The War Against Anxiety
by Carolyn Moeller – Worship Ministry Admin
Anxiety is a deceptive beast. For some it has become an overwhelming daily struggle; for others it is an occasional wave of doubt or fear that rears it's ugly head. In either case, a life dominated by the tormenting waves of anxiety is not God's plan for our life. He calls us to a life of faith and trust that results in peace. And if God calls us to something, He will always provide the ability and strength for us to get there. Here are three practices that I have found to be life-changing in the war against anxiety.
#1: The battleground for the war against anxiety is your mind - fight for self control.
"Take every thought captive" (2 Corinthians 10:5)
The battleground of anxiety lies within our thinking habits and patterns. Do you allow worrisome thoughts the liberty of running wild through your mind? This is a costly routine and can easily become an ingrained thinking pattern. There are lies, twisted half-truths, and ghosts of the past that seep into our minds that, if left unchecked, become a playground for fear.
Taking every thought captive is difficult and requires much effort and practice. When we take our thoughts captive, we are actively filtering what we allow our minds to think on. When a specific fear enters our thinking, do we let it continue and create increasingly worst-case scenarios? Are we constantly ruminating over them in a negative, incessant way?
In 1 Peter 5:8, we are encouraged to, "be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, stand firm in your faith." Being alert and actively taking our thoughts captive means we measure each though against God's Word. This must be an intentional choice that gets easier with time. Lies that used to take me days to be able to discern, throw out, and move on were eventually defeated in a day, then hours, and eventually a few seconds as I practiced the discipline of taking every thought captive. My husband has repeatedly told me, "Shield the arrows, do not give in to the temptation of inspecting them."
#2: God's word is our primary weapon in the war against anxiety - renew your mind with truth.
"Be renewed in the spirit of your minds" (James 4:23)
Once we learn to take our thoughts captive, we need to renew our minds by creating new, positive thinking patterns that are based on God's truth. Prayer is essential for this. God has asked us to cast our burdens before Him (1 Peter 5:7) and to ask Him for what we need (Phil. 4:6, 7). As we leave our concerns with Him, we must also ask Him to help us think biblically and accurately. We must think on the things that God wants us to think about.
And what does God want us to think about? Well thankfully, He gave us a list! "Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things." (Phil. 4:8) And what is the outcome of this new way of thinking? He tells us at the end of verse 9: "Peace." This verse is key to winning the war against anxiety, and I have seen this practice completely transform anxious minds, no matter the form it takes.
When we allow the opposite things on this list to occupy our minds, we become anxious, depressed, unsettled, and fearful. However, when we renew our minds and replace those thoughts with ones that are good and true, we begin to see the tables turn. Our mind begins to form new habits that lead to feelings like peace and joy. Slowly, the sun begins to rise and shines light on the darkness.
Make a list of what is true, what is honorable, what is lovely - a list that is specific to your current circumstances. And make sure to use Scripture to support your list. For example, in response to the question "What is true?" I might write something like this - I know that God loves me deeper than I can imagine and He is constantly working and fighting for my good. (Romans 8:28, Romand 8:32, Psalm 18:6-18, Psalm 56:9)
Memorize your Scripture and meditate upon it. Maybe come up with a little saying based on Scripture such as, "I am who God says I am." When the temptation comes to entertain the fears, recite back your truths based on God's Word instead. Have an arsenal on hand. Ultimately, delighting in the Lord daily, meeting with Him, and soaking in His Word is God's plan for us to continually be walking in faith and not in fear.
#3: God gives us enough grace to fight what's right in front of us - do what God has called you to do today.
"For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them." (Ephesians 2:10)
Instead of spending all your energy trying to control things out of your control, which can lead to bizarre and irrational thinking, focus on what God has called you to do today. Instead of being consumed with yourself and your needs, the Bible tells us to deny self, to pick up our cross and follow Him (Matt. 16:24).
What has He called you to do as a wife or husband today? What has He called you to do as a parent, neighbor, or friend today? Be resolved that no matter how you feel, you will not let anxiety affect your calling today. If you need to have dinner on the table, have a great dinner on the table. If you need to serve at church or go into work, do it and do it well. Spend dedicated time in prayer for your family, friends, and leaders. Before you know it, your mind will have shifted off yourself and onto the ones around you who God has called you to love. Be obedient in what God has called you to do today and you will find blessing.
The war against anxiety is not an easy one, but we have this hope - that we have the "immeasurable greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His great might that He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead (Eph. 1:9)" That is a power that nothing can prevail against!