Dealing with Anxiety as a Christian

Joshua 1:9 says, “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”

2 Timothy 1:7, “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.”

1 John 4:18 says, “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.”

Psalm 94:19, “When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought joy to my soul.”

Isaiah 43:1 says, “But now, this is what the Lord says…Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine.”

Anxiety is often misunderstood in that it is usually defined as a person who is stressing too much. There is a difference between anxiety resulting from sin and anxiety, a mental health issue characterized by physical changes in the body and brain. Anxiety is mental health, emotional, and spiritual problem.

The other day someone who had been prescribed medicine for her anxiety noted the difference it made in her life. She said, “I didn’t know life could be this way. I don’t panic about my kids playing outside in the front yard. I’m not terrorized by racing thoughts at night. I can sleep through the night, and I don’t feel like I’m in ‘fight or flight mode.”

She had lived for years with anxiety. She didn’t realize it was anxiety, she knew there was something wrong, but she decided it was just the family curse handed down to her from her Grandma. Eventually, she was sick and tired of everyone telling her to “Believe more. Just have more faith. Just pray about it more.” Finally, she sought out her doctor and then a counselor recommended by a friend.

Anxiety is a mental health issue characterized by feelings of worry strong enough to interfere with everyday activities. It often includes panic attacks, post-traumatic stress disorder, and obsessive-compulsive disorder. Sadly, anxiety disorders are on the rise, making it critical for the Church to understand the epidemic on the horizon.

Anxiety in America:
Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S., affecting 40 million adults in the United States age 18 and older, or 18.1% of the population every year. Anxiety disorders are highly treatable, yet only 36.9% of those suffering receive treatment. People with an anxiety disorder are three to five times more likely to go to the doctor and six times more likely to be hospitalized for psychiatric disorders than those who do not suffer from anxiety disorders. Anxiety disorders develop from a complex set of factors, including genetics, brain chemistry, personality, and life events.

Give your Life and Your Thoughts to Jesus Christ
Billy Graham once said: “At its best, anxiety distracts us from our relationship with God and the truth that He is “Lord of heaven and earth” (Matthew 11:25). At its worst, anxiety is a crippling disease, taking over our minds and plunging our thoughts into darkness.”

Philippians 4:6 says, “but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

The first step to becoming free of anxiety is to give your life to Jesus Christ. Once you’ve taken this step, the next is to practice fixing your thoughts on Christ and His promises. (John 14:2-3). In the battlefield of our minds, we are to practice self-awareness of our thoughts and take them captive.

Philippians 4:8-9 says, “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.”

Ask for Prayer
Anxiety changes us. It changes our perception. It challenges our physical bodies. We know there is no logical explanation for adrenaline pumping through our veins as though we’re running in fear for our lives. We know that we’re to pray our worries away. We know we are to go to God and give Him our thoughts. And we can ask for prayer. We can ask our church family for help through prayer, support, and wise counsel.

It feels as though our feelings and thoughts are actively trying to overwhelm us for those living with anxiety. We know that our feelings are strongholds that need to overcome and that our feelings should not be trusted. The feeling of dread and panic sends our hearts into our throats and stomachs to the floor. The sense of impending doom is emotionally exhausting. But we do have one powerful anchor. While our feelings try to unmoor us, the promises of God’s Word anchors us. It’s our lifeline. We know that God chose us, called us, and gave us His grace.

Will it always be a thorn in our side? Some of us live with a physiological disorder of depression and anxiety. It may be our mission to shed light on the stigma of mental health, suicide, and the spiritual battles we all face. My mission is to bring God’s truth to those living with these disorders and build a bridge of education and truth to those who don’t understand it.

I have discovered that God will heal some of us supernaturally. He may use our family and friends, Biblical counselors, intercessory prayer, and medicine. God has been known to heal all of these ways, sometimes it’s a combination, but the Lord does great things!

Anxiety can arise when we least expect it. It happens when we’ve put too much on our “life plates.” When we pile on the busy, the doing, the too much, the too many yeses and not enough no’s. We are overly responsible, and we are unwilling to establish healthy boundaries. Our body doesn’t know any other way to say enough through anxiety.

And our bodies may shut down in ways we don’t expect. God didn’t design us to go 24-7. He created us to rest by honoring the Sabbath. God’s word instructs us to Be Still and Know God. Be still means to rest in God’s presence. It is noteworthy to remember that this verse wasn’t written in the context of taking a spa day. It was written in the context of war. To stop, cease striving, and stop fighting. To retreat from the battles. It means to acknowledge who our God is and worship Him. We need to learn to be still before our Lord every day. It means we become un-busy. We are to prioritize our time with Him and learn to listen to what our bodies need. Rest, exercise, a healthy bedtime routine, getting 7-9 hours of sleep, and eat healing foods. This is how we fight against the battle of anxiety.

Receiving Counsel
There are three professionals we need to meet to fight anxiety. Go and see your pastor for spiritual guidance, accountability, and prayer and then to a Professional Christian Counselor who can integrate God’s word and cognitive behavioral therapy to assess the situation. If needed, make an appointment with your PCP to evaluate your physical needs.

Did you know that according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NIMH), today’s treatments for mental illnesses are 70% to 90% effective for reducing symptoms and improving quality of life? The NIMH also states that early identification is critical. It reduces the risk of further harm to the brain. Early intervention also produces faster healing. Unfortunately, most people wait on average of seven years before they seek professional help. The consequences are unnecessary suffering.

With Love In Christ,
Pastor Steve

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