Anxiety: Friend Or Foe?
A former professor of mine, John Coe, once said, “Anxiety is the blinking engine light on the dashboard of our souls. It tells us that something is wrong.”
Isn’t that the truth? Anxiety has been an annoying little companion of mine since I can remember. I used to think it served me well by giving me the fortitude to push through my days with productivity. But the more I learn about what anxiety really is, the more I understand what it reveals about the state of my soul.
Anxiety has a very subtle way of creeping into our lives. It starts when we nest on our fears and allow the “what-if’s” to plant doubt about God’s goodness in our hearts.
Most of our worries result from being afraid of something that may or may not happen.
“What if this job doesn’t work out?”
“What if I get sick?”
“What if someone I love is taken from me?”
"What if that creaking sound in the middle of the night is actually a mass murderer walking through my house?" (I may or may not wake up my husband on a regular basis to check our house for murderers).
The “what-if’s” tempt us to lose sight of our Savior’s goodness. Didn’t Satan do the same thing to Eve in the Garden of Eden? The shrewd serpent said, “Did God really say you must not eat the fruit from any of the trees in the garden?...God knows that your eyes will be opened as soon as you eat it, and you will be like God, knowing both good and evil.”(Genesis 3:1,4).
Satan didn’t try to make Eve doubt in God’s existence; he tried to make her doubt his goodness. And he does the same to each of us, countless times a day.
We can’t help the multitude of “what-if’-s” that cross our mind, but we can choose whether or not to dwell on them.
Several years ago, I remember talking with a mentor in college about a relationship I was in at the time. I can’t remember my specific question, but I remember asking her a question that started with “what if”… She immediately stopped me and said, “Don’t even go there unless you need to.” These wise words resonated deeply in me. How often do we allow fear to steer us down paths that lead our hearts away from God?
Satan uses our anxiety to cut us off from God, which tempts us to doubt our creator, stew in our fears, and dismiss his promises.
But what if God desires us to approach anxiety differently? What if our fears served as a reminder to reconnect with our Creator?
Perhaps anxiety can be an honest friend who tells us is that something is off in our soul and that we desperately need to be reminded about who our God is.
God tells us he is good (Psalm 107:1), he loves us (1 John 3:1), and he wants good things for His people (Jeremiah 29:11). This is the kind of God who can be trusted with our deepest fears and insecurities. Even when our worries don’t make sense, (anyone else have some strange irrational fears?), God responds with tender grace.
If anxious thoughts are swirling around in your heart, here is a little exercise from Habits of the Heart to help you reconnect with your Savior:
Read the verse below. But before you read it, pinpoint something you are currently worried over.
"But I called on your name, Lord,
from deep within the pit.
You heard me when I cried, “Listen to my pleading!
Hear my cry for help!”
Yes, you came when I called;
you told me, “Do not fear.”
Imagine having this conversation face-to-face with God. Listen to Him speak these words to you: Do not fear. Do not fear. Now, read the verses below because they explain why we don’t need to fear…
"The faithful love of the Lord never ends!
His mercies never cease.
Great is his faithfulness;
his mercies begin afresh each morning.
The Lord is good to those who depend on him,
to those who search for him."
How do God’s words impact your fears this very moment? How can you carry these words with you throughout your day to remind yourself of his goodness?
Those of us who struggle with anxiety know there is no easy fix. It may be a lifelong struggle. My hope is that you will allow your anxious thoughts to point you toward your Savior instead of toward your fears.
I pray this blessing from Numbers 6 over my fellow anxious friends today:
"May the Lord bless you
and protect you.
May the Lord smile on you
and be gracious to you.
May the Lord show you his favor
and give you his peace."