So many people today suffer from worry and anxiety. It can be so terrible, even incapacitating people at times. It can hinder some Christian people from living in the freedom Christ offers.
There are many factors to consider and I don’t want to say to you reading that I know your personal situation. There are discussions surrounding mental illnesses such as anxiety, that consider factors such as diet, genetics, spirituality and environmental conditions for example. However as someone who has suffered from anxiety I would like to offer a pastoral consideration that I feel I don’t hear often enough.
Searching the scriptures diligently for strength, encouragement, and answers.
During times of great stress, I've known scriptures that advise not to worry, such as ‘look at the birds’ and ‘cast your anxiety upon Jesus for He cares about you’. However during times of great stress I then have felt anxious because I have been anxious, when I know I shouldn’t be! What a horrible cycle…This has often led me to wonder, “Why?”
Even though I know during difficult times I pray more, I still wonder why. I wonder, "Why do I suffer like this when I don’t think not having anxiety would alter my relationship with Jesus?"
I’ve often consoled myself with the fact experiencing anxiety enables me to empathise and care for others who suffer with worry and anxiety too…Yet I still sometimes think, “Why?”
Something that’s really helped me is thinking about my anxiety as my internal ‘warning alarm’. Sometimes it’s triggered by slight things and other times it’s triggered by very real things. The struggle can be in discerning the difference.
I honestly believe there are many, many people who suffer with extreme anxiety because of their rejection of Jesus. I remember I was living in rebellion for a number of years before I suffered my first panic attack. My internal alarm began to sound but I had suppressed it with work, pleasures and secular psychology. I’m glad I didn’t suppress it completely with medication…not that medication isn't appropriate at times or can’t help people!
I suffered for almost a decade before I gave my whole self to Jesus for a new beginning and healing and it’s now 13 years later. My healing still continues. I know I am not like I used to be, I am so much better than how I was, but I still sometimes struggle due to challenges and life stressors.
A different part of scripture (to usual) that has really helped me regarding my internal alarm system (anxiety) is Proverbs 3:21-35. I’ve highlighted sections that spoke to me. I hope it helps you too.
Proverbs 3:21-35 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV):
The True Security:
21 My child, do not let these escape from your sight:
keep sound wisdom and prudence,
22 and they will be life for your soul
and adornment for your neck.
23 Then you will walk on your way securely
and your foot will not stumble.
24 If you sit down,[a] you will not be afraid;
when you lie down, your sleep will be sweet.
25 Do not be afraid of sudden panic,
or of the storm that strikes the wicked;
26 for the Lord will be your confidence
and will keep your foot from being caught.
27 Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due,[b]
when it is in your power to do it.
28 Do not say to your neighbor, “Go, and come again,
tomorrow I will give it”—when you have it with you.
29 Do not plan harm against your neighbor
who lives trustingly beside you.
30 Do not quarrel with anyone without cause,
when no harm has been done to you.
31 Do not envy the violent
and do not choose any of their ways;
32 for the perverse are an abomination to the Lord,
but the upright are in his confidence.
33 The Lord’s curse is on the house of the wicked,
but he blesses the abode of the righteous.
34 Toward the scorners he is scornful,
but to the humble he shows favor.
35 The wise will inherit honor,
but stubborn fools, disgrace.
Footnotes: Proverbs 3:24 Gk: Heb lie down, Proverbs 3:27 Heb from its owners.
Wisdom and Prudence: These two words really hit my heart, as a very real and practical solution for anxiety. For I know from life experience how much calmer I feel when I know I am honouring The Lord in my life decisions, and being a good steward with what He has granted me with rather than constantly indulging. I have found consciously exercising wisdom and caution, in decisions regarding my life is really important. But I have also found I cannot do this without consulting The Lord in prayer, and through scripture reading/study. I cannot help but think of people not sleeping at night, due to huge financial burdens that may have been best to avoid committing to. Our flesh always demands more but there is no life in our flesh. There is only life in Christ. Peace comes in living not only with Him but for Him.
I have found when I continually seek The Lord and connecting with Him through scripture my anxiety improves. Christian music also helps. It is only by connecting with Him and listening to Him through scripture that I find rest.
This section of scripture also encouraged me by reminding me to ‘love thy neighbour’ and to ‘not quarrel’, because the truth is when I don’t feel great I am sometimes easily irritated and cranky. Loving others who are not my immediate family, and suppressing the urge to argue are two great practical applications that are usually not high on my agenda when I’m anxious or feeling low – yet they take the focus off me, and help me to rise above.
The Lord blessing the home of the righteous really comforted me, as I can often become stressed and concerned for my children. Even though I may at times feel less than ‘righteous’, I know that The Lord is reminding me of His righteousness imputed to me through Christ, not from works! The Lord loves me and my family and therefore blesses my home. I find great comfort in this scriptural promise.
To conclude this section states God shows favour to the humble, and the wise will inherit honor. So again I am reminded the best way for me to combat anxiety is living in reverent submission to Jesus. I fight this battle best ‘on my knees’ which means praying, and actively engaging with Jesus through scripture. A very practical approach.
With much love, Melanie.