Are you an anxious person?
Do you often find yourself sitting with the feeling of a thousand flies swarming around your heart? Your stomach twisting and knotting together. Your brain mulls the same scenario over and over again, each time coming up with a new outcome you need to be prepared for. Does the usual, dull drum of Christians telling you to ‘Pray more, Worry Less’ make you feel guilt instead of comfort?
I didn’t realize I struggled with anxiety so fiercely until I moved out to Ohio a year ago. Moving outside of your comfort zone reveals things like that. I remember the first two months of being in the program distinctly. Every morning, I’d walk into school, my mind a blaring blank white of nothing, and my heart clenched tight around my throat. We’d sit, we’d worship, and I’d breathe it out. It’d flare up through the day, depending on what we were doing or where we were going. I had many ‘deer-in-the-headlight’ type moments.
Then, eventually, I had a day where I didn’t feel its clawed grasp as I walked through the doors of the office… By my sixth month at The Company, I only experienced anxiety twice a week…then it became one day out of the week… and then only for special occasions when our Mentor would make us do something new and scary.
If you haven’t noticed yet, joy is a big emphasis on this blog. I’m not perfect at battling anxiety when it threatens to cloud my joy, but here are a couple of helpful mindset reminders I’ve found that help me the most.
1. Worry Less Pray More actually Works
When I first heard this catchy phrase of advice, I tried to apply it a bit like this…
“God—this sucks, this feeling sucks—this is terrible, everything sucks—please take it away.”
Sometimes, I’d feel peace, but more often than not, this type of prayer would lead me to meditate on anxiety rather than God’s goodness. This changed when I read a fascinating quote from a book we had to read at school.
“Freedom from anxiety is characterized by three inner attitudes. If what we have we receive as a gift, and if what we have is to be cared for by God, and if what we have is available to others, then we will possess freedom from anxiety. This is the inward reality of simplicity.
However, if what we have we believe we have gotten, and if what we have we believe we must hold onto, and if what we have is not available to others, then we will live in anxiety.
Such persons will never know simplicity regardless of the outward contortions they may put themselves through in order to live ‘a simple life’.”Celebration of Discipline, Richard Foster
At first, I thought it was a bunch of hogwash…but then I thought about why I felt anxious. Most of it revolved around my reputation and what others may or may not think of me. Did I truly trust God with that? Or did I view my reputation as something I could control?
Now, my prayers sound a little bit more like this.
“God, I’m worried about my reputation. Please remind me of what you think of me. Let your peace rest on me.”
2. When Anxiety is Present, it Presents an opportunity for God to show up
I used to think of anxiety as 100% wrong, a sign I was a bad daughter to God because I obviously didn’t trust Him enough—which led to more anxiety as I tried to force myself to ‘feel’ a certain way.
Anxiety happens. Being nervous and feeling afraid is part of life. I think God wants us to invite Him into the anxiety rather than shove it down and refuse to feel it. When we feel anxious, we ask God in. We move a little closer to Him. Clutch his shirt a little tighter.
If I’d let my fear and anxiety dictate my actions, I’d never have moved out to Ohio. I would have missed so much of what God had for me…and guess what? No matter how anxious, terrible, or sucky I felt this past year…nothing bad ever came of it. I survived every minute, hour, and day that I felt anxious.
The worries I couldn’t stop thinking about? Yeah, some of them happened. But today, they don’t matter. It was never as bad as I thought it would be.
One of my favorite verses is 1 Peter 5:7, and it wraps ups these thoughts rather nicely.
Give all your worries and cares to God, for He cares for you.
Do you struggle with anxiety? Comment below what’s helped you hold onto joy through the battle!
Want to practice your joy? Try out my free joy-votional!