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.