The past few weeks have plagued me with anxiety like I have never known before. Now before you judge - I know Philippians 4:6 says "Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God." For anyone who has ever struggled with anxiety, this is easier said than done. Anxiety is much more than the simple passing worry, which we all do. Until recently, it is a word I would have used lightly - not understanding the torment it can cause for the person suffering from it. Often it is triggered by past trauma that haunts the individual.
Let me assure you, I have prayed...in fact, I pray continually throughout the day. I also have a regular routine of worship, reading Scripture, and speaking the truths of God's word over my life. Added to this, I've tried deep breathing techniques, imagining a safe place, finding countless distractions... Basically, if there is a self-help method, I've tried it. Yet the anxiety creeps in out of nowhere and at times, consumes every thought and fiber of my being. The only way I have made it this far is by directly combating my fears with faith. And by faith, I mean actively leaning into the anxiety to find it's root and then surrendering it to God piece by piece. When your thoughts are racing at the break of dawn, finding the courage to get out of bed and face the day becomes a tremendous act of faith.
By definition, anxiety is caused by doubt. Merriam-Webster describes it as "overwhelming sense of apprehension and fear often marked by physiological signs (such as tension, sweating, and increased pulse rate), by doubt concerning the reality and nature of the threat, and by self-doubt about one's capacity to cope with it." I found the last part to be especially reassuring, understanding that my doubt is not necessarily toward God, but rather doubting myself. In other words, I'm human! More importantly, trusting God rather than any human convention is crucial to finding victory.
In an earlier post, I mentioned the story of Elijah on Mount Carmel where he experiences an incredible spiritual victory. Immediately after, however, he is overcome with fear and flees for his life. Even this amazing prophet of God experienced anxiety. In fact, he succumbed so much to fear that he wished and prayed for death. 1 Kings 19: 4 reveals, "He came to a broom bush, sat down under it and prayed that he might die. 'I have had enough, Lord,' he said. “Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors.” Depressed and defeated, he lays down to sleep. Even an angel of the Lord appearing doesn't stir him into action - at least not at first. In time, the presence of God renews and refreshes him from this desolate place in the wilderness. From there, he continues to retreat and hides in a cave. Thankfully, the presence of God met him there and gave him much needed reassurance and peace.
When we find peace with God, knowing that He is not only in control but that He loves us, the anxiety begins to dissipate. 1 Peter 5:7 says "Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you." Notice it doesn't say drop your cares, or set them down. It tells us to cast our cares. This is an aggressive verb, throwing them aside with violent force, which is exactly what it will take to overcome. Anxiety won't just go away on its own. Medication can mask it for a time, but eventually that may not be sufficient. The only thing to do is grab the fear by the horns and face it head on. As James 4:7 commands us, "Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you."
So for now, the enemy has weaseled his way into my heart and mind - maybe he has done so to you too. Be encouraged, this is only for a season. Continue to seek the presence of God, who is the only true source of our peace. As our faith and trust in God grows, we can better resist the enemy and his schemes. Pretty soon, fear will have no place in our lives - there will be no room for anxiety to linger. Until then, I wait on the Lord and fight my battles one day at a time. I encourage you to do the same. Know you are loved and covered in prayer.