Practical ways to find JOY and restoration through the only One who gives it- Jesus.
I’ve been pretty vocal about my struggle with anxiety on Instagram and in conversations over the last year or so. But I think even speaking about it, I haven’t been able to truly express the havoc that it wreaked in my life for those years.
Starting in 2015, I began experiencing this season that I could only describe as a “lack of peace”. I hadn’t heard the word “anxiety” in regards to mental and emotional health yet, so I couldn’t put a very appropriate label on what I was feeling. But I can tell you this: it WRECKED my life. I was crying and panicked for hours on end every day, had to take 2 weeks off of work, and had absolutely no interest in the good things that were a part of my life. And get this: I bought the lie that I had brought it on myself and that I deserved to suffer through that “punishment”. That same anxiety would be a very strong and poisonous part of my life for several years following. It wasn’t until Easter 2018 that I truly began to feel the clouds part.
My personal anxiety stemmed from the desire to do everything right. The devil literally twisted my desire to please God and made me believe that I was responsible for pleasing God and getting everything right. It was a 3-year season of anxiety, depression, fear, and it just about kept me from God’s will, because I was so afraid that I was “doing it wrong”. Thankfully, God made His will evident through Godly council, and months later, I could see the light again.
Seasons of anxiety look different for everyone. They can stem from fear of the unknown, fear of failure, a happenstance in your life, really— anything. The reasons for our anxiety may be different, but one thing is the same: the devil is fighting to keep you in the dark so that you believe the lie that you are not able to live a normal life again and impact God’s Kingdom for HIS glory.
I have a couple points today that I think are SO important in seasons of anxiety. You are not alone in this and I want to link arms with you to offer practical ways to make it through a season of anxiety, whenever it comes.
HOW IT ENDS ——————
The first is that IT DOESN’T LAST FOREVER. Write that down. MY ANXIETY WILL NOT LAST FOREVER. I know you may not believe that right now. And that’s normal.
Thank God for my precious sister, who repeated words that seemed impossible in that season, “it will get better. This doesn’t last forever”. She had walked through it before me, but I didn’t believe her. The devil whispered lies to me, “you won’t have joy again. This is just how your life is now.” And that could not have been further from the truth. There have been clusters of days here and there that were filled with anxiety, even now in an otherwise peaceful season. But after God reclaimed JOY in my heart the first time, it was easier to see and believe that joy would come again.
Psalm 30 is a beautiful picture of the JOY that David knows is coming. He’s literally running for his life from King Saul who wants to kill him. The dialogue is so beautiful, because it’s a picture of his humanity. I encourage you to read the whole chapter, but I want to point out two verses here real quick: first, that David had walked this before. Verse 5b says, “...weeping may stay for the night, but joy comes in the morning”. He knew that God was on His side- that there may be darkness for seasons, but that JOY ultimately wins. The second point is in verse 11. David says, “You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy.” Sackcloth, in David’s day, was a type of clothing worn when you were mourning. Close your eyes for a moment and imagine God taking all of your fear, anxiety, and hurt, and instead clothing you in JOY. That is how this ends- anxiety is not your master. God is. And He will see that you are covered in the joy that He desires to give.
GOD CAN USE IT ———————
God is not a wasteful God. I promise you that. He can use any situation for his glory. Not because we are deserving of that. But instead, because as feeble and weak humans, we are the perfect canvas upon which He can paint grace, forgiveness, and glory. We have countless examples in the Bible of people who walked real and true and deep storms. He is faithful to change us in our storms if we let Him. But again… it’s not because of a single thing we can do. It’s only because HIS glory is magnified in our weakness. I felt absolutely worthless, heartbroken, and overwhelmed with fear in my season of anxiety. But in my utter weakness I became the perfect place for Him to work and change my heart. During that season, I wouldn’t have wished it on my worst enemy. But now, I can joyfully echo Paul’s statement in 2 Corinthians 12:10. “For Christ’s sake, I delight in weakness, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” He recognized that hardships didn’t disqualify him from being a vessel for Christ. Neither does your anxiety. And when we lean in to Christ during those seasons, we find that He is our source of joy, and faithful to draw nearer to us.
PRACTICAL WAYS TO COMBAT ANXIETY —————
When it comes down to talking about practical ways to combat anxiety, there are so many suggestions and “self help” type things that people suggest. I have nothing against things like bubble baths, yoga, and quiet time, but none of those things will help combat the devil and draw you nearer to Jesus: the creator and keeper of peace. So let’s look at some really practical ways to combat anxiety and welcome in the peace that God offers us. As we worth through these suggestions, really want to encourage you to take note of the passages and verses.
- Prayer (Phil 4:6)
- The first is prayer. If we desire to draw nearer to Christ, but neglect prayer, we won’t get very far. But we also have to remember that prayer is a conversation. It’s two sided. Phillipians 4:6 is a widely known verse, and you may have heard it before. But I think it’s especially important in this conversation because it tells us that prayer is a part of combating anxiety! It’s a clear commandment. It says, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything, with PRAYER and THANKSGIVING, let your requests be made known to God.” Prayer is a conversation and a heart posture, and it’s important for us to boldly approach the Throne with our requests and concerns. God wants to hear them. Verse 7 says, “The peace that passes all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” Isn’t that what we all want?! Peace that passes all understanding? It ONLY exists in God, and prayer is our immediate access to Him, the Prince of Peace.
- Fasting (media, food, etc) (Philippians 4:8)
- The second thing is fasting. You may or may not be familiar with Biblical fasting, where people would refrain from food for a certain number of days to focus their desires on Christ. This is a really deep subject, so I’ll only be touching on it briefly, but it’s absolutely worth talking about in this context. While you may have heard of fasting in the sense of giving up food, you may not have heard of fasting from media. This can include all sorts of things: social networks, music, tv, movies, books, magazines, the list goes on. As we fill our hearts and minds with these things, we’re bombarded with feelings of inadequacy, fear, and- you guessed it- anxiety. God knows this, which is why His commandment in Philippians 4:8 is so important. Note that this comes on the heel of the last passage we talked about, so we’re still talking about ways to combat anxiety. Paul writes, “What is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable- if anything is excellent or praiseworthy- think about such things.” Most secular songs don’t point us to these things. Neither do secular movies or excessive scrolling on social media. Re-align your thoughts with a media fast. Even if it doesn’t improve your anxiety, it will improve your mood, the thoughts that are in your mind, and even the words that come out of your mouth. Replace these things with podcasts, worship music, and time in God’s Word. Good things in, good things out.
- Godly counsel & community (Proverbs 11:14, Heb 10:25)
- Next is Godly counsel and community. Proverbs 11:14 says, “Where there is no guidance, a people falls. But in the abundance of counselors there is safety.” Think about that. When we try to do things on our own, we’re more likely to fail. Not because we aren’t capable, but because we weren’t designed to walk alone. The devil wants nothing more than for you to be in solitude where he can easily speak lies to you. Push through what you may feel, and whatever lies he’s told you, and seek Godly counsel and community. I have my Godly counsel to thank for being able to see things clearly when I was in my darkest season. They were the ones who could speak truth to me. I was able to daily ask them, “is this true?” when the enemy tried to lie to me. But the more I was able to walk in the light, the more I could pinpoint what God’s truth was.
- Time in God’s Presence (Psalm 16:11)
- Time in God’s presence goes hand in hand with the media fast. I know for some of us, this isn’t something that we’re doing daily. But if you have a true desire to draw nearer to God and gain the peace that He offers you, this absolutely must be a priority. I can promise- the time is going to pass. And the days are going to be hard. But you will have a certain number of hours every day to either fill your heart and mind with uselessness, or fill it with peace. Peace can’t come from a tv show, your explore feed, or a girl’s night out. It ONLY comes from God, and with that, time in His presence. Psalm 16:11 says, “You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.” NOTHING else is this world can make good on a promise like that. Only God can offer eternal pleasures. It’s our job to seek Him and prioritize that time together.
- Seeking Peace (Psalm 34:14)
- If we desire peace, then we need to be pursuing it in our lives. Psalm 34:14 says “Turn from evil and do good. Seek peace and pursue it.” We have a COMMAND to seek and pursue peace. I can promise you that isn’t found in loud, overwhelming, and scary places. Our obedience here may differ from person to person, but be on your guard as you seek peace. Seek relationships that bring peace. Seek work environments that bring peace. Don’t overwhelm yourself with what you “should” do. Ask God what is good for your heart, and He will lead you to peace.
- Being Kind to our Bodies
- The last thing that I want to touch on is the physical aspect of being kind to our bodies and steering clear of food that causes anxiety. Some of you may have heard me talk about it before, but I think that it’s SO important to share. Obviously I am NOT a doctor or medical professional. So please don’t go telling your doctor that you “heard this on a podcast”. But I do know what I’ve experienced and researched, and it’s been an emotional lifesaver for me so I want to share with you. I’ve read articles, talked to doctors, and found countless reputable sources that talk about the detrimental effects that certain food can have on your mental and emotional health. This is no surprise, but something often times the last thing that people are willing to give up because it’s hard work. After doing a lot of research a few years ago, I found that caffeine and gluten are both major triggers for anxiousness. Caffeine makes perfect sense, because it creates a “fight or flight” reaction in your body. It’s chemically designed to do that. But when you’re in an anxious season, it’s a trigger that can cause anxiousness in your heart. Gluten can also cause anxiety and depression. It’s the one food that I can see a night and day difference in myself. If I ever eat wheat or gluten, I am a completely different person for several days following, because of how it effects me emotionally. I thought that it was happenstance, but sure enough there is so much research out there that backs it up, and I have found friends who say the same.
- The very last thing that I want to touch on is medication. There is a giant stigma in the modern church that assumes that if you don’t have joy, then you must not love God enough. The devil fed me that lie, and I bought it for years before I finally went to my doctor and begged for a solution. He prescribed a gentle anti-anxiety medication that I took for about a year before working with him to wean myself off. That medication helped to balance my hormones and emotions so that I could re-train my body to operate out of faith and not fear. Whatever route you decide, be sure to seek God. He wants for you to have joy, and He will guide you.
Friends, I feel like I’ve just barely scratched the surface of how we can deal with anxiety, but before we close, I want you to know this: I am praying for you. These seasons can be the darkest and most lonely things we face in this life. But we are NOT alone. Get in community. Bring your battles into the light. Seek Jesus with all of your heart. I love you all. Better days are coming.