You can't go far in the Bible without encountering fear. From Genesis to Revelation, Scripture is packed with examples, stories, wisdom, and encouragement surrounding godly and ungodly examples of fear and anxiety. In every circumstance though, one principle is consistent: God wants us to trust Him with every detail of our lives. Our freedom from fear, worry, and anxiety is found in His faithfulness.
What is anxiety?
The answers are as varied as fingerprints. Everyone has their own brand of anxiety, ranging from vague feelings of dread to paralyzing fear.
Fear is a normal part of the human experience, even for Christians. On the healthy side, fear is a God-given ability to detect and deal with a dangerous threat. A little anxiety may also stimulate thinking and problem-solving. But exaggerated fear and anxiety disrupts our lives, drains our spiritual strength, clouds our judgement, and robs us of the joy-filled life that we can enjoy in Christ.
Anxiety and worry: are they the same?
Anxiety may stem from unconscious feelings. But worry is a conscious act of choosing an ineffective method of coping with life. Worry implies the absence of trust in God. Scripture instructs us not to worry. When you're tempted to fret, decide instead to trust. Say, "Lord, help me to see this situation with eyes of faith."
"Maybe the problem will just go away."
Procrastination and avoidance of an uncomfortable issue create most of the problems associated with anxiety. Though these sister strategies bring temporary relief, they both foster and compound anxiety for later.
"What am I avoiding? How? Why am I putting this off?" When you ask yourself these questions, be prepared for some internal resistance. It's difficult to understand that sometimes the very things we're doing for relief could be causing and complicating our fears.
"I'm worried sick."
An anxious, worried lifestyle will take its toll on your health. Although most anxiety doesn't have a medical cause, it can cause physical problems. A panic attack, for example, is a sudden surge of overwhelming fear that comes without warning and physically affects its sufferers. Symptoms may include a racing heartbeat, difficulty breathing, dizziness, trembling, sweating, shaking, chest pains, and tingling of the fingers or toes. People who experience panic attacks may fear they are going insane or about to die.
If you periodically experience panic attacks, tell a friend or relative who can help. Tell that person what you experience and what you'll need if an attack occurs. Plan ahead so you'll know what to do during a panic attack.
If you suspect that anxiety may be affecting you physically, consult a physician to determine the relationship between anxiety and your condition.
Some practical advice
Consider these words of wisdom from Chuck Swindoll:
"Stop reading only the grim sections of the newspaper. Watch less television and start reading more books that bring a smile instead of frown. Locate a few acquaintances who will help you laugh more at life. Ideally, find Christian friends who see life through Christ's eyes, which is in itself more encouraging. Have fun together. Affirm one another."
It's our choice. We can allow fear to make us its victims or we can challenge fear to work for us by driving us to a deeper dependence on God.
From Insights Newsletter Vol. 9, No. 5. May 1999
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