Anxiety is one of those things where you either have it, or you’re skeptical that it exists. Sure, it’s an emotion one occasionally feels when one is awaiting big news (or something to that effect). But when you feel a constant state of panic, even when there isn’t any true threat of danger, anxiety can be debilitating.
When you’re suffering from anxiety, it feels like you have this dark, terrifying thing looming in the back of your mind at all times – something is always behind you, watching you, lurking behind corners, ready to bring your doom. Your stomach feels like you’re on the downward slope of a rollercoaster, your heart is racing, and you can’t seem to catch your breath. And this feeling lasts for hours. I would know: I’ve had several panic attacks in my life. I was suffering from anxiety just the other day. It pops up when you need it least.
So I took it to prayer. I was feeling panicky and hyperventilating and I forced myself to sit down, take some deep breaths, and bring my anxiety to God. What He showed me was this:
Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you. (1 Peter 5:7)
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ. (Philippians 4:6-7)
Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. (Matthew 6:25-34)
Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts (Colossians 3:15)
See, in my experience, anxiety has always been caused by what we perceive to be impossible or terrifying situations beyond our control. Anxiety is the anticipation of something that we think we cannot handle. Anxiety is triggered by things that seem so horrifying that we can’t handle it. In a lot of ways, it feels like drowning.
But Jesus is there to pull us up. Sometimes He lets us feel the fear, but He never lets us drown. Because anxiety – at least in my life – is, in a lot of ways, a lack of trust in God. I believe I’ll have to handle impossible or scary situations on my own, and that I’ll fail, and it makes me scared. I forget that He is with me, that He provides me with exactly what I need, and that He helps me do that which scares me. He gives me the grace I need in the moment, enough to tackle and surmount one challenge at a time. He is my courage and my peace; I have the strength for everything through Him who empowers me (Phil 4:13). I can face anything, do anything, conquer all things (Romans 8:37) because I have the God of the universe living in me, at my side, behind me, in front of me, fighting for me (Exodus 14:14) and providing me with everything I need. What have I to fear? The same power that rose Christ from the dead lives in me (Romans 8:11).
So what are some solid things you can do to combat your anxiety? Here is what helps me:
- Go to God with your anxieties. Tell Him what you’re scared of. Let Him know that you don’t think you can do it, and that you need His help.
- Ask Him for what you need. Be specific. Let him know that you need and trust that He will provide.
- Read the Scripture passages I cited above. Let the truth seep into your heart and mind. Let it dispel your fear. Rest in that truth. Find peace and comfort in it.
- Take deep breaths to slow your heart and calm yourself down. Seriously. Slow, deep breathing works.
- If you have an overwhelming amount of tasks to accomplish, prioritize and focus on one task at a time. Don’t worry about the rest of what you have to do; focus only on what is directly in front of you, and work until it is done. Then, move on to the next most immediate task.
- If you have something that is looming in the future, but you can’t really do anything to prepare for it, do activities that will refocus your mind. Adult coloring books, painting, watching TV, or doing anything physically active is a great way to turn that nervous energy into something productive.
These are what help me, but aren’t meant to substitute counseling or medication if that’s what you really need. If you have persistent anxiety, you may need to seek professional help. And there’s nothing wrong with that.
I want to leave you with this:
Then he made the disciples get into the boat and precede him to the other side…
The boat, already a few miles offshore, was being tossed about by the waves, for the wind was against it. During the fourth watch of the night, he came toward them, walking on the sea. When the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified. “It is a ghost,” they said, and they cried out in fear.
At once Jesus spoke to them, “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.” Peter said to him in reply, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” He said, “Come.”
Peter got out of the boat and began to walk on the water toward Jesus. But when he saw how strong the wind was he became frightened and, beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!”
Immediately Jesus stretched out his hands and caught him, and said to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” (Matthew 14:22-32)
When you feel like a storm is raging around you, you’re sinking, and you’re about to drown, know the truth – Jesus is holding you up. He will not let you fall beneath the waves. He loves you and cares for you too much to let you drown. Trust in Him. Do not doubt.
Recommended songs: Same Power by Jeremy Camp, More Than Conquerors by Rend Collective