If You Don’t Know, You Don’t Know
If you’ve never experienced anxiety then it’s extremely difficult to understand someone who is experiencing it. I’m not talking about a heightened sense of nervousness or butterflies in your stomach though. I’m referring to chronic and recurring anxiety that alters how you live day to day. Only being diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) in my early thirties, I can look back on my life and see that I started to experience episodes of anxiety in my mid to late teens and early twenties. I can pinpoint my first major episode of anxiety.
Good Cause, Bad Result
Right after Hurricane Harvey devastated Houston, Texas, my church sent a group of workers to help with the clean up along side Samaritan’s Purse. The morning we were leaving I was sitting in the back of the bus that was taking us to the airport with my friend Daniel. Right as we were about to pull out of the parking lot, I suddenly needed to go to the bathroom. My fight or flight response was triggered and I started shaking in my core and my stomach wasn’t happy. Was it the plane ride making me nervous? I’d flown before and didn’t have this reaction. Was it the unknown of the type of work we would be doing? Construction isn’t exactly what I would call a talent of mine. Was it the living conditions? I’m somewhat introverted and really prefer my own space, private bathrooms, and showers. Was it that I wasn’t driving? It might seem weird, but not driving can make me feel like I’m not in control. Well, it was a little bit of everything. The entire ride to the airport I tried to consume my attention with games and listening to music on my phone. We finally made it to the airport, got through TSA, and got to our gate. Still, this entire time I was unable to stop shaking. Imagine feeling like you were standing out in 0* weather without a coat and you were shivering, although I didn’t feel cold. Actually, just the opposite. I was sweating.
Anxiety Can Be Different For Everyone
The weird thing about anxiety is that it effects people differently. For some people, anxiety keeps them in bed for extended periods of time. For others, they get a burst of energy and become a busy worker. Although for some, anxiety (or perceived anxiety) of an event causes them to b-line for a bathroom.
Until anxiety is an issue for you, it’s hard to know how it will effect you. If someone you know is struggling with anxiety, don’t place them into a box of what their symptoms should be or not be. Instead, listen to them and try to see what the root cause is and speak truth into that situation.
Bringing Truth to the Battle
Anxiety starts in our minds. It’s what we think about, it’s what we obsess over. It’s what we believe to be true.
It wasn’t until my last major episode (again dealing with flying) that I was talking with some friends and they began to speak the Gospel to me. Not just, “Jesus died for your sins!” Gospel, but a deeper, more intimate Gospel. A Gospel that challenged me with Who God is. What He has done. Who I am because of that. What my response to that is. What was I truly believing about God when I was feeling anxious. When anxiety hits, our mind is filled with worries and ‘what if’s’ that can cripple us. Some of those worries can be legitimate, although many are not (in my case at least). It’s in those moments that we lose sight of the truth about God. The fear we experience is the fear that God has forgotten us, is punishing us, or that He isn’t really there, although we may not initially understand that in our current circumstances. Lies begin to multiply and take advantage of our weakness and we begin to believe the lies. Our focus not longer is on God, but on ourselves. This is where bringing truth to the battle is key. Knowing and understanding the truths of Who God is, what He has done for us, who we are because of that, and how we are to respond can turn our attention away from ourselves and back to Jesus. These truths are foundational. They will relieve your anxiety, not just temporarily subdue it like a distraction on your phone. But until you are able to speak the Gospel to yourself, it’s vital to have friends who can speak the Gospel into your life.
The Truths of the Gospel
So what are these truths that we should be speaking to ourselves?
- Who God is: God is the creator of all things. He is more powerful and capable than we can fathom. He loves you. His love has no limit or inability to reach you. Through His power and love, you can have peace in knowing He is good and fully in control. Trust that His love conquers all fears and circumstance.
Whatever is captivating your mind, begin repeating who God is again and again.
- What has He done for me? Even though in the moment it may feel like God has lost control, or abandoned you to whatever you are experiencing, He hasn’t. As a follower of Christ, you have been made new in Christ through the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus who conquered death and secured eternal salvation for you. Nothing in this life can separate you from Christ. Not even death. Your eternity has been purchased by Christ. That is what God has done for you. Remember and repeat this truth.
- Who I am because of that? You are a child of God. You are a witness of the gospel. You have more value than you know. You have the Holy Spirit to guide your thoughts and help you to see that you are not defined by your struggles, health, or social status. You have been made free in Christ.
- How do we respond? Repentance and Faith. Repent that you’ve believed a lie about God. Repent that you didn’t trust in the finished work of Christ that eternally binds you to the Father. Repent that you lost sight of who you truly are. Turn in faith by confessing the goodness of God. Believe in the power and sufficiency of Christ. Respond to your anxiety with the boldness of who God has made you to be.
There’s No Shame In Needing Help
There is no shame in needing help. Jesus provides us help through His Word and through the eternal salvation he gives us through faith in Him. But that’s not to say that sometimes we don’t need additional help. Talk therapy has been a major help for me. I’ve also worked on being more active too. It can also be beneficial to talk to your doctor about additional treatments and medications that can help with your anxiety. You’re not alone in this. As Christians we need to be willing to support and help friends and other believers battle their anxious thoughts by understanding their triggers, listening to them, and reminding them of who they are because of Jesus.
If you found this helpful, please let us know. Our desire is for people to know and follow Christ in all of life. Especially in these areas because that is where His grace and mercy can shine brightest.