Choosing Truth Over Anxiety
Guest Blog by Becky Earnhart
For two weeks in a row, I was awakened from a sound sleep shortly after pillowing my head for the night. It wasn’t because there was a bump in the night. It wasn’t because there was a crying child. It wasn’t because I was dreaming. It was because I am a wife, mama and Lita (grandma). It was because there was an accumulation of unbridled, unhealthy thoughts. In the cover of darkness, the ‘what ifs’ subconsciously snuck their way into my mind.
How can I protect the ones in my care? How can I plan for a future I don’t understand? I can’t do another year like 2020! I was experiencing fear, anxiety and anxiousness. I was disappointed how it washed over me night after night.
Like possibly some of you, I have an overly active mind. I grab one line of thinking and follow it to the most logical conclusion I can imagine – which, usually, isn’t very logical. I strategize and formulate a survival plan. I imagine scenarios so far-fetched, yet, to me, so believable. A coping mechanism from my youth screams for attention. I need to run. I need to hide. But as God’s child, do I really want to hide? Don’t I want Him to find me?
What do I do when I don’t know what to do? How can I protect my family when there is perceived danger at every turn? How can I find joy when the world is falling apart? How do I raise my family in “Babylon” and still help them cultivate a heart for God?
I want you to know that you are not the only one to have struggled with anxiety and fear during these past months. To our eyes, the situations around us are completely out of control. Uncertainty and instability are the heartbeat of our country. No one seems to possess the answers to the unlimited questions that barrage us all day, and even those that sneak into our most secluded moments in the night.
Recently I spent two days searching the Scriptures looking for a prescription for this crazy anxiety that was taking root in my heart, thoughts and actions. Here are some things I found:
The psalmist David, reminds me that, “Thou (God) wilt shew me the path of life…” (Ps. 16:11) The moments when I feel disoriented, confused and unable to think straight, I can rest. I can call on the One whose very nature exudes stability and calm. When I fear for my children and the future they will experience, I can rest knowing that while I cannot protect them from the dangerous world, God can. He promises in Psalm 5:12,
“For thou, Lord, wilt bless the righteous; with favour wilt thou compass him as with a shield.”
As I searched the book of Psalms what I didn’t find was this: I will fret, worry, strategize, complain, or write posts. Honestly, I didn’t really expect to find validation for my natural responses! The challenge is not that I don’t know Truth. I’ve read my Bible fairly consistently since I was thirteen. I’ve taught more Bible classes and counselling sessions than I can count. The issue is not with what I know. It’s what I do. This is what James speaks about in chapter one when he writes, “But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.”
David recognized his responsibility when in chapter thirty-nine he says, “I will take heed to my ways…” (Ps. 39:1) God will not do for me what He tells me to do for myself. He cannot trust for me. He cannot rest for me. He cannot give thanks for me. But that doesn’t mean our God is passively hanging out in Heaven.
God is alert and watching. God is very much an active God! He is a “very present help” according to Psalm 46:1. In my son’s military lingo, God isn’t “at ease.” He’s very much “at attention,” watching over you and me.
So, what’s a soul to do when these swirling thoughts try to take control?
Here are four things that we can learn and apply:
1. RECOGNIZE: Is this an overactive or inaccurate anxiety that I’m feeling? Be honest with yourself and God. “God, I’m not doing so well right now and I really need You to help me relax so I can respond correctly.”
PRACTICAL APPLICATION: An example of a question to ask is this: What is causing this to happen? When am I most vulnerable? When my emotions are going haywire, I also ask myself, Am I “H.A.L.T?” (hungry, angry, lonely, or tired). I don’t know the source of this acronym, but it has been extremely helpful to me for sorting out emotions.
2. REMEMBER: What has God done for you in the past? How has He provided for your physical, emotional and spiritual needs? How has He protected you from real and perceived danger? How did He love you today? “I will remember the works of the Lord…” (Ps. 77:11) “Remember his marvelous works that he hath done…” (Ps. 105:5 “I remember the days of old; I meditate on all thy works; I muse on the work of thy hands.” (Ps. 143:5) “Come and hear…and I will declare what he hath done for my soul.” (Ps. 66:16) David knew the value of remembering.
PRACTICAL APPLICATION: I’m embarrassed to admit that I have had those seasons of ‘where is God?” Just as David did, I have found myself asking, “How long wilt thou forget me, O Lord? forever?” (Ps. 13:1) In those moments we must answer with Truth. The truth is He will never forget us. He can’t forget us. We are engraved in His hand!
Start your own “Blessings Book.” Ask God to clearly show you His love and write it down! Don’t overlook the little things: a sweet note from a friend, the chocolate you forgot was in the back of the fridge, the penny in the parking lot, the extra-long nap your little one takes, and even the flower that is blooming out of the sight of most people!
3. REJOICE: Probably the most well-known verse about rejoicing is Philippians 4:4 that says, “Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again, I say, Rejoice.” That doesn’t sound like a suggestion! The book of Psalms gives multiple reasons why I should rejoice. It’s interesting that none of them take the circumstances into consideration. Each of them speaks of rejoicing as I recognize and remember the character of God! Because of His salvation – I rejoice. Because of His mercy – I rejoice. Because He can be trusted – I rejoice. Because of His protection – I rejoice.
PRACTICAL APPLICATION: Something has to break the pattern of anxiety. If we remain in bed, on the couch, or on the phone, rehearsing all the negative possibilities, nothing will change in our heart and mind. At some point, we have to stop. Just stop! Make a change. Play music that focuses your thoughts on God. Tackle an area of the house that needs to be organized. Do something for someone else. Pray out loud. Speak truth to yourself.
4. REALIGN: I Peter 5:8 reminds us that the task ahead will not be easy. Peter says to be on guard; “because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour.” Don’t be fooled! The devil knows our weaknesses. Even Luke reminds us that our hearts can be weighed down with the cares of this world. We don’t have spiritual superpowers that protect us from real life!
PRACTICAL APPLICATION: We need effective habits. During seasons of difficulty, make a decision not to miss church and the fellowship with believers. When our heart is sick, we need to be in a place our heart can be nurtured. Like Elijah, we must take care of our physical health through diet, exercise and rest. Remember, we can’t “positive-think” our way out of a poor diet, laziness or exhaustion. When the anxiety looms, answer with truth and practice effective habits to reinforce the truth.
C.S. Lewis was being quite frank when he said, “We won’t know where we have placed our trust or happiness until disappointment comes.” We choose fear, anxiety, anxiousness. But if that is true, then we also have the power to choose trust, rest, and joy.
Ultimately, if God chooses to not open the earth and swallow up the situations I am facing, I can rest knowing He has a purpose greater than my little world. In His master plan, He will order my steps in such a way that He will receive ultimate glory. I pray for the grace to respond like His child, the strength to praise Him when I don’t understand and the courage to trust Him when I can’t see.
“Be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart, all ye that hope in the Lord.”
If we want to experience the first part of the verse, we have to obey the last part. Praising God is a choice. Choose to praise.
Guest Blog by Becky Earnhart