up in the morning feeling as though I hadn’t slept, I quickly realized the culprit. I got back up and quit sugar once again.

Moderation works. Anything of the Lord is good. The only thing I do not need moderation for is my time with Him. For it is never enough.

1 Corinthians 10:14 (ESV) states, “Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry.” I am thankful for the discernment God gave me that allowed me to garner self-discipline over this part of my life.

I no longer want the “I love Jesus, coffee, and naps” shirt that was “so me.” My perspective of what is important has shifted. I want every part of me, even my clothing, to reflect that. Plus, I drink less coffee now — only one cup usually. I no longer yearn for naps. As my father-in-law used to say, “You can sleep when you die” (and that is how he lived his life). And I will never again compare Jesus’ name to trivial, momentary pleasures on this earth.

Living my life with less sugar and with more Jesus is so much better.

Through a path that began with a shirt, diverted to sugar, and ended in idols, I found out more about both Jesus and my relationship with Him. In defense of the shirt, Jesus’ name is in larger font on it than either coffee or naps. Makes sense. He is larger.

It is important for us all to attempt to recognize what idols, even legal ones like sugar, we have in our lives. The lesson for me was to not just examine where I spend most of my time and energy, but from where I receive my comfort.

Despite all that I’ve learned, I do still like the Jesus shirts, though. The one I eyeball now states, “Blessed by Jesus — Spoiled by my husband.” I haven’t found anything wrong in that thus far. After the dissertation, I may treat myself to it.

Rebecca Lindsey

Rebecca Lindsey

After “retiring” from teaching in 2013, Rebecca is currently back at it as a high school Teacher on Assignment where she is able to help students identified as at-risk for not graduating on time. The in-between years, she worked as a therapist in private and public practice. Her interests are in helping others, hiking, kayaking, gardening, dancing, and reading. She loves exercise, nutrition, and natural healing. After completing her doctorate in organizational psychology, she plans to lead others to improve leadership, career, and personal life-skills and maybe even author a few works. In every role, she feels there is an opportunity to model the grace and redemption given to us by Jesus. Rebecca lives in Dallas, Georgia, with her husband and three boys (the middle child is a Weimeraner).

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