Anxiety is a huge struggle for Christians and non-Christians alike, and it seems to be something that is not talked about much at least not in person. Adam Ford, writer at Adam4d.com and The BabylonBee, has written an article titled "Some Things that Have Helped Me in My Struggle with Anxiety." Ford reveals that he has struggled with anxiety for seven years and he has shared some tips for those struggling with the same affliction.
Here are 3 things to keep in mind when you're struggling with anxiety:
1. Know and accept that many Christians do not understand mental health issues.
Ford doesn’t mean this in an emo “nobody understands me” sort of way; but because many Christians don’t understand mental health issues, they also don’t understand how to respond to mental health issues in others. Ford shares that he has received, “countless messages and emails from Christians trying to explain to me how it’s just a control issue, a faith issue, a submission-to-the-Bible issue, or a whatever else issue.”
There’s nothing worse when you’re struggling with something like anxiety, for someone to smilingly tell you to just believe more, be better, have more faith etc. Cue the story of Job…aka it’s not helpful. Anxiety itself is not necessarily sinful, although it is part of this fallen world. It’s how we respond to life with anxiety that can make it sinful or not.
Of course, we are all sinners but simply having anxiety, especially a physically debilitating kind says Ford, is not a sin. Ford states that Christians who don’t understand anxiety, “see the word ‘anxiety’ and they think ‘excess worry’—they do not think ‘physiological central nervous system meltdown.’”
Most of these Christians mean well when they say these unhelpful things, and they are probably not able to relate to what you are feeling. So instead of going into a rage, Ford advises that we accept their lack of understanding and move on.
2. As hard as this may be…realize that God has allowed you to have this affliction.
The prosperity gospel says you can fix yourself with more of this and more of that; the prosperity gospel puts the control in your hands. Ford wisely expresses,
“Nothing happens outside of God’s control. You could not have depression or anxiety disorders without the consent of the Father. Just as those who tell you “if you had more faith, you wouldn’t be dealing with this” are (usually unwittingly) falling victim to horrific prosperity theology, so are you if you see your disorder as something you have the power to merely pray away or rebuke at will.”
This does not mean that God will not heal you, nor does it mean that you should not pray for healing. God has the ability to heal us yes, but no measure of faith or grand prayer guarantees that we will be healed, as Ford says. I have a chronic nerve pain condition that I’ve had for the past 12 years that affects me daily, and in the beginning I questioned why do I have this and why won’t God take this from me?
There were times when I would cry and cry utterly crushed thinking that I must not have enough faith for God to take this from me. And while I still don’t understand why I have this condition, I understand that God has allowed me to have it and it has nothing to do with how much faith I have at any given moment or the strength of my prayers. Those false thoughts that I suffered through early on did nothing to help; they only robbed me of seeing my God as He is. Even when I am afflicted He is in control, He is present, and He is worthy to be praised.
Ford shares this Scripture, one of my favorites, from Paul in 2 Corinthians 12:8-9,
“Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”
3. Exercise and medication can both be helpful depending on your situation.
Exercising can be hard for anyone, but it can be especially hard for those struggling with mental health issues to find the motivation to start moving. Ford says that he hated it at first, but now he craves exercise and doesn’t feel right when he skips it. He states,
“Regular physical exercise literally changes your brain. Google it.”
For me, it’s a battle every time to get to the gym. I know it will be worth it, but I come up with so many excuses. However, I will say that every time I exercise I have never thought afterward, “Well that was a waste of time” or “I feel worse now.” Every time I have felt better and been more motivated when I leave. I will give one word of caution though, as great and as helpful as exercise is be careful not to see it as your “savior” so to speak. I once got so caught up in eating a certain way and exercising because I thought I could fix my chronic pain with it that it became like an idol. I cannot begin to describe the let down when I realized that at the end of it all my pain was still there. That’s when I realized that my desire to take control had crept back in. This does not mean you should not exercise, by all means exercise—God gave us a brain and a body for a reason. With all things, keep it in balance and let God be your guide.
And medication…oh how thankful I am for the creation of medication. Just as I am thankful for a medicine that helps my chronic pain significantly, people who struggle with anxiety or depression can greatly benefit from medicine also. While some people may frown upon medication for mental health issues or feel that it’s weak to do so, there’s no reason why it shouldn’t be acceptable to use medication to treat anxiety. Anxiety is a medical condition just like any other, and if medication is helpful to your situation then there should be no shame in it. Should you take precautions and be aware of side effects, yes; it’s best to work with your doctor to find the right medicine for you where the benefit of taking it outweighs the risk of side effects.
Ford was hesitant at first to try medication but after struggling from debilitating anxiety where he could not drive himself to work at times—and after much thought, conversations with his pastor, and prayer he decided to try it. He writes,
“Are antidepressants overprescribed? I’m sure they are. Are people sometimes too quick to turn to a pill? Yep. Should you try regular exercise first? Indeed. But can antidepressants offer relief for terrible anxiety and depression? Yes, they can.”
Just as I am thankful to God for a medicine that helps reduce my chronic pain every day, Ford is thankful to God for anti-depressants that make living with anxiety easier. I agree with Ford’s last point that “Nothing has helped me more in my struggle with anxiety and depression than remembering the beautiful, objective facts of the gospel.”
Ford sites these seven scriptures we should strive to remember:
-But God created us and chose us before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless before him (Eph 1:4).
-The eternal Son of God bore all of our sins on the cross, taking our place under God’s wrath and gifting us His perfect righteousness (2 Cor 5:21).
As Ford wisely recommends, don’t just preach the gospel to others—preach it to yourself…every day! Remember who God is, remember His promises, and remember who He has made you to be. He is in control of everything, and He is with you always.
To read Adam Ford’s article in its entirety please visit Adam4d.com.
“There is much joy to find—even if you wish the day could feel different. No day is a throw-away day when you can still praise God in what you think, love, speak, and do. This day may not be your ideal. But this is a beautiful day. This is a good day. Enjoy it as a gift. And every day is new and independent of the last; start anew each day.”
You can read her article, 5 Helpful Perspectives for Surviving Panic Attacks here!
Publication date: September 12, 2016
Liz Kanoy is an editor for Crosswalk.com.