What are you afraid of? What makes you worry?
Josie, the heroine of my current novel-in-progress, wouldn’t admit it, but she fears a lot of things. The very flying that she adores, letting her family down, loving again… I’d best shush from telling all her secrets or else she won’t speak to me for awhile.
The truth is, most of us carry more anxiety than we realize or care to acknowledge.
I know I did.
Few people know this, but, for a couple of months many years ago, anxiety trapped me in its web.
Maybe it was the newness of working with a local hospice and the realities that come along for the difficult ride. Maybe it was other things. Either way, those were some of the longest weeks of my life. Every little physical “symptom” became something to worry and obsess over. Twice I ended up in the ER with tangible symptoms that my anxiety created.
I prayed. I prayed a lot. That helped, but then something else happened.
A godly woman who’d been through something similar recognized what was going on. She sat me down and gave me my diagnosis: “You have anxiety.” The worry itself had become the problem, rivaling any real boogey man. Over the next half hour she shared her story. The light bulb went off in my head, and the peace flooded my heart.
Yes, I did have anxiety, and I also had God. It was going to be okay. And it was. Exposed and robbed of its power, the anxiety slinked away.
I’m glad I had that experience. I can say that honestly. God used it to bring me closer to Him. I came out stronger and wiser, and it has served me well.
That’s not to say that I’m immune to relapse or am a mental health professional, but God taught me a thing or two about dealing with anxiety. Perhaps there’s a nugget of helpfulness here for you or someone you care about.
1. Nip it in the bud. Spending time with God each day–real, quality time–helps head off gripping anxiety. Praying, reading the Bible, and sincerely giving over the day’s worries keeps our eyes on Him and keeps us from relying on our own strength. Yes, bad things may happen still, but which way would we rather face challenges: with God or without?
2. Set an alarm clock. Do you ever not even realize you’re worrying excessively about something? It can be easy to ignore the soundtrack of anxieties that’s set on repeat in the background of our hearts. Ask God to alert you, like an alarm clock, to anything that fuels anxiety. This can prevent the worry from accelerating into a runaway train.
3. Nurture relationships. Anxiety festers in isolation. The worrier might feel embarrassed or ashamed of their anxiety. Godly friends and loved ones who care and hold us accountable can help deflate the worry. They can also throw that lifeline of objectivity and perspective.
The world is a scary, wonderful place. There’s a lot to worry about if we allow ourselves. Anxiety itself doesn’t have to be one of them.
Trust in him at all times, you people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge. Psalm 62:8 (NIV)
Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18