Can One Really Overcome Anxiety?

Over the last few months, I found myself questioning everything I thought I knew about anxiety. I was experiencing new symptoms that left me confused, and a little afraid. I began to wonder…

can one really overcome anxiety?

This question bothered me. It circled in my mind as I lay in bed, it nestled in my thoughts when I washed dishes and folded clothes. It lingered in the background when I listened to music or watched TV. All the while, my anxiety grew. It wasn’t until I had reached the climax of my struggle, and sought counsel from my pastor, that I finally understood.

Because I am a lover of the written word, and I think more clearly when I can write my thoughts on paper, I have written this post in answer to my plaguing question! This article was not written for you, dear readers. It was written for myself. It is a compilation of all I have learned from my pastors, reading the Word of God, reading many books and articles, and my own personal experience.

Six Things People Who Overcome Anxiety Don’t Do:

1. Focus on their symptoms. People who overcome anxiety have learned that they can’t focus on their symptoms. Instead, they work on capturing every worry and fear and handing them over to God. Overcomers have learned that when they focus on their symptoms, and how terribly they want to be healed, they are actually robbing God from His glory. When the focus shifts from our symptoms to God’s goodness, we are taking the first step to glorifying Him!

Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of God.” – 2 Corinthians 10:5

2. Allow their emotions to rule them. People who overcome anxiety have learned that they can’t allow their emotions to rule them. It is not a sin to feel sad, or angry. The sin lies in how much freedom we give to those emotions. If we allow our emotions to rule our spirits, we are allowing ourselves to become vulnerable to even more pain and suffering. When we allow our emotions to reign, life, in general, can feel like an impossibility in our minds, opening the door to dangerous thoughts. Overcomers choose to not follow emotional thoughts, and instead, leave them at the feet of Christ.

He that hath no rule over his own spirit is like a city that is broken down and without walls.” – Proverbs 25:28

Gird up the loins of your mind…” – 1 Peter 1:13

3. Play the “worry game”. People who overcome anxiety don’t play the “worry game”. They realize that while they can’t always help the worry that might pop into their heads, they can choose to not follow them. Once you follow a worry in your mind, it leads to more worries, and before you know it, you are on a merry-go-round of unhealthy thoughts and anxiety! Overcomers choose to not follow their worry.

Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.” – Philippians 4:8

4. Quit God’s calling in their life. People who overcome anxiety don’t stop trying to please God. What is God’s calling in your life? God has personally called me to be a wife and a mother. Because of God’s grace, I have the strength necessary to fulfill this calling, even when I am having an exceptionally bad day. Every Christian, young and old, is called by God to do something, and God has given each of us the strength to obey, despite our anxieties. Yes, sometimes we need to rest, even God rested on the 7th day of Creation! However, God always gives us renewed strength to do His will! Overcomers recognize that they can still obey God, despite their anxiety.

I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.” – Philippians 4:13

But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.” – Isaiah 40:31

4. Stop Praising God. People who overcome anxiety don’t stop praising God. If it’s a good day, they praise God for the good day! If it’s a bad day, they find at least one good thing in that day, to praise Him for. Overcomers know that when they are able to give God thanks, not for their anxiety, but through their anxiety, they are reflecting God’s grace in their lives! They learn to rejoice in the day, instead of just “getting through” it.

This is the day which the Lord hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it” – Psalms 118:24

5. Forget the true meaning of “overcome”. People who overcome anxiety know it is a daily battle. Whatever the cause of your anxiety: worry, stress, fear, past addiction, or chemical imbalance – the victory is not in defeating the anxiety, but in your obedience to God despite it. Overcoming is learning to glorify your Heavenly Father, despite your difficulty. Overcoming is not allowing your difficulty to control you.

Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.” – Philippians 4:11

And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” – 2 Corinthians 12:9

6. Ignore God’s promises. People who overcome anxiety cling to God’s promises for peace. They realize that the more they read the Bible, and the more they pray, the closer to God they become. They realize that only God truly knows the thoughts and intents of their own hearts and that God loves them anyway! Overcomers know that no matter how difficult their anxiety may become, God is still with them and that He is offering His grace!

And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” – Philippians 4:7

I the Lord search the heart, I try the reins…” – Jeremiah 17:10

If I ascend up into heaven, thou are there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there. If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea; Even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me.”– Psalms 139:8-10

I’m not really sure I can claim to be an “overcomer” of anxiety, but it is something I strive for every day!

If you are a Christian struggling with anxiety, and this article was a help to you, leave me a comment below!

 

 

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No Fear In Death

There is no doubt in my mind that I will one day walk on a street of gold. One day, a hand that was once nail-driven to a wooden cross will reach out to me, and lead me Home. I will see my Savior face to face, and I will enjoy eternity in Heaven with Him.

I am not afraid of what life-after-death holds for me. (If you don’t know where you will spend eternity, go here to read how you can have that assurance.)

Once upon a time, I used to worry about how I would die. I’ve never been diagnosed with a terminal illness or told I only have a short time left to live. Yet there were nights I used to lay awake long after the rest of my family would be sleeping, and I would wonder how I would die. These worries at times would leave me frozen with fear, allowing anxiety to get a grip on my mind, debilitating me. Would I die in a car accident? I began to have panic attacks while driving. Would I die of a heart attack? I began to struggle with chest pains. Would I die of a stroke? I began to wonder if I had blood clots. Would I die of cancer? I began to question every twinge of pain.

Maybe you are reading this and are thinking about how silly and ridiculous I sound. A Christian afraid of dying?! Believe me, I used to think that of myself. Shame would fill me each time I struggled with this fear. Yet, I soon learned that I was not alone. In the last year, I received emails and private messages from other Christians who also struggle with anxiety, and have had the same fear of dying.

Over the years, I have learned that God has given us all the tools we need to overcome our anxieties. These tools are found in the Word of God. Once I realized that my fear of dying was beginning to affect me in a physical and unhealthy way, I turned to the scripture. There, I found exactly what I needed to turn my fear into peace!

Why I No Longer Fear Dying

God knows how many days I have left to live on this earth. In Psalms 39, we are told that God knows when we lay down to sleep, and when we rise for the day. He knows our thoughts before we speak them. In fact, God has a book with my name on it, and He is keeping track of every little detail about me, including how much time I have left on this earth. The Lord knoweth the days of the upright: and their inheritance shall be forever.” – Psalms 37:18

God has already declared what my end will be. When God moved upon the face of the waters in Genesis 1, He was putting thought into His creation. He was thinking about the little details He would give to each and everyone of us. If God put so much thought into His creation, wouldn’t He put some thought into how His creation would end? From the moment I was formed in my mothers womb, God had a plan for how my life would end. Not only that, His plan will bring Him glory, and it will please Him! Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure.” – Isaiah 46:10

God is holding my years, days, hours, minutes, and seconds in His hand. I trust God’s Word. He said that the death of His Son, Jesus Christ would be an atonement for my sins. He said that I can stand before His throne spotless, and blameless. If I can trust God to hold my eternity in His hand, why can’t I trust Him to hold my life in His hand? God has a plan for my life, but I can’t live that plan if I’m consumed with worry about my death! But I trusted in thee, O LORD: I said, Thou are my God. My times are in thy hand: deliver me from the hand of mine enemies, and from them that persecute me.” – Psalms 31:14-15

I will not live one second longer than what God wills me to live. God is not going to allow anything to get in the way of His plan for me! What comfort to know that my death will not be some accidental mistake, or afterthought! God has set an appointment for my death, and He’s going to make sure I keep it! “Seeing his days are determined, the number of his months are with thee, thou hast appointed his bounds that he cannot pass;” – Job 14:5

No matter how I will die, God will be with me. Heart attack, stroke, cancer, accident, murder – it doesn’t matter how I die, God has promised to be with me! No matter where I go, I can never outrun God’s hand. When my appointed time is up, God’s hand will be there to lead me Home, in fact, He may pick me up and hold me until we get there! “If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there. If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea; even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me.” – Psalms 39:8-10

These precious promises God left in His Word are for us to take a hold of, and apply to our lives. If I trust Gods plans for me, then I don’t need to fear death. Trusting God is not about feelings or emotions, it is about action. I have to choose to trust God’s Word. I have to choose to commit Scripture to memory. I have to choose to quote these Scripture when I feel anxiety or fear. Only then can God turn my anxiety into peace!

Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee.” – Isaiah 26:3

“No guilt in life, no fear in death
This is the power of Christ in me.”

– Keith Getty and Stuart Townend

Overcoming Anxiety Series #3 – What Does God Think About Anxiety?

What if I were to tell you that Jesus may have had anxiety?  In Hebrews 4:15, we are told that Jesus was “in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.”  Not everyone suffers from true anxiety, but I believe I could argue that Jesus experienced anxiety at least once.

Picture Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane.  He knew He was about to be betrayed by a close friend. He knew He was going to be given an unfair trial, beaten mercilessly, and cruelly put to death.

And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly: and his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground.” – Luke 22:44

There is a rare condition called Hematidrosis, in which a person will sweat blood.  It is not known what actually causes this condition, but it has been known to happen under extreme cases of fear or stress.

In the first article on Overcoming Anxiety, I explained the possible causes of anxiety.  For some, anxiety can come from a spiritual need, or lack of spiritual strength.  For others, anxiety can be borne from a physical illness. Lastly, anxiety can be brought on by mental illness or stress.

While I don’t believe Jesus was afraid, I truly believe He was under great stress.  I have wondered if this was the moment He began to carry the weight of sin for the entire world!  How did Jesus respond to anxiety?  He prayed, and He continued on with His task.

So what does God think about anxiety?

God wants you to come to come to Him with your anxiety. Philippians 4:6 – “Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.”  Psalm 55:22 – “Cast thy burden upon the LORD, and he shall sustain thee: he shall never suffer the righteous to be moved.”

God wants you to trust Him.   Psalm 56:3 – “What time I am afraid, I will trust in thee.”  Proverbs 3:5&6 – “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.”

God wants you to love Him perfectly.  1 John 4:18 – “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteh out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love.”

God wants to give you strength. Isaiah 41:10 – “Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.”

God doesn’t want you to be afraid. Joshua 1:9 – “Have not I commanded thee? Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the LORD thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest.”

God wants to take care of your needs.  Philippians 4:19 – “But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.”

God wants to give you peace.  John 14:27 – “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”

God wants to give you rest.  Psalm 4:8 – “I will both lay me down in peace, and sleep: for thou, LORD, only makest me dwell in safety.”  Matthew 11:28 – “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”

God wants to give you power over your anxiety.2 Timothy 1:7 – “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.”

God wants you to think on lovely things.  Philippians 4:8 – “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.”

God wants you to praise Him despite your anxiety.  Colossians 3:15 – “And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful.”  Psalms 56:4 – “In God I will praise his word, in God I have put my trust; I will not fear what flesh can do unto me.”

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I sincerely pray that this series has been a help to some Christian struggling with anxiety. In the future I plan to add to this series, “Overcoming Anxiety“, so stay tuned! 

Overcoming Anxiety Series #2 – Six Helps for Christians With Anxiety.

For the Christian, I believe the hardest part of overcoming anxiety is recognizing that it even exists.  As a believer, we know that there is peace to be found in Christ.  Scripture tells us that the load He has for us to bear is easy and light.  We are reminded to lay our burdens at the feet of Christ.

“Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” – Matthew 11:28-30

So is it wrong for a Christian to have anxiety?

Well,  yes….and no.

Luke 16:13 tells us “no servant can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.”

If we are going to carry Christ’s burden, which He promised was easy and light, we are going to have to lay down the burdens and cares of the world.  It is when we try to carry around both, that we often find ourselves struggling with stress and anxiety.

Remember, though, that Jesus said He will lighten our burdens, not remove them.  When I speak of “overcoming anxiety”, I am not trying to imply that we can get rid of it for good.   For the Christian, it is how we live with anxiety that helps us overcome it.

6 HELPS FOR CHRISTIANS WITH ANXIETY

  1. Remain Faithful to God. – The most important step a Christian with anxiety can do, is to remain faithful to God.  Don’t allow anxiety to take you out of church! I often found that when I forced myself to go to church, the singing and preaching was enough to distract me out of my near panic attacks.  If you have not already been faithful in your Bible reading and prayer time, now is the time to make that a habit!
  2. Think of Others. – The worst thing a Christian with anxiety can do, is to think about how they are feeling. Thinking about how horrible we feel, only intensifies our feelings and sucks us into unhealthy thought patterns.  The best remedy for self-thinking, is thinking of others.  Make a prayer list of others who are in difficult situations.  Bake some bread for a sick neighbor, bring some cookies to your local fire department, or write some get-well cards to sick church members.  Make it your daily goal to do something kind for someone else.
  3. Change Your Health Habits. – This is the hardest advice for me to follow, but it certainly is true.  Having healthy habits can reduce the severity of anxiety.  Making healthy eating choices can increase the amounts of vitamins and minerals our bodies need to stay healthy.  Exercising releases endorphin’s that not only make us feel good, but reduces stress.  Talking to an herbalist or nutritionist can also help.  Taking natural supplements your body may be lacking can not only decrease the duration of anxiety, it can help us remain healthy in countless other ways!
  4. Slow Down! – We live in a fast-paced society where there is always something to do.  Gone are the days where the family sits on the front porch in the evenings to listen to the crickets sing.  Instead, we are bustling our children from one activity to the next, feeling obligated to attend every birthday party, and every event offered. As Christians, we need to have a balance in our lives.  Make sure you carve out time for some rest and relaxation, at least once a week!  Family movie or game nights are great ways to have a relaxing evening!  Maybe relaxing to you is a day spent on a trail at the park, or walking through the mall.  However you decide to slow down, don’t allow yourself to feel guilty about it.
  5. Stay Busy! – Yes, I know, I just told you to slow down!  But I didn’t mean for you to slow your mind down.  When we find ourselves in endless cycles of worry, we need to direct our thoughts on other things.  Listening to music or audio books are great ways to keep your mind busy while going about your daily tasks.  Gardening, crafting, playing a musical instrument, taking an exercise class, writing in a journal, or walking around the block are other ways you can stay busy and focused.
  6. Surround Yourself with Positivity – It is important to remember that “a merry heart doeth good like a medicine”!  While it is not possible, nor practical, to be “merry” all day long, you can surround yourself with positivity.  It is easy for anyone suffering from anxiety to go into seclusion from the world.  While it’s not a bad idea to turn off Fox News and talk radio, it is a bad idea to cut yourself off from friends and family.  Now is the time, more than ever, that you need be around merry hearts!  One word of caution, however, is to be careful to limit your time with those who “enable” you to be negative, or dwell on your anxiety.

While I still have days where anxiety rears it’s ugly head, I am able to overcome it and still get on with my day.  If I go to Christ right away, He always makes it bearable, and He will give me rest from it.

 

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If this article has helped encourage you, please be sure to share it with someone else who may also struggle with anxiety.  Be sure to tune in next week for “Overcoming Anxiety Series #3 – What Does God Think About Anxiety?”

Overcoming Anxiety Series #1 – What Is Anxiety?

Article disclaimer: I am not a medical or psychiatric professional, nor am I qualified to give medical advice. This series on anxiety is based solely on my own experience and research. These articles are not intended to replace professional medical advice or diagnose or treat medical conditions. Please seek council from your doctor before making any changes to your prescription health regime.

If you were to poll several random people on what the definition of anxiety is,  you would receive several different answers.

Some would define anxiety as the feeling they get when they have lost their car keys, or have an exam to study for. While these feelings can certainly be described as “anxious”, they are not the kind of anxiety I will be talking about in this series.

Anxiety physically affects people in many different ways.  It is usually not the same from one person to the next.  Symptoms of anxiety can range from very mild (headaches or nervousness) to very extreme (panic attacks or inability to function in society).

What is the Definition of Anxiety?

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines anxiety as this: “painful or apprehensive uneasiness of mind usually over an impending or anticipated ill; fearful concern or interest; an abnormal and overwhelming sense of apprehension and fear often marked by physiological signs (as sweating, tension, and increased pulse), by doubt concerning the reality and nature of the threat, and by self-doubt about one’s capacity to cope with it.

WebMed (http://www.webmd.com/anxiety-panic/understanding-anxiety-symptoms) describes multiple symptoms of generalized anxiety as the following: “persistent fear, sometimes without any obvious cause, that is present everyday; inability to concentrate; muscle tension; muscle aches; diarrhea; eating too little or too much; insomnia.”

What Causes Anxiety?

When trying to determine the cause of anxiety, one must consider several different factors.

The Spiritual Factor

The spiritual factor is the most common answer for anxiety sufferers among Christians today. It is often assumed that the individual is backslidden or not trusting God with their problems. While this may at times be the case, I have personally known spiritual Christian women and men, who suffer from anxiety. In fact, the weakness that anxiety caused in their lives eventually became their strengths, because they had completely given them over to the Lord.

I have heard of instances where a lost individual struggling with anxiety, trusted Christ as their Savior and found they had not only gained Heaven, but they gained victory over their anxiety! The worry they had over their eternal future had given them such turmoil, it was causing them great anxiety in other areas of their lives. Solely trusting in Christ gave them power to break the chains of fear and anxiety! If you are not sure of your own eternal destiny, please read this article that tells how there is HOPE for you!

For the Christian, there is always a spiritual factor related to anxiety. God may be using anxiety as a tool to draw you closer to Himself. He could be using anxiety to prove His precious promises to you! Do not brush aside the spiritual aspect to your anxiety problems.

The Physical Factor

At times, anxiety can be the result of an underlying medical condition, such as a malfunctioning thyroid or adrenal gland. Once you realize that you have anxiety, it is important to go to your doctor to make sure your symptoms are not the result of something medical.

I have read of many anxiety sufferers finding relief from their symptoms by making simple dietary changes. Some popular trends are ketogenic and whole food diets. Removing processed foods and drinks from their diets had helped improve how they felt and the frequency of panic attacks.

While I cannot say that lack of exercise contributes to symptoms of anxiety, exercise has been found to help reduce its symptoms, and therefore is worth mentioning.

When our bodies begin to lack the minerals and vitamins it needs to properly function, our bodies can react with symptoms of anxiety. I will not go into detail in this series on what supplements can be used to help relieve anxiety. However I strongly encourage you to do your own research, and to not rule out natural remedies in aiding your treatment for anxiety symptoms.

The Mental Factor

Every-day stress can contribute to the mental factor of anxiety. The burden of finances, children, caring for elderly parents, your own health, and even your ministry can weigh you down and cause mental anguish.

On a daily basis we are filling our minds with something. Talk radio, the 11 o’clock news, Netflix, and even gossip are just a few things we allow into our minds.

As Christians, we need to recognize our need to limit the negativity we allow into our minds. Turn off your radio and TV! Turn off your phone!  Walk away from gossip!

Philippians 4:8 – “Whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report, if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.”

Filling your mind with Scripture, worship, and positivity is a HUGE healing step towards overcoming anxiety.

Recognizing Anxiety

Some people with severe anxiety question their diagnosis and believe their symptoms are some kind of medical issue. The doctors must have missed something! They will spend excess amounts of time and money, going from doctor to doctor, requesting test after test, before finally accepting their diagnosis. Once they have come to terms with the reality that what they have is truly anxiety, they will finally begin the healing process.

Conclusion

Once you have accepted the fact that you have anxiety, and you have recognized the three factors that could be causing your anxiety, you need to determine your path of healing. 

Natural healing is one option that is not widely known. While this healing path is a longer road, it has much less unpleasant side effects, both short and long-term. Finding the right balance of minerals and vitamins for your body is a journey that will require much patience, but I believe in the end, is very rewarding. 

Prescription medication is a more known option for anxiety sufferers. While the effects are immediate, most anxiety medication is not meant for long-term use. Antidepressant medications can be taken long term, but over time, doses will need to be adjusted. Like anxiety medication, antidepressants can also have unpleasant side effects both short-term and long-term.

So how do you know what is right for you? The best way to determine what healing process best suits your own personal situation, is to seek council. A pastor, herbalist, physician, or a psychologist are all ways for gaining knowledge of what your options are. Have your spouse or a close family member help you in your decision process. Lastly, don’t forget to pray. Ask God to direct your decision, and to lead you on the correct path. 

Remember, every person is different. Not only will each person’s cause for anxiety be different, their level of anxiety and reaction to anxiety are going to be different, as well. It is only logical to assume, that each person will heal differently. So don’t get discouraged if your healing process is longer, or different from someone else’s! God has promised to give us wisdom if we ask. Once you have prayed and soght council, be confident in the direction God has guided you.

If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.

James 1:5 KJV

http://bible.com/1/jas.1.5.KJV

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If this article was helpful to you, please be sure to like it! If you know of someone who suffers from anxiety and is searching for answers, please be sure to direct them to Claiming the Promise!

Stay tuned for next week’s Overcoming Anxiety Series #2 – Six Helps for Christians With Anxiety.