Nick Potter, student of Psychology at the College of Charleston in Charleston, South Carolina, shares about his experience with anxiety, and his spiritual coping mechanisms for how to overcome.
One summer I went to Honduras to help out one of the churches there. While out eating one night the mission team and church was robbed at gunpoint. After coming back to the States I found myself worrying about my life more and more. I was worrying too much about things that were out of my control. Many of us might share the tendency to worry and to be anxious. I remember reading Matthew 6:25 and seeing Jesus say, “Do not worry,” and thinking to myself, Yeah right Jesus, that isn’t possible. Maybe for the Son of God that is doable but for me, a regular person, it’s impossible. Many of you may have had the same thoughts. It is possible to not worry. We have the Holy Spirit of God! Let’s not get sucked into the thought that God can’t change us. We can worry about many other things like our job, our family, our money situation, our schooling, and even our relationship with God. What even is worry? Why do we worry? How do we combat worry? These are very important things to consider and we need to diligently consider our worry and how we can combat it. Author Timothy Lane wrote that worry is basically “a response to God.” How do we treat our walk with God? Do we give him the control or do we take it ourselves? How does the way we think play a role in this? My hope is to look at scriptures like Matthew 6:25 to combat my anxiety in order to have confidence in God. Not to worry in this life is trusting in God.
Worry vs. Concern
The definition of worry is “a state of anxiety and uncertainty over actual or potential problems.” A lot of the time we use the words worry and concern interchangeably. Concern is normal and healthy while worry is not. I was driving with my sixteen-year-old sister one night; she only has her learner's permit. I was already a little nervous because this was one of the first times she was driving. As we were driving through a neighborhood she was speeding so I naturally said “you should try to slow down.” After I said that she began to tell me how it was hard for her to brake! I could feel my heart start to race and the sweat beginning to pour. A simple trigger like this is enough to force me into the submission of my own anxiety.
Who’s in Control?
Worry comes from the Old-English word wyrgan meaning "strangle." Some of us can relate to this. Life becomes too much and we start to get anxious and worrisome; its like we are being strangled by all of life’s hardships. In Matthew 11:28-30 Jesus says “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light”. This is an awesome promise! Its amazing that Jesus says that his burden is light! When problems arise, we typically try to put the burden on our self. We are not created to carry the world on our shoulders. In Philippians 4:4-7 we see yet another command not to worry (or be anxious). What is the response we should have? Paul said present your requests to God! Again, where are you putting your worries, on yourself or on God? We have to pray specific prayers to God. Sometimes I need to pray multiple times a day about my worries. The peace we experience in God is contingent upon our prayers and petitions. Prayer is a key component of combating anxiety.
Cast Your Anxiety on Him
As a psychology student, I learn a lot about how our thoughts can influence how we act. In 1 Peter 5:6-10 we examine a couple of tips in fighting our urge to worry.
Verse 6- We need to be humble. As we are praying we need to admit that we are weak and need God’s help. I’m not a licensed counselor but I know that there are disciples with anxiety disorders. If you feel like anxiety and worry are controlling your life, please consider seeing a counselor or therapist. We need to learn tips on how to worship God even in the midst of mental disorders.
Verse 7 – The phrase “cast your anxiety” literally means “to place on.” This goes back to one of the first points I made about not putting too many burdens on yourself. Often times we need help from others in truly placing the anxieties of our lives on God. The burden we unload can become too heavy too fast.
Verse 8- We need to know what triggers our anxieties. If you get anxious before trips then pray before each trip. If you have test anxiety talk to your teacher and see if you can take the test another day. Ask your friends or family what they see when you are worried. Sometimes we don't notice how much our persona changes in our anxiety until someone tells us what they've seen us become.
Verse 9- Resist the Evil One. I believe that Satan can use our thoughts against us. Further, we can often use our own thoughts against us, and Satan doesn't even have to help. Psychologist Karen H. said that if our neurotic self (idealized self) is nothing like our actual self then we can get anxious. This is basically psychology talk for insecurity (read 1 John 3:1 and Romans 8: 31-39; remember we are deeply loved by God). Don’t listen to Satan’s lies listen to the message of God.
Worry strangles our life and eventually leaves us not bearing fruit. The Bible stresses that if we are continually choked out by life’s worries not only will we bear no fruit (Matthew 13:7, Matthew 13:21-22) but we will be thrown into the fire because of it (Matthew 7:19, Luke 13:9). We have to continually fight the temptation to worry and be fearful by every situation. We have every reason and the hope of all of God's promises to be confident in every circumstance. Satan knows that worry can lead us away from God. Let’s give God the control of our lives and let him use us for his glory. Casting our anxieties doesn’t seem normal at first but the more we do it the easier it gets. God created everything we know and love; he created you and he created me. God knows what he is doing. “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loves us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:37-39).
Comment below if you have questions or feedback, or if you'd like to share a personal story with us.