For much of the past 18 months, I struggled with anxiety. It began as a fear of flying. We traveled more than usual in 2015 and I had to fly several times within the span of a few months. I made the mistake of focusing on my fear. As I gave it more and more attention, the anxiety became stronger and more problematic. Eventually, the fear was no longer tied to one specific issue. I began having panic attacks on a regular basis, my sleep was disrupted, and I was seeking comfort and distraction in food. Having battled depression in the past, I recognized I was spiraling down and needed to seek help. Now, successfully on the other side of the battle, I want to offer some encouragement. If you, like me and 40 million American adults, are affected by anxiety disorders, read on. And even if you don’t struggle with this issue yourself, I bet you know someone who does. Encourage them by sharing this with them.
Nip It In the Bud
Worry is like a weed. If you don’t rip it out by its root, it will continue to return and grow. If not dealt with, anxiety can choke out the beneficial things God intends to grow and flourish in your life.
This is one instance when Barney Fife had it right.
We’ve got to nip anxiety in the bud. Don’t let it take root and develop. The earlier you recognize the problem and take action to deal with it, the better off you will be.
And if you can prevent the weed of worry from taking root in the first place; even better! One of the best ways to prevent or begin to eradicate anxiety is to eliminate the environment which contributes to its growth.
The weed of worry grows in the soil of insecurity. When we focus on the things that breed insecurity, we provide the perfect environment for anxiety to flourish.
If you want peace, you must plant yourself in secure soil. The apostle Paul wrapped up his letter to the church at Philippi with this very point.
The Philippians’ reasoned their Roman citizenship provided unprecedented safety. Paul reminded these believers their true security was derived from their citizenship in heaven, not Rome, and from their Savior’s power to bring everything under his control (Philippians 3:20–21).
Paul then gave them (and us) practical ways to cultivate this peace-filled environment.
It is easy to focus on earthly things and depend on them to keep us safe. Or convince ourselves if we just mull over the scary scenario one more time, we can gain control over our circumstances. However, if we place our confidence in anything other than Jesus, we sow in the shifting soil where worries thrive.
Instead, root your hope in the surety of Christ. And keep your focus, not on your fears, but on what you want more of in your life.
If you want to see how I put this into practice on our trip to Hawaii last summer, watch the video blog post I made about facing my fears. I hope it encourages you (and gives you a laugh or two). FYI, this trip took place at the height of my problems with the panic attacks.
Anchor yourself to the unwavering stability of Christ and then keep your gaze fixed on him and all that he represents.
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God,which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers and sisters, 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. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.” —Philippians 4:6-9 NIV
In this soil, peace flourishes no matter the circumstances because our Lord is always near and in control. The right source of assurance prevents disturbing thoughts from taking root in the first place. And prayer keeps our focus on the proper things rather than allowing our fearful fantasies to run amok.
FREE Cheat Sheet: 5 Strategies to Weed Out Worry
Now that we know how to prevent apprehensive ideas from growing like weeds, we can take steps to yank our existing worries out by their root. Paul’s advice in Philippians 3:19-4:19 correlates to five strategies I have found effective for eradicating these weeds. I’ve summarized these strategies in a FREE Cheat Sheet so you can put them to work in your life. Just click the button below to request your free copy.￼
Put it into Practice
Recognize the difference between soil that encourages worry weeds and soil that enables the growth of peace. Then, put into practice sound strategies for ripping your worries out by the root. This will allow you to say along with Paul:
I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” (Philippians 4:12-13 NIV)
Trust God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus and may the peace of God, which passes all understanding, guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Please note, I am not a therapist or psychologist. I share this, instead, as someone who has been down this weary path and emerged stronger and less fearful.
Question: What helps you keep your anxious thoughts in check so they don’t disrupt your life and relationships? Let’s help each other with this very common struggle! You can leave a comment by clicking here.