When Your World is Changing

We have been listening to Christmas music since late October.  While I haven’t tired of the music itself, I have noticed the excitement that first accompanied those joyful melodies, has begun to wane.  A spirit of reflection has replaced the excitement, bringing many happy memories to mind.  These memories however, eventually lead me back to reality.  Life is changing all around me, and there is nothing I can do to stop it.

Families growing and spreading out, are natural reasons for shifting traditions and dynamics.  Declining health, battling cancer, financial struggles, troubled marriages, and the death of loved ones, are also causes for change.

So, how do you cope when your world is changing?  Here’s what I have personally learned:

Trust God with Change –  When we feel that our lives are beyond our control, we tend to become fearful and anxious.  Our comfort zones are shaken, and we feel insecure. Don’t forget that God has a plan, and is allowing change in your life for a reason.  Although change may be difficult, you can trust Him to use it for good in your life. Stop fighting change, and trust God!

“Be strong and of a good courage, fear not, nor be afraid of them: for the LORD thy God, he it is that doth go with thee; he will not fail thee, nor forsake thee.” – Deuteronomy 31:6

“For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.” – Jeremiah 29:11

Rejoice in Change – Rejoicing through difficulty reveals hope and peace in the believer. Someday, God will wipe away all our tears.  Someday, we will all gather around a table, furnished with the best food we can imagine, and dine with The Father.  Someday, there will be no more pain, sorrow, or death!  This hope we have for our future can give us peace for the change we must endure today!  If you are not sure where your hope lies, please check out this page titled, There is Hope!

“Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost.”  – Romans 15:13 

Give during Change –  Giving when it is hardest to do so, results in the biggest kind of blessings! When we are busy serving others, we don’t have a lot of time to dwell on the sorrows of change. Give your time to your family and friends.  Show kindness and thoughtfulness to your neighbors and co-workers.  Continue on in your service to the ministries at church. Extending generosity when you are in the midst of your own struggles, can help change someone else’s life – for good!

“How that in a great trial of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded unto the riches of their liberality.” – 2 Corinthians 8:2

God NEVER Changes – When my life begins to feel unstable because of the changes going on around me, I find peace in this one thought: my God NEVER changes!  Different trials has brought me either further away or closer to God, but HE has never changed His postion.  His voice still sounds the same, His Word still reads the same, and His comfort still feels the same.  My God, who is also my Friend that never fails, will always be there for me!  I don’t ever have to doubt if He will answer when I call.  He will be the same God to me when I am ninety-five, that He was to me when I was 25!

“Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever”. – Hebrews 13:8

“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.” – James 1:17

“For I am the LORD, I change not…” – Malachi 3:6

If you are struggling with change in this busy holiday season, don’t be downhearted.  Trust God with your change, and allow Him to work for your own good!  Once you do, you will find it easy to rejoice, even when your heart is sad.  Rejoicing makes for a generous spirit, and giving when it’s hardest is a gift that can change lives! And don’t forget – God never has, and never will change!

 

 

 

 

He is Kind Unto the Unthankful

Nearly two years ago, I was sitting in an uncomfortable chair in the emergency room.  Despite the busyness of the nursing staff around me, I felt alone, and scared.  It was after midnight, and my husband had been whisked away to have tests done.  Several hours later, I knew something was wrong, when three grim-looking doctors came into the room.  They explained that my husband did not have a concussion as previously thought, that he had actually experienced a stroke.  My heart began to pound, my hands shook, and a flood of emotions raged in my chest.

However scary that moment was, in just a few months, I would be praising God that my husband had that stroke!  For it was because of an imaging test done that night, that his thyroid cancer was discovered.

Yet, at that moment in the emergency room, I was not very thankful.

A year later, after my husband’s thyroid had been removed, and his radioactive iodine treatment was complete, I was once again, sitting in another uncomfortable chair.  This time, in a hospital room, next to my husband’s bed.  I was holding his hand., as another surgeon explained to us that my husband had stage 3 colorectal cancer.

I’m pretty sure I had a hard time expressing thankfulness at that moment.

Yet, here I am today, expressing deep thankfulness to my Heavenly Father!  Not only for the trials He allowed in our lives the last two years, but for His kindness.  Our family is a living testament to the fact that God is kind to the unthankful!  Despite the fears and the sorrows we have had in the last 2 years, God has showered us with His tender care.

“But love ye your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the children of the Highest: for he is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil.” – Luke 6:35

He showed us kindness through His comforting word.  There is something about the scripture that comes to life when you are walking in a valley.  Suddenly, verses you have read a hundred times before, have new meaning and understanding.  Comfort and hope are found in abundance throughout the scripture!  On the day that I watched my husband struggle to walk because of his chemo treatment, I felt the Comforter’s hand on my shoulder as I was reading Psalms 139.  Yes, God is kind to the unthankful!

He showed us kindness through our brothers and sisters in Christ.  The visits to hospital rooms, cards in the mail, hot meals, and thoughtful gifts to our family, all helped to ease our present suffering.  One day, I had found myself standing in the adult diaper section of the grocery store.  I was angrily swiping away tears, trying to decide what size my husband would need.  Once I got home, I had allowed myself to become filled with rage. How could radiation do this to my husband!?  Throwing open the mailbox, I angrily yanked out the package that was tucked inside.  The return address showed it had come from dear Christian friends who recently moved to Florida.  Angrily ripping it open, the first thing I pulled out was a package of Dove chocolates – my favorite! Suddenly, my tears of anger had changed into tears of thankfulness that God would be so kind to unthankful me!

He showed us kindness by providing our needs.  Because of the aggressive treatments, my husband had to cut back his work hours.  Yet, we never missed paying a bill, we never missed a meal, we never had to wear clothes with holes in them, and our vehicles continued running!  Once, toward the end of my husbands treatments, we realized we wouldn’t be able to pay the kids school bill.  I made arrangements with the principle and the business office to delay our payment.  We weren’t sure how we would be able to pay it.  We never mentioned our financial situation to anyone, not even family.  Yet, a few days later, we received a card in the mail with money in it- more than enough money to pay the school bill!  God showed us kindness by making provision for our every need!

He showed us kindness by answering prayer.  God not only answered our own personal prayers, but also the prayers of others who were praying on our behalf.  During the moments we had reason to be afraid or down, our spirits were lifted.  My husband was positive about his cancer prognosis, and I never once struggled with anxiety!  Those things alone made us know that we were being covered in prayer.  When my husband’s chemo had become particularly difficult, he had an appointment with his oncologist.  The doctor asked if my husband needed a refill on his pain medication.  When he learned my husband wasn’t taking pain medication, he was shocked.  “In all my years of being an oncologist, you are my first cancer patient that hasn’t needed pain medication!”  My husband replied, “that is because God is answering the prayers of my brothers and sisters in Christ!”  Yes, God is truly kind to the unthankful!

The wonderful thing about being a Christian is that God loves to shower His children exceedingly and abundantly beyond what they deserve or even ask! Here are just a couple more of the many little ways God was kind to us!

“Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us,” – Ephesians 3:20

Last spring, we took a family trip to the Creation Museum.  We were going to have to leave early because my son had broken the flat screen TV in our hotel room.  We didn’t have the money to pay for it and eat the next day.  Once we arrived at the museum, we bumped into some friends.  I never mentioned the broken TV, but at the end of our conversation, the lady slipped me a handful of money and said, “God told me to give this to you.”  Our family was able to stay the entire day as originally planned and pay for the broken TV!

There was another time I was feeling particularly sorry for myself.  My husband couldn’t get away from the cancer clinic long enough to go on our yearly camping trip.  How I longed to get away from “cancer” for just one day!  However, because of his weakness from treatments, my husband couldn’t camp in a tent.  The cabins I had looked into were all booked up until September.  During the last couple weeks of summer, I received a phone call from a campground.  “We have an opening in a cabin you were asking about.  Are you still interested in a one night stay?”  Um, YES!!

So this week, our family will be joining the millions of other American families who celebrate Thanksgiving.  We will carve a turkey and watch football.  We will eat pumpkin pie.  We will play games and laugh until we cry.  We will thank God for my husbands healing from his stroke, and his remission from his cancers.  And we will be thankful for all the kindness our God has shown to us, when we were so unthankful!

 

 

 

 

What Cancer Taught Us

It is early morning, and as I write this, my house is gloriously quiet.  My older children are still sleeping, but I hear whispers from my younger boys room.  Gabe is still sound asleep, the effects of chemo having drained his body.  Sipping my steaming mug of coffee, words are beginning to form in my heart, and the urgency to write becomes too strong for me to avoid any longer.

This past Wednesday was Gabe’s last chemo treatment.  We walked into the cancer clinic with high spirits and big smiles.  We are praying that a scan he had Monday will declare my husband NED (no evidence detected), and then this chapter in our lives can be over.  The story won’t be over, however.

Once cancer has touched your life so closely, it never completely leaves your life.

There will always be tests and blood work.  The knowledge that a recurrence could happen at any time will always linger in the back of our minds.

However, we won’t be consumed by our story, because we will be too busy living it.

Before the chemo was able to get it’s gripping arms around my husbands body, we celebrated by going out for lunch.  As we ate, we talked of all God had done for us in the last chapter of our lives.  What did we learn?  How would our lives be different? What advice would we give others?

This morning, I realized I HAD to share just a few things we learned in the last two years.  I hope that maybe it can help someone else going through a difficult time in their life.

What Cancer Taught Us

1 – The most important thing we learned from cancer is that “there is no pit that is so deep, that God is not deeper still”.  I  had grown up hearing that phrase quoted from the pulpit of my church, but I never really understood the meaning until I found myself in a pit.  Those first weeks after my husband was diagnosed with colon cancer were the most emotional I had ever experienced in my life.  Those were days I would come home from taking my kids to school and just cry.  Not just a few tears, but gut-wrenching cries, where I was on my knees, sobbing, begging God to heal my husband.  Where the fear that I would become a single mother was so real, I was in full-blown panic mode.  I remember during those days, watching my husband sit on the couch, immune to the chaos and noise of our children around him.  Watching him stare off into space, I wasn’t sure if he was thinking, or in shock, but I would see tears slipping down his cheeks.  Those days were hard.  Those days, we were most certainly in a deep, dark pit.  Yet, just when we thought we couldn’t get any deeper, God would reveal Himself to us in some small way.  Whether it was comforting scripture that would come to mind, or a text from a dear friend, God was certainly there in the pit with us.  Cards, gifts, phone calls, hugs, and hundreds of christian brothers and sisters in Christ, some we didn’t even know, offering to pray for us, were all gifts from our loving God.  Gifts that brought us such comfort, that gave us such strength, we eventually found we were no longer in that pit.  How wonderful our God is!

2 – We also learned that you should never waste time questioning God.  It’s hard to see what purpose could come from difficult trials in our lives, but be assured, God has a plan!  And while you are stuck on trying to understand why God would allow this trial into your life, you are wasting precious time that God wants to use to bless you, and bring you closer to Him!  He loves you so deeply, and doesn’t want you to go through your trial alone.  He wants to bring you close to Himself, to hide you under His wings, to comfort you.  God can’t do those things if you are too busy wondering what His thoughts and plans are.  You have to just let go, and trust Him completely. Once you let go, you will be flooded with peace that you won’t be able to explain!

3- Lastly, My husband and I learned that you just can’t go through something as difficult as cancer without God.  Don’t wait until you are facing a trial in your life to build a relationship with God.  Read your Bible and speak to God in prayer every day.  Go to church.  Fellowship as much as you can with your brothers and sisters in Christ.  Don’t allow your trial to keep you from doing the things God wants you to do.  Just don’t!  I have seen people, suffering from life’s hard blows, remove themselves from God and His people, because they were too overwhelmed by their circumstances.  Instead of making life easier for themselves, they only made their circumstances harder to bear.  God never intended us to go through hard times alone.  He wants to envelope us in His love and grace.  He wants to reveal Himself to us in such personal ways, we could never again doubt His love and care for us.  Yet how can God do that if we are backing away from Him?  Don’t leave God in a trial, and don’t wait until your are in the middle of one to build a relationship with Him.  Draw close to Him now.  Remain faithful to God now.  Allow Him to bless you in your trials.

So here we are, at the end of this long journey.  Yet, now that we are at the end, it seems as though maybe it wasn’t that long after all.  The valley was hard, but the fellowship with God along the way was very sweet!

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?”

The Unseen Hand

In January of 2015, my husband began rubbing his chest.

My heart won’t stop racing!”

“Was it a stressful day at work,” I asked?

We had been talking for the last couple of months about how something had to give with Gabe’s job.  Not only was he driving an hour to work, he was working 10 to 12 hour days before driving another hour home.  It was starting to wear on him, and our entire family was effected by the high demands of his career.

A few days later, Gabe started to have chest pain.  It was enough to make him question if he was having a heart attack.  It was time to go to the hospital.

In the emergency room, Gabe’s heart rate was crazy.  One minute it was 70 and the next it was over one hundred!

“Atrial tachycardia“, the doctor had said.  “We will keep you until the medication begins to regulate your heart.”

After two days, the medications were not helping.  They sent him home with a scheduled procedure for the next week.  He would be having a heart ablation, a seemingly simple procedure where they pricked a tiny hole between the heart chambers and burned away excess tissue surrounding the heart.

The procedure, though uncomfortable, was a complete success!  We went through the rest of 2015 with no other health struggles or emergency room trips.  Until, exactly a year later, in January of 2016.

I’m taking you to the ER”, I insisted as I drove my family home from church.

“Just let me go home to bed”, Gabe argued.

“You have had a headache, dizziness, nausea and now vomiting for the last week!  You couldn’t even sit in your chair tonight, and I have stopped twice on the way home now, so you could throw up!”

After finding a babysitter and getting my kids off to bed, I practically dragged my husband to the car.  It didn’t take long to get him registered in the hospitals emergency room. After several hours of tests, two doctors came into the tiny room.

“Unfortunately, the test results show that you had a stroke in your cerebellum.  We need to keep you here to run more tests.”

My husband and I looked at each other in shock.  He was only 45, after all.  We were not expecting this kind of news until we were at least in our 70’s!

The next day we learned that the stroke was more than likely the result of a blood clot that was thrown from the tiny pin-prick hole between his heart chambers.  While they couldn’t prove it, it was the only theory that made sense.

As my husband was being released with strict instructions for “no work, no stress, no noise”, we were visited by an endocrinologist.

“Before you leave, you need to know that the MRA revealed a large mass on your thyroid.  In a couple of months, after you have had some healing time from your stroke, you need to see a surgeon.”

We were so focused on healing from the stroke, that we found we weren’t too worried about the mass on Gabe’s thyroid.  A few months later, a biopsy revealed cancer.

“It’s actually a blessing you had the stoke.  Since you were not having any symptoms, we would have more than likely caught this cancer when it was much worse”, the endocrinologist explained.

In July of 2016, Gabe had surgery to remove his thyroid.  Cancer was found in three places.  By September, he was finished with his  radioactive iodine treatments.  Gabe was back to healing from his stroke, and his surgery.

By Thanksgiving Gabe was starting to feel pretty good.  He had begun to return to the office a few days a week, and we were making some exciting plans for 2017.  Only, Gabe had began to notice a lot of blood in the toilet.  Realizing it could possibly be from the blood thinners he now had to take, he felt God was urging him to mention it to his doctor.

In January of 2017, Gabe received a phone call from the gastroenterology.

“The biopsy from your colonoscopy came in today.  I’m sorry, but you have colon cancer.”

For the next two weeks, my husband and I struggled with our emotions.  One minute we felt peace and complete trust in God and the next minute, fear and despair would overwhelm us.  Hadn’t we been through enough?  A heart procedure,  stroke, thyroid cancer, and now colon cancer?

After two weeks of grieving, the fog began to lift from our emotions, and we began to think more clearly about our situation.

“Gabe, do you realize you wouldn’t have had the stroke if you hadn’t had the heart ablation?”

“Yes,” he replied.

“And you wouldn’t have learned about the thyroid cancer if you hadn’t had the stroke.”

The worry wrinkle on my husbands face began to smooth away, as he began to understand my meaning.

“If I hadn’t been on the blood thinners, they never would have discovered the colon cancer.”

We sat together in awesome wonder.

We really could trust God!  He really DID know what He was doing! It was pointless to question Him!  Not only had God allowed all of this struggle into our lives the last two years, but His hand was there the whole time, leading us.  Excitement began to replace our wonder, and thankfulness.

Yes, thankfulness.  For the stroke, the thyroid cancer, and even this colon cancer. For all the time off work my husband had to take, the millions of doctors appointments and the growing pile of medical bills.  For the stress of juggling crazy schedules, and the fearful thoughts of “what if”.  We have witnessed God’s perfect timing, His perfect thoughts, and His perfect ways.  We have received blessings from His hand through the giving hands of our brothers and sisters in Christ. We are thankful for all of it, because while it was difficult (I would be lying if I said it wasn’t), we have been able to experience God’s unseen hand in our life.

There is an unseen hand to me
That leads through ways I can not see
While going through this world of woe
This hand still leads me as I go.”

– Bill Gaither

 

 

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.