Several tools can be beneficial when you find yourself struggling with worry or anxiety. As I mentioned in Part 1 of this post, anxiety is something we have all experienced at one time or another as it is a universal emotional. However, it is often experienced but seldom discussed. When you are battling with this fear, it is important to access our greatest weapon – God’s Word. Sometimes this concept can seem too simple but overwhelming all at the same time.
Whether you have occasional worries or regularly struggle with anxiety, here are some tips that can help:
Whether it’s a best friend, a parent, your spouse or a doctor, it is important to tell someone you trust. When I struggled a few years ago, I came to a turning point when my friend Rebecca asked me to dinner. At Chick-fil-a one evening, I spilled it all to her – the whole awful, messy truth. As embarrassed as I was, she completely understood and gave me good advice. That was a big turning point for me, because my humiliation of dealing with anxiety was just creating more anxiety.
C.S. Lewis once said “Mental pain is less dramatic than physical pain, but it is more common and also harder to bear. The frequent attempt to conceal mental pain increases the burden: it is easier to say “My tooth is aching” than to say “My heart is broken.” Telling someone else means you no longer feel you have to carry the burden alone. God worked through her that evening to help me take an important step towards embracing His Word and the freedom only it can provide.
You Can’t Do It Alone:
I learned the hard way that I could not fight this battle on my own because I would lose every time. Realizing it was not my battle to fight, my rally cry became Exodus 14:14, which says “The Lord your God will fight for you. You need only to be still.”
My old habits of repressing these emotions and distracting myself did not deal with the real issue at hand. I finally rested in the fact that He had to do the fighting and my job was to remain close to Him and His Word. (Disclaimer: So many times, when I just get over my own stubbornness and embrace whatever God is telling me, I realize that it affords me so much more joy and freedom than doing things on my own. Often, I think we associate God’s Word with the drudgery of rule-following, but really it produces just the opposite – freedom from the very things that are weighing us down.)
Tackle Repetitive Thoughts
This is where the rubber meets the road for overcoming fearful thoughts, because we have to put Scripture into practice. Every single time you worry or have an anxious thought, you have to extinguish it with God’s Truth. Worry and anxiety are habitual, so it is important to stop the cycle with the only thing that really can. Here are a few tools that will help:
Worry Box – I have noticed that anxiety is most often a side effect of not trusting God in some aspect of my life. For example, when my daughter went through a rare autoimmune disease, I was constantly worried about the results of her next weekly blood draw. To remedy my worry, I would take a step back and prayerfully entrust my concerns to God. The problem occurred when not 15 minutes later, I found myself worried about the same concern all over again.
A friend helped me to see that when I prayed, I was not laying my prayers at his feet and leaving them there. I was praying but not trusting him enough to handle the situation. Faith means we leave our requests at his feet, not to pick them up over and over again. I really struggled with this and the following exercise helped me immensely!
First, every single time you worry, write down that worry on a small piece of paper. Then, write down a verse or truth that counters that fear. In worrying about my daughter’s disease, I’d write down Jeremiah 29:11, which reminded me to rest in the truth that He loves her more than I do and He is going to take care of her. (By the way, my daughter is in complete remission from her disease!).
Once you write down the prayer request and a verse, pray about that worry, entrusting it to God. Then, fold up the paper and put it in a small box. When you find yourself tempted to worry about the same concern again, remember that “it’s in the box”. In other words, you already prayed about it and trusted it to God. The box was nothing but a physical representation to help me remember that I already laid my request at his feet and it was not to be picked up again. Although there was nothing spiritually significant about the box, it was a good reminder to trust God with my worries and LEAVE them with him. (I found that a Tazo tea box taken apart and re-taped makes a great Worry Box.)
Journal Anxious Thoughts – You can apply the same concept with a journal and it’s much more convenient when you are on the go. When you feel anxious about something, simply write down that thought and a Scripture reference before you pray. Then you have a visual reminder that you already trusted God with that request and you have no reason to fear!
I know what you must be thinking…“Seriously?!? Are you joking? Do you really expect me to take the time to write down every single anxious thought I have.” That was my immediate mental response when my friend told me to try it. To my surprise, it worked as it helped me to be accountable to every thought. The more I recorded my worries in order to counter them with God’s truth, the easier it got and the more freedom I experienced from worry and anxiety.
Control your Brain’s Background Noise
I don’t know about men, but most women think in more than one layer at a time. For example, I can be engaged in a conversation with my mom, while my background thoughts are simultaneously engaged in worry and anxiety about a completely different topic. God created women’s brains to be multi-faceted, because He knew we needed to be well-equipped to multitask. However, He didn’t intend for His daughters to be immersed in fear and anxiety while going about their God-given roles.
What worked for me was to drown out those background thoughts with new thoughts. For example, if I found myself worrying while emptying the dishwasher, I’d read over a Bible verse on an index card and say it to myself over and over again. Another tactic was to sing a song or listen to Christian music. While our brains are amazing, they can only be occupied with so many conscience thoughts at once. So, I basically forced my brain to be filled with something else than worry. It even helps mundane tasks, like emptying the dishwasher, to go much faster.
Surround Yourself with God’s Promises
As I mentioned in the last post, butterflies were a reminder for me of God’s promise of His overwhelming love and ability to transform me. Because I’m often quick to forget his faithfulness, I made a couple reminders of butterflies around the house to help me remember his ability to overcome my every struggle and transform me to be more like Him.
To make some DIY framed art, I spray painted some old frames with Rustoleum Universal in Satin Nickel, my favorite silver spray paint. Then, I framed some fabric (Premiere Prints Barber Village Blue) that already had butterflies. To make the butterflies pop, I filled them in with a navy paint pen. Also I bought a cute frame at Michael’s for my make-up table. I cut a piece of canvas drop cloth the same size of the frame and stuck on some self-adhesive lace butterflies I found in the scrapbook section. Throughout the day I see these frames and I am reminded about the Lord’s immense love for me and His willingness to transform me to be more like Him.
Lysa Terkeurst once wrote that one of her greatest weapons against anxiety was Jesus’ name because the word itself carries so much power. One night I found myself with anxious thoughts swirling through my head. No matter what I did, I couldn’t fall asleep and I tried everything! I decided to give her advice a try and started whispering His name over and over. The next thing I knew it was morning. This worked for me night after night and I still do this at bedtime when I have a lot on my mind.
Whatever you are struggling with, know that it will not last forever, that God has a plan, and He will see it to completion. God is powerful enough to create the earth so He is surely powerful enough to overcome any fears that are weighing you down, not matter how overwhelming. Genesis 18:14 states, “Is anything too hard for the Lord?”
Until a couple years ago, I struggled with anxiety off and on from the time I was a little girl. These are the tools that were helpful to me when I finally decided to let God fight my battle. God gave His Word the power to overcome any anxious thought, worry or fear. He wants nothing more to give you freedom from this stronghold. Of course, I still have worries and fears at times, but through the power of His Word, I was finally able to rest in Him. Turn your burdens over to Him, because He never intended you to carry them in the first place.
Verses about Fear and Anxiety:
2 Timothy 1:7
1 John 4:18
1 Peter 5:6-7