After I searched the Bible and discovered so many verses that tell us not to fear or be afraid or anxious, I knew I needed to stop the fearful, worrisome and condemning thoughts in my head because that was what was causing my panic attacks, but I became worried about giving up all my worries and anxieties. They took up so much of my thought life that I began worrying about what I was going to think about if I didn’t have all those worrisome and anxious thoughts occupying my mind. Anybody know where I’m coming from? I was afraid of changing my way of thinking because it was all I knew. I wanted to change, but I was afraid of changing.
I was doing Bible studies at that time and came across Philippians 4:8 which states “whatever 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. (NIV) In this particular Bible study I was doing, the author of the study said, “In other words, think about Jesus. Focus your attention on Him.” So I began to do that whenever I started into a cycle of negative thinking or remembering my mistakes in the past or those who had mistreated me or said hurtful things to me. Whenever I found myself engaged in imaginary conversations with people in my head (Anybody else do that?) I would stop it and begin thinking about Jesus and how much He loved me and that I could trust God to make things turn out right. I didn’t have to defend myself to myself.
I began to pray about everything that worried me or that made me anxious…even the fact that I was worried I wouldn’t be able to trust God and stop worrying after I prayed to Him. I soon learned that whenever my worries or anxieties returned—and they did because the cycle of negative thinking isn’t broken overnight--I didn’t have to feel self-condemnation. Instead, I could go to God again and pray to Him again until I felt peace returning.
So I began putting my new way of dealing with my life and my problems into practice. I threw myself into God’s Word so that my mind would be filled with His Truth about my problems and my life and so my thoughts would focus on His Son instead of on myself. I took every problem, fear, concern and worry to God in prayer. And God responded in awesome ways. Sometimes He flooded my soul with peace. Sometimes He flooded my heart with joy. Sometimes I felt so loved, and so unworthy of such unconditional love, that I sobbed. Sometimes I felt an awesome stillness inside me and all around me. Sometimes I just felt a burden lift from my heart and my mind. And sometimes I didn’t feel anything at all. I just knew He had heard me. And that alone made all the difference.
It’s been five years since I first discovered God’s way of breaking free of the stronghold of panic and anxiety disorders. My mind was held tightly in the grip of panic, and negative, anxious thoughts back then. Today I am living free from that prison in my mind. I’m staying outside that jail cell and keeping my thoughts controlled by applying God’s Truth to my circumstances. I still experience stress when I have too much to do—I’m still working on my perfectionist attitude—and when a crisis hits, I hit my knees and pray until I have peace. When my mother was in the hospital for 2 weeks last month, I didn’t always have time to be with the Lord in the mornings like I usually do, and it began to show. That last week my anxiety re-surfaced for a few days—mainly because my mother, bless her heart, is the most negative person I know when she has to stay in the hospital. Her anxiety was high, she said some hurtful things to me, and she wouldn’t cooperate with the nurses.
I learned something about myself during this time. I discovered that it’s one thing for me to know that God is greater than circumstances, but it’s truly frustrating for me when I can’t get a loved one to place their hope and trust in God right when they need it most. Mother put herself through so much, and because I love her, I sensed every bit of her anxiety and suffering. And my anxiety intensified. I began to fear she would not get well. And I began asking myself, “What is True? What do you know to be Truth?” And the answer came…that God is faithful, even when we are not. That He does not treat us as we deserve. That, in Christ Jesus, there was mercy and grace available for my mother. And that His perfect will was better than my will for her.
And God was gracious. He answered our prayers and Mother’s kidneys improved and she was able to come home.
So I’m still learning to put all areas of thinking under the umbrella of God’s Truth. The anxiety battle is fought and won in the mind. I thank God that He is a Mighty Warrior and that He is on my side. I’m not in this battle alone. “The LORD your God is with you, He is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing." (Zephaniah 3:17) (NIV)