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Catching my breath feels impossible. I breathe in deeply, but my lungs don’t seem to fully expand. It’s not necessarily painful, just uncomfortable and terrifying. There’s pressure from an unknown source heavy on my chest. Will this last forever? What caused this? My brain is foggy. I’m looking for answers and seem to get nowhere. I imagine myself wandering around aimlessly, not even sure what I’m looking for, but understanding with each step that I won’t find it.
Anxiety. That’s what it feels like to me. It’s this ugly word that gets thrown around pretty loosely. While it can mean many different things to different people depending on the situation, that’s how trapped I feel when my anxiety kicks in. It’s defined as a strong “feeling of worry, nervousness or unease, typically about an imminent event or something with an uncertain outcome.”
I’m sure we’ve all felt that at some point, right?
First, I want to say that I am in no way a medical doctor, or a doctor of any kind, for that matter. I’m also not a pastor. My writing is simply based on my own experience and my desire to share love with those dealing with anxiety or walking alongside someone with anxiety.
As a person who has dealt with anxiety her entire life, I know how frustrating it can be to think that God is far away. Some may think this is a punishment and that’s why they can’t get over it. It’s not. There is nothing in the Bible that supports that notion. God always gives us a way out and he is our hope.
We could discuss whether or not anxiety and other mental illnesses are demonic warfare or the result of sin, but that’s not what I’m here to discuss in this post. At the end of the day, in my experience, I see that most mental health issues come down to chemical imbalances in our brains. It would, however, be foolish of me to make a blanket statement that all anxiety is the result of a chemical imbalance. I’m not trying to sugarcoat the fact that the enemy will stop at nothing to try to destroy us, but in this case, at this time, I'm speaking strictly from the perspective of chemical imbalances in our brains. Medicine.net states that, "Although the exact cause of most mental illnesses is not known, it is becoming clear through research that many of these conditions are caused by a combination of genetic, biological, psychological, and environmental factors - not personal weakness or a character defect - and recovery from a mental illness is not simply a matter of will and self-discipline.”
The important thing to know is that anxiety isn’t a one-size-fits-all kind of deal, and the treatments and steps to overcome anxiety are certainly not going to be the same for everyone. I strongly suggest talking to a spiritual mentor, counselor, and a medical doctor about your anxiety as you seek to move forward.
We know that God is all-powerful and if he wants to divinely intervene in these situations, HE WILL! But that’s not always how he works.
Oftentimes, God calls us to make a move and seek a solution. Here are four things that have been useful for me as I’ve dealt with anxiety. My hope is that they will equip and encourage you as you deal with anxiety in your own life.
- Put your identity in Christ.
During some of my most anxious and depressive seasons, I have found great comfort in telling myself who I am in Christ. I would remind myself that I'm significant and a child of God. I would reflect on the cost of my salvation and what it means to be covered by the blood of Christ.
- God is sovereign, so don't worry!
One of the most vital pieces of advice I received was from my counselor who shared the all-too-familiar “do not worry” passage from Matthew 6:25-43, yet this time she added something new. She said to see that God doesn't want us to worry about the future; he doesn't want us to worry about the unknown. So every time you think about things that haven't happened and all the ‘what-ifs,' that's the enemy taking you there. God deals with us in the present, and he carries you every step of the way. What a refreshing thought: “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future’” (Jeremiah 29:11 NIV).
- Don't go it alone.
If you're dealing with anxiety, I encourage you to share your struggle with someone. I know that everyone's anxiety looks different: some people can't get out of bed while others hide behind a smile so the world never knows. We were never meant to live alone. Find a person you can trust and pray about the steps you can take to move forward. We have a great team of counselors who can help navigate this difficult time as well as pastors who can connect you with spiritual mentors.
- Meditate on God's Word.
These are some of my favorite verses that have helped me calm down, and remind me that I belong to a powerful and loving God:
- Exodus 14:14
- Deuteronomy 31:6, 8
- Deuteronomy 32:3-4
- Psalm 16
- Psalm 18:1-2, 16-17
- Psalm 130:5
- Isaiah 48:17
- Malachi 3:6
When you find yourself in times of worry and anxiety, make it a point to grab a Bible and meditate on some of these passages. Commit them to memory and let God’s truth comfort you.
In addition, the book Refuge: Devotions for Finding Strength and Comfort, provides many additional helpful passages along with devotions. This devotional has a page for notes alongside each day’s reading. I use this section to help journal thoughts and my prayers as I work through the Scripture.
Anxiety is a very real and prevalent issue in our world, but you don’t have to live with it alone. Reach out for help and surround yourself with people who love you. If anxiety is not a struggle for you, seek to be a sympathetic, understanding, and caring friend for those who do struggle. Above all, seek God and submit to his will for your life. Let his work take place in you, and he will make all things work together for good.