This post comes from a person who has dealt with anxiety for as long as she can remember. It’s not from someone who hasn’t been in the trenches of panic and all the side affects it induces, yet wants to tell everyone else how to live a stress-free life. Nope. This post is from someone who dealt with fear, anxiety, worry, and depression for forty years, the last ten of those being the worst. This individual got so used to the way she felt that she considered it to just be the way it was going to be, and accepted that these feelings were her lot in life. She called herself an over-thinker, a worry wart, and other pet names to poke fun at what was in fact an irrational thought life, one which controlled her, made her dislike social situations or hanging out with groups of people, and kept her from being the kind of person deep down she knew she could be. Her anxiety controlled her. Until one day it didn’t.
This person is me.
I assumed I would always deal with anxiety. I would find myself anxious over absolutely nothing. It’s sometimes kinda like the feeling that you forgot something.
Did I remember my keys?!
Did I turn the stove off?!
I would eventually realize I had not forgotten anything.
At least, I don’t think I did. (Cue increased heart rate).
The way my brain worked said that I had done something wrong, people were upset with me, didn’t like me. If people were whispering I would wonder if it was about me. My logical brain knew it wasn’t. My anxious mind told a different story.
It’s like the dream where you’re naked on stage in front of your peers. But, it’s not a dream. And it’s every day.
I got anxious about problems that didn’t exist. Problems that weren’t even problems. Problems that I created. I worried a lot about finances.
What if I lose my job?
What if I bounce a check?
Pay a bill late?
Go into more debt?
Lower my credit score?!
And on, and on.
I can remember driving to Florida when I first decided to become a travel nurse. As we drove through Birmingham I found myself anxious. I was in a panic as we drove through the city.
What is that smell?!
Oh, gosh, our new truck is going to breakdown! Then what will we do?!
It’s so bumpy! We’ve sold all our possessions; what if the meager collection of our stuff that’s packed in the back of the truck blows out?!
Y’all, I can’t even. It was exhausting. Anxiety is exhausting. And I got tired of being tired.
You’ll hear all kinds of ways to beat anxiety. I had heard exercise is a good one. Well, that wasn’t happening. So, I moved on to other practices I had heard, but even the power of the ultimate, positive thinking couldn’t squash my anxiety. I mean, it was illogical, so no logical thinking could reverse it or prevent it.
You always hear that you “need to give it to God,” but what does that even mean?! There’s not an app for surrender, know what I’m saying? And I guess that was my problem. I was trying to do whatever I could to not be anxious. I mean, nobody wants anxiety. I wanted to get rid of it, but I wasn’t sure what I needed to do.
I prayed. Oh, Lord, did I pray. But I still had problems with anxiety. Was I not praying hard enough?!
I read a verse this morning that summed it up pretty nicely, how I dealt with my anxiety once and for all, about a year ago.
John 8:31-32 (ESV)
So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
Funny thing about the word abide. It’s not so much something you do, as something you are. I came to a place, through reading God’s Word, meditating on scripture, and reading fantastic Christian books and studies, where I truly, and I repeat truly believed where the Bible states I am in Him, and He is in me.
See, the thing about anxiety is that you can’t control it! How can you fix something you can’t control? You can’t! But Jesus could. I could do all things through Him. He was in me, and I was in Him. Therefore, if Jesus could see anxiety for the lie it was, and if He could make it go away completely, then doesn’t it just stand to reason that I could too? Because it wasn’t just me; it was Him.
I began to see myself as seated with Christ in Heavenly places. I fixed my eyes on things above, not things below. You don’t so much worry about your bank balance when you realize that money isn’t everything. You can stop fretting about finances when you really believe Jesus will provide for you. I had never faithfully and consistently tithed because I didn’t think I could afford to do so, but I was proclaiming God couldn’t provide for my needs when I didn’t. So, I followed through my faith by tithing every week. I watched more money than I had ever given in offering before leave my bank account, and it gave me zero anxiety. I considered it an investment.
I stopped worrying about health concerns that might come my way or to my children, and instead focused my attention on God as my healer and sustainer. I’m not saying I stopped taking care of my temple, but I stopped fearing illness. The flowers of the field didn’t fret. Why should I?
What is the worst that could happen to me? Would it affect me for all eternity? If the answer was “no” then it wasn’t worth concerning myself about.
But what about the uncontrollable, irrational anxiety? Well, I got rid of it too. When I remained in Christ, through frequent reading of my Bible, consistent prayer time (I talk to God all day, my eyes pop open and I’m immediately thanking Him for the good sleep I got), and surrounding myself with things pleasing to Him, I became saturated with truth. Y’all, where truth resides, anxiety cannot be. Anxiety isn’t from God, and if you can fill yourself so completely with the truth of who Jesus is personally to you and in your life, anxiety just slips away.
I can’t pinpoint when I precisely realized I didn’t suffer with anxiety anymore. It didn’t disappear all at once. It wasn’t a magic spell. I simply, consistently absorbed more of Jesus. I abided in His truth. I rested in it. I took it in so frequently that it became reality to me. You can read the Bible and know in your heart that a verse is true, but you almost have to pound it in to yourself for it to click. You can’t read the truth once. I know Atheists who have read the Bible. You have to read it again and again, ruminate on it, get guidance from other believers on it, pray on it, listen to God impress to your heart what He’s trying to tell you through it. I did this over and over, and one day I realized that I believed so deeply in my spirit every word of scripture to be true, and true for me (that’s the kicker), that I couldn’t let lies stay very long.
Do anxious thoughts try to come my way? Not as much as they once did, but they still try to sneak in. The cool part is that God’s truth shines a light on my anxious thoughts, and it exposes them as the lie they are. I speak scripture to my anxiety, and if it tries to come on me, I fight it off with God’s Word. This may sound like it couldn’t possibly work. It may sound like mumbo-jumbo. Maybe you’re saying, “you haven’t dealt with real anxiety, not anxiety like mine.”
Well, I don’t know what your anxiety is like, but I know that I have experienced suicidal ideation in the past and a failed suicide attempt due to mine. I wanted to be asleep forever rather than deal with the anxiousness I felt. Sound familiar? I remember even having a psychiatrist diagnose me as Bipolar when I was a teenager.
All I know, now, is that it feels good to be free. It’s not anything I did, per se, but what Jesus did in me. When I realized and truly believed, rested on, and drew strength from the fact that through the Holy Spirit, Jesus lived in me, I was able to abide. I was able to continue in truth. The truth set me free. I was able to move forward by being still. I was able to get rid of my anxiety by letting go of my ability to fix it. I was able to get rid of my anxiety by allowing Christ to. You see, He never had anxiety (sin) for me. He took it on Himself on the cross. He already died and was resurrected so I could be anxiety-free. I just couldn’t see that. I was blind to that fact.
When I opened my eyes to the truth that Jesus had already made the way to trash my anxiety for good, it simply stopped being a thing. Heck, I didn’t even have to get rid of it; it was just gone.