Simple Tips to Prevent Anxiety.
My husband and I had only been married a few months when I discovered how much he enjoyed distance running.
He often goes on long runs, close to 45 minutes, and I typically don’t look at the clock while he’s out. Yet on one particular evening, I suddenly noticed he’d been gone more than an hour. The sun had set, and John didn’t have a flashlight. Another 15 minutes passed, and I began to fight the temptation to worry.
My mind drifted to my high-school youth group, when we learned what the Bible says about worry and anxiety.
“Do not be anxious about anything,” we’d begun memorizing from Philippians 4:6, “but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God” (New International Version).
I don’t remember much from youth group that night, except my friend Denise’s question: “So what’s the difference between worrying about something and just thinking about it a lot?”
We both turned to our youth director for an answer. It was a great question—what was the difference? We were both seniors in high school, with stressful topics like grades, graduation and college filling our thoughts. But were we worrying, as we’d just been instructed not to, or just thinking?
I’m sure the youth director had an answer, but it didn’t sink in for me that night. It seemed like such a fine line between the two.
It took several more years for me to fully grasp what the verse in Philippians was saying, and how to tell if I had really crossed that line, letting worry consume my thoughts.
In their book Soul Prescription, Bill Bright and Henry Brandt write, “The New Testament word for anxiety means ‘double-minded.’ That’s the problem with people who have an anxiety habit. With part of their mind, they are looking to God; but with another part of their mind, they are fretting about what might happen to them.”
When I think about my current situation, sometimes the thoughts are empowering. Thinking through my to-do list helps me plan my day, or analyzing my budget motivates me to save for future expenses.
But I cross the line when my thoughts are filled with things I can’t control, like my husband out for a run with no identification or cell phone.
“How many of our hours, our days, are spent worrying about things over which we have no control and things that will never happen?” writes Linda Dillow in Calm My Anxious Heart. “There’s no disputing the fact that, nine times out of 10, worrying about a thing does more damage to our body, soul and spirit than the actual thing itself.”
Holocaust survivor Corrie ten Boom emphasizes that, “Worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow, it empties today of its strength.”
Through the years, I also learned of another line: the one between general worry and an anxiety disorder. According to the National Institute of Mental Health website, “When anxiety becomes an excessive, irrational dread of everyday situations, it has become a disabling disorder.” The organization states that anxiety disorders affect about 40 million American adults ages 18 years and older, equaling about 18 percent of the population. If this is true of you or someone you know, keep reading, but seek additional help from a health-care provider. There may be other complicating factors involved in the anxiety.
For most of us, worry and anxiety are simply matters of not trusting God, or trusting more in our own abilities to fix our circumstances.
So how do we stop worrying? Or better yet, how do we prevent it?
Bright and Brandt emphasize that it is “not by trying through an act of the will to make our worries go away. Rather, [we] hand them over to God.” They suggest these steps:
Adopt a correct view of God.
Remember how capable and willing God is to keep all His promises to you. Make sure your ideas about God match what He says about Himself in the Bible.
Revise your false beliefs.
How do your ideas about people or life influence your worry-related habit?
Repent of your sin.
Pray a prayer of confession and commitment about your specific worry-related habit (fear, discouragement, impatience, etc.).
Defend against spiritual attacks.
Watch out for Satan’s schemes to persuade you to worry about your circumstances again. You can resist him with the “shield of faith” that God gives as a part of our spiritual armor (see Ephesians 6:10-18).
Take active steps to prevent returning to your bad habits of the past. Focus on your relationship with God and take practical steps to cut off common sources of temptation. For example:
• If you begin to feel discouraged, rehearse in your mind the victories that God has given you in the past.
• If you are prone to nervousness, learn to meditate on God.
• Ask a trusted Christian friend to hold you accountable for not worrying so much.
Bright and Brandt say, “God desires for [anxiety sufferers] to have their mind wholly fixed on Him, for then they could know peace.”
As I sat in my house trying not to worry about John running along busy streets in the dark, I realized that even if something bad happened to him, the Lord was still in control.
By faith, I know that God will meet me in any situation, painful or joyful. By faith, I trust that He would uphold me just like He has upheld others whose stories I’ve heard or witnessed. He would prove that He is still God, and that is always enough.
John came home after an hour and a half, and I didn’t scold him for being gone too long. If I’d allowed myself to worry, I might have been mad or emotional by the time he got home. Instead, I was able to share his excitement that he’d had such a good, long run. Putting worries aside, we enjoyed our late dinner.
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