Do you ever feel anxious for no reason? We all know what it is to be anxious about an upcoming event or a bill that needs to be paid. But what do you do when anxiety seems to be a constant state of mind and there is no real reason for it?
As one who has lived with chronic anxiety, I have learned a few things about it. Let me share some of what I’ve learned.
1. It may be physical. I found out a few years ago that I had low thyroid. Taking regular thyroid medication helped. If you are battling persistent anxiety, talk to your doctor about it.
2. It is ALWAYS spiritual. Even if you do have a physical problem that causes anxiety, Satan will always exploit the weakness of your body to attack your mind. Recognizing that you are fighting a spiritual battle will make you feel less crazy, oddly enough, and better equip you to fight back.
3. Anxiety loves ambiguity. Anxiety flourishes in uncertainty. When you awake in the morning and face the rising panic of wild anxiety, stop–take a deep breath and ask yourself, “What exactly are you afraid of?” Make yourself list the things you are worried about. Most of the time forcing the anxiety out into the open and naming it will give you dominion over it. Name it and tame it!
4. Pray your anxieties. When you have identified your anxieties, call them out by name to God in prayer. Tattle on your anxieties!
Here is what Paul said:
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6, 7)
Prayer is the answer. (No time here to develop the thought, but notice the move from “anything” to “everything,” from vague generality to clear specificity.) And the prayer that melts the fog of anxiety is a prayer of supplication that starts with thanksgiving prior to making any request.
Did you get that?! Anxiety is a fog of fear that melts away in the sun of thanksgiving. When you have listed your anxieties and named them one by one, you must stop and give thanks. This restores your perspective and quiets your fears. Things are not nearly as bad as you thought they were!
Once you have named your fears and put them in their place with thanksgiving, then you are ready to realistically present your requests to God. You have driven back the clouds of fear and now you can see clearly what you really DO need God to do for you. Prayers prayed in a panic are prayers that often miss the mark of the real need. Thanksgiving restores perspective.
5. Another thing I have learned is to pray in the Spirit. And I mean by that to pray in tongues. If you are a believer, prayer in the Spirit is a weapon of the Spirit that belongs to you. To ALL of you. As I once heard Chris Hodges, pastor of The Highlands Church in Birmingham, AL, say, “I pray in tongues more than I pray in English because the work I have to do is so great I cannot pray effectively out of my own mind.” Wow. Paul the apostle said that he prayed in tongues “more than you all.” And he said that prayer in tongues is “declaring mysteries.” (1 Co 14) When you pray in tongues, you are praying prayers that the mind cannot pray. Let the Spirit pray!
I have learned that I don’t have to be in an intense prayer meeting to let the Spirit pray. He will pray for me in a whisper early in the morning while everyone is still sleeping. He will pray for me while driving down the highway. He will pray for me while I work at the office. I have learned to combat anxiety by simply allowing the Spirit to pray in a heavenly language anytime, all the time. “Pray without ceasing!”
6. Journal. Writing has a way of clarifying your thoughts, which in itself clears away the uncertainty where anxiety thrives. Also, when you write things down–and I do this by actually journaling my prayers (yes, I write my prayers out as I pray them in the morning!)–it gives you a record of testimony to return to year after year to celebrate what God has done.
7. Anxiety thrives in loneliness. You need a partner, someone who will pray with you and will not dismiss your fears as irrational. Yes, they ARE irrational, but you don’t need someone to say so when you are in the grip of anxiety. You need someone to help you work through the process outlined above. They should ask you, “Have you named and tamed your fears? Have you prayed with thanksgiving? Have you sorted out what is actually a genuine request to present before God? Have you prayed in the Spirit? Are you journaling?” You need a partner.
Thankfully, my prayer partner is my wife, Jeana. She is simply the best. But if you do not have a prayer partner, get one. Jesus sent his disciples out two-by-two. Ask him to do the same for you. Ask him to give you a prayer partner. He will do it!
These are a few things I have learned. I could keep writing on this for days, for it is a battle that I face every day of my life. But I can tell you that battles are meant to be won and that victories are unbelievably sweet! You can live in peace.
May God give you strength, and may “the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding…guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”