The infrastructure to diagnose, treat, and medicate anxiety and depression, including pharmaceuticals and medications, is valued at 42 billion dollars. Anxiety disorders affect 40 million adults in the United States and are considered the most common mental illness in the U.S. If you find yourself struggling with anxiety, I have good news for you: you don’t have to live trapped by anxiety.
Two Types of Anxiety
There are two types of anxiety: normal anxiety and anxiety disorder. Normal anxiety is a system installed in your physical being by God to help keep you alive. For example, if you are in the woods and a predator jumps out at you, you have a system built into your body that tells you you need to decide within milliseconds. Do you run, or do you stand your ground and fight? If you are in college and you have a paper due, it is normal to feel a bit of anxiety and pressure. Normal anxiety regulates your life and helps you to become successful.
When we talk about anxiety in this blog, we are not talking about normal anxiety. We aren’t talking about the minor anxiety you may feel if you wake up at 8:59 am and have to be at work by 9:00 am. We are speaking about anxiety disorders in this blog. Normal anxiety elevates to the realm of anxiety disorder when it becomes out of order (dis-order). God himself says He is not a God of disorder but peace (1 Corinthians 14:33). The peace of God, or His shalom, brings order. When the order, or the peace of God, enters your life, it begins to set things straight. If you suffer from an anxiety disorder, God has freedom in mind.
We live in a culture that normalizes anxiety because it is all around us. The more prevalent a problem is, the more acceptable it becomes. The message of our culture is that anxiety levels are exponentially rising around the world. We have adapted our theology to anxiety and accepted that it is a part of life rather than pursuing freedom. God gave you a fight-or-flight system, but He did not give you the spirit of fear.
1 Timothy 1:17 (ESV)
For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.
As a culture, we have begun to use the personal pronoun “my” when referring to anxiety: “My anxiety.” God did not give you panic attacks, so don’t take ownership of anxiety anymore! Your anxiety doesn’t come from God. Instead, he gives good gifts to His children.
Acts 2:17 (ESV)
And in the last days it shall be, God declares,
that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh,
and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
and your young men shall see visions,
and your old men shall dream dreams;
I want to highlight the portion of this scripture that says, “your sons and your daughters will prophesy.” Prophecy requires speaking using your words. If Satan knows that God will cause sons and daughters to prophesy, then strategically, to stop the prophecy, he has to pervert the speech of the sons and daughters. The devil has had to counter the word of God that says, “I have not given them a spirit of fear.” Instead, his strategy is for them to start taking possession and ownership of that spirit of anxiety and calling it “my anxiety.”
Don’t Take My Anxiety
Nobody likes to have something taken from them. One of the first lessons we learn as children is to share because sharing doesn’t come naturally. We lock our car, house, and possessions because they belong to us. If the enemy can get you to take possession of anxiety and say, “This is my anxiety,” you’ll treat it like the rest of your possessions as something to protect and secure so that it doesn’t get taken.
If you would like freedom from anxiety, you need to determine that you will NOT refer to the spirit of anxiety as yours. The first thing that has to happen is to change your words. You have to take captive every thought that exalts itself against the Word of God. So the Word of God becomes your standard (2 Cor 10:3-6). So if the Word of God has something to say about how you ought to think, talk, and live, and then a thought comes that starts to elevate itself above the standards, you have to take it captive and tear it down. These thoughts can come from culture, the medical community, the self-help community, the self-esteem community, secular humanism, or any kind of source. Tear these thoughts down and say, “No, this is what I choose to believe and stand on instead.”
The Garden of Gethsemane
Jesus, in the moments before the cross, was in the Garden of Gethsemane praying. During this time, the Bible says that his sweat turned to blood, is a medical condition that happens when you are under severe mental duress. He was starting the process of facing fear. So not only would Jesus’ body be given for our sins, but His mind also had to go through a preparation process in the Garden of Gethsemane.
No physical torture or pain had happened yet when he was in the garden. However, Jesus knew what lay ahead and was instead experiencing the pain of imagining what was ahead of him. He had to win the battle in His mind in the garden first so that when He said, “It is finished,” on the cross, you could have the victory in your mind. He wasn’t only whipped and beaten so that we could be healed from our sicknesses and infirmities and disease. It started in the garden, where His imagination began to conjure up the thoughts of being attacked, ridiculed, and brutalized in such a great way that his sweat turned to blood.
Jesus Understands Anxiety
Jesus understands your anxiety, worry, and torment because there was a time that His sweat turned to blood. He said, “God, if there’s any other way, let it pass.” That goes to show you how powerful the mind is. The enemy knows Jesus was almost broken in His mind in the garden, so when he is trying to bring you down, where do you think he will fight you the hardest? He’s going to fight you in your mind.
Steps to Reduce Anxiety
A study by Cambridge showed that women from wealthier areas reported lower anxiety levels than women from poorer regions. This indicated that those who have the resources to cope with and manage anxiety can lower it to normal levels. I want to help give you some tools to learn how to cope with anxiety when it comes into your life. The Cambridge study indicates that you can bring the levels into a normal range if you know what to do when you feel anxiety rise.
Step 1: Know God’s Word
G.K. Chesterton, a famous theologian, said, “Anything worth doing is worth doing badly the first time.” The anxiety we have in life is often from the fear of being judged by others. We wonder what people will think about how we speak and look, which increases anxiety. When we face increased anxiety, we need to draw on the best tool for dealing with anxiety – God’s word. We remember that, “greater is He that is in me than he that is in the world,” (1 John 4:4) and, “If God be for me who could be against me” (Romans 8:31), and we begin to take back control. We don’t live and die by the criticism OR praise of people. We live in response to the voice of God.
When I speak in front of a large group of people, I can feel so much fear and anxiety in my flesh. “What are they going to think?” “Are they going to judge me?” “Are they going to receive this word?” But the Holy Spirit reminds me that the Spirit of God dwells inside of me. He never leaves me or forsakes me and will be with me even to the ends of the earth. Furthermore, he reminds me that I am loved, approved of, and loved even at my darkest. And this causes my anxiety to reduce.
Step Two: Forgive Yourself
This Cambridge study said that people’s anxiety directly correlates with how much they forgive themselves. If you constantly beat yourself up, you produce anxiety levels that go from average to disordered. Many people who suffer from anxiety disorder constantly think about what they’re doing wrong. Thoughts like, “Today I didn’t parent as I should,” and “I didn’t get the best grades in my classes,” and “I didn’t read the Bible” plague them. The Bible says, “Therefore there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” It is so essential for you to learn how to forgive yourself. Science from just a few years ago says if you know how to forgive yourself, you’ll be free from anxiety, which reinforces what the Bible said thousands of years ago!
Step Three: Do Something For Someone Else
Whoever brings blessing will be enriched, and one who waters will himself be watered.
The study from Cambridge says doing something with someone else in mind will diminish anxiety. My brother, a nurse, once shared the acronym PAIN with me. When a patient feels pain, it’s an indicator that they need to Pay Attention Inside Now. If your heart begins to feel physical pain, no matter where you are, you will pay attention to your insides and get the help you need because you could be having a heart attack. Some of the most selfish people are the people in the most pain. Because of their internal woundedness, they can only think of their hurt. They aren’t able to think of anyone or anything else. They want to be generous and help other people, but they can’t take the focus off themselves.
Put on the Oxygen Mask
When you are on an airplane, the flight attendants instruct you that if the oxygen mask descends out of the top compartment, put your mask on first before you place it on your children. Now that’s counterintuitive because a loving parent wants to help their child first, as the child is their most precious thing. The problem with that way of thinking is that if you don’t put the mask on yourself first, you will probably pass out by the time you even think about getting it on your kid. When you study your Bible, spend time in prayer, and go to counseling to address your trauma and wounds, you are, in a sense, putting the oxygen mask on first so that you can go out and help other people.
If you want to lower anxiety, do something with someone else in mind. I’m going through my struggles right now, as many of us are, but I am refreshed as I pray for others, preach, and reach out to people who feel alone and forgotten.
God asked Abraham to give Him his son, Isaac. Isaac was Abraham’s most precious thing in life, a long-awaited gift of God. Abraham could have been selfish. But because he was a man of faith, he moved forward with the sacrifice of His son. And as he did, the angel grabbed his hand, and he knew it was a test. As you pour out your life, God will refresh you and free you from your anxiety.
A New Song
I waited patiently for the Lord;
he inclined to me and heard my cry.
He drew me up from the pit of destruction,
out of the miry bog,
and set my feet upon a rock,
making my steps secure.
He put a new song in my mouth,
a song of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear,
and put their trust in the Lord.
Scripture reprograms your mind scripts re-broke programs your mind. If you’ve got an old script of anxiety running through your mind, allow God put a new song in your mouth. When you look back at your life, there is no doubt you can see the faithful hand of God written on every page of your life story. To see your anxiety reduced, stop taking ownership of it. Know God’s word. Forgive yourself. And do something for someone else.
My Breakthrough Community is full of people just like you who are hungry for more of God. If you are interested in learning more, consider joining the Breakthrough Community!
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