"I don't have anxiety."
Let's talk about this, honestly.
Our fallen world produces anxiety in all of us to some extent. I have friends with diagnosed anxiety who struggle with feeling trapped in that diagnosis and I know people who sometimes can't process what they're experiencing because they (this is me!) say, "I don't struggle with anxiety." I'm not making light of these mental health issues. Rather, let's bring them into the light. Whether your struggle with anxiety is acute and temporary or a lifelong battle, we can all be more equipped. I'll leave the discussion of medicine for another day, apart from one points (1) There is certainly a fitting time and place for helpful medication to treat anxiety and depression, and (2) that's none of my business. Anxiety is always spiritual and frequently physical.
But then again, you may be like me, the person who places herself in the "I don't have it" category. I rarely exhibit signs/symptoms of depression or anxiety. Rarely, but not never. Everyday stress piles up, and it often couples with me not prioritizing time with God and not allowing Him to share the burdens of everyday life. I have days where I feel acutely "blue" and occasional days when I feel acutely anxious. I had a panic attack for the first time (as far as I can remember) a few years ago when we lived in central Indiana. I was driving and I was late to work and I had to pull over because whatever was inside of me was bubbling over and out in hot tears and a feeling that I had zero control over myself or anything in my life. However, as someone who doesn't daily feel anxiety's crippling grip, I don't take any medications for depression or anxiety. So, I thought I don't need to worry about anxiety because I don't "have it."
That's a foolish approach, as none of us are immune to experiencing it. What can we do about anxiety, whether it plagues us perennially or occasionally? From what I've experienced in my own life and witnessed in loved ones' lives, I think these things can be helpful:
- Acknowledging that not one of us is immune to it, but we can do our best to be prepared
- Fighting it offensively with the Sword of the Spirit (God's word) and answering anxiety with biblical Truth about who we are in Christ
- Seeking wise counsel, in your community or from a professional counselor (I've done this! I think everyone benefits from counseling at one point or another in their life)
- Getting into community that knows you—your anxiety and all
- Talking about it, but not overindulging it
- Identifying if there are any particular causes/triggers
- Knowing that even in the midst of your worst anxiety attack(s) ever, you're not alone or unseen
- And personally, if I'm beginning to become anxious, I pray for other people to get the attention and focus off of me (and this is usually helpful)
Additionally, I think it's helpful to learn/memorize/replay these truths:
- We are not slaves to anxiety (think No Longer Slaves by Bethel Music: I'm no longer a slave to fear, I am a child of God // You split the sea so I could walk right through it, My fears were drowned in perfect love // You rescued me so I could stand and sing, I am a child of God)
- If you've trusted Christ, you are 100% free in Jesus
At a recent women's retreat at my church, anxiety came up in discussion. We brought up Philippians 4:6-7, as it is likely the most frequently quoted scripture on the topic:
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Practically, what does that look like? A wise woman in our group discussion put it like this:
- "Do not be anxious" more directly translates to Do not continue on in anxiety
- Tell Jesus what you need for Him to do for you
- Thank Him, not because He needs to hear our thanks, but because anxiety can't dwell where worship and thankfulness drown it out.
I realize that not everyone who reads this blog has trusted Christ with their life and put their hope in Him. And for many, from the outside, my faith looks a lot like complete and utter dependency, with lots of weakness and imperfection and striving to be moral. And honestly? It is. I am weak and dependent and wholly relying on Christ each and every day. He is my joy and my hope and He keeps my gaze lifted heavenward. But in my weakness, I find my strength in Christ. Through Him, I have power and joy and more strength than I could ever muster of my own accord. I'm not striving to live a moral life to earn my salvation—eternity isn't long enough for that. But Jesus doesn't ask that of us, He asks for us to give Him our all, to give Him our lives and to say, "I want this free grace that you're offering me, I want more than the transience of this world and You're the only one who can offer that." I seek to live morally not so that He will rescue me, because while I was still a sinner, He already rescued me. True joy comes from delighting in Him, not pursuits of pleasure or greed or ambivalence.
I want to view anxiety in the light that as a follower of Christ, even if it lasts for a lifetime, anxiety is ultimately fleeting. The only thing that is eternal is His love, His mercy, His justice, and His forgiveness for those who choose Him. My prayer is for more peace and more dependency and thus, more strength in Christ, as we pursue joy in this beautiful life.