4 Things You’re Doing That are Keeping You Anxious* by Rhonda Stoppe
My heart breaks over the impact current events are having upon the mental health of people of all ages and stages of life. I’m sure you can relate to these concerns. I don’t think anyone has gone untouched by this difficult season in history.
So, why is it that some people fair better than others in turbulent times? And what can you learn from them to help you discover real reasons why you worry––and how to combat concerns?
1. Thinking on Wrong Things
Proverbs 23:7 reminds us, “As a man thinks in his heart, so is he.” Let’s take a moment to consider this proverb. You’ve likely heard the adage, You are what you eat ––right?
Believe me, I totally relate to this adage as I’m on day #29 of the 40 Day Sugar Fast. I love me some sugar. But it don’t love me! As a result of consuming lots of sweets my joints were aching. Fasting from sugar takes away the pain, and makes me feel so much better. I hate to admit it, but I cannot dispute the evidence.
In the same way, what your thoughts feast on will define who and what you become. If you rehearse in your mind all that might go wrong, you’ll make yourself anxious and fearful. And if you’re talking about what makes you anxious, you’ll likely kindle worry in those around you, especially your children (if you have them).
Battling anxious thoughts is not a simple task. Especially if you’re in the habit worrying. In his book, When I Am Afraid, author Edward T. Welch says, “The first step toward overcoming your fears is to locate them…The attractiveness of God’s words to you depends on it. If you can’t see your fears and worries then God’s words of comfort won’t go deep.
So, to disarm fearful thoughts rolling around in your head, causing you to worry, Welch suggests you take time to list:
- Fears you can locate immediately.
- Worries that arise when you consider losing something/someone important to you.
- Concerns about your own death, illness or personal loss.
Welch says if you listen to your fears it will help you determine what crisis you are predicting as you ponder your concerns. Welch says, “Fear and worry are prophecies.”
And what we predict will come to pass reveals a great deal of what we believe about God. So, listen well to your pondering, because they will reveal to you the root of your worry, which lies in what you really believe about God.
2. Forgetting Who Is in Control
Fear and worry reveal much about your walk with God. If you have a real relationship with Him, through repentance and surrender to Christ, then God promises to become your Father.
If you’ve been a Christian for any length of time, you’ve probably heard that God is your Heavenly Father who promises to work all things together for good to those who love Him (Romans 8:28). But, why is there a disconnect between knowing this truth, and applying it to our worrisome thoughts? Where do you and I get stuck? And what can we do about it?
Again, let’s ponder an insight from Welch, “We are God’s offspring who either run from Him or run to Him. Those are the only two possibilities.”
Even when you find yourself on the preverbal fence––trusting God a little and trusting yourself a little, it reveals that in your vacillating you’ve made the decision to turn from God to trust in yourself, or someone else, which is idolatry.
For me personally, this is where the battle lies. I hear something disturbing on the news, my mind immediately begins to worry about what kind of world we are leaving our grandchildren. If I’m not careful that worry grows to anxiety. This has the potential to render me useless for what God wants to do through me on any given day. Can I get a witness?
If you find yourself in similar circumstances, you are not alone. There is comfort in knowing you’re not the only one struggling, right? But God has made a way for you to break free from this anxious cycle by beckoning you to His Word.
The Bible is filled with real life accounts of people who lived through troubled times and personal loss. And in those seasons, God reveals His character.
For example Hagar said, “He is the God who sees”
Abraham said, “He is the God who provides”
And one of my favorite accounts is when God responded to King Jehoshaphat’s worry:
“Thus says the Lord unto you, Be not afraid nor dismayed by reason of this great multitude; for the battle is not yours, but God’s” (2 Chronicles 20:15).
Did you get chills reading God’s very words to the worried king? Let me repeat it in case you missed it: “The battle is not yours––but God’s!”
Can I get a hallelujah? But, how quickly we forget God is our Banner unless we are regularly washing our minds with the water of the word (Ephesians 5:26). This brings me to the next reason why you and I worry.
3. Refusing to Remember
God knows fear arises when we forget His sovereign power. More than 300 times in the Bible God commands His people not to be afraid. And, I love knowing how God remembers how fragile we are and meets us at the point of our need; “He knows our frame, He remembers that we are dust” (Psalm 103:14).
God’s remedy for fear is to put our trust in Him by seeking Him and recalling His character as He reveals it in scripture. Psalm 9:10 reminds us, “Those who know Your Name will put their trust in You; For You, Lord, have not forsaken those who seek You.”
God regularly instructed His people to remember, and teach to their children, all He had done for them. Why? Because He knows how easily we forget.
For example, after miraculous signs and wonders, Israel had just been delivered from Egypt. However, once they grew hungry in the wilderness they forgot God’s benefits and grumbled against Moses and God.
Now, before you go pointing your finger at those people, consider how you’ve likely done the same thing in troubled times. I know I have. This is when you have a choice to make. Will you determine to believe God is a loving Father who will not give you more than you can bare? Like Peter, will you seek Jesus’ face above the raging waves? This is the path to peace, and the way to break free from worry.
At the beginning of the pandemic our church met outside on a smoke-filled day in California. That Sunday a young man preached, “Forget Not His Benefits” (Psalm 103:2). As a pastor’s wife I’m privileged to know some of the worrisome struggles this man has faced. And there he was preaching to us the way to peace.
While a raging California Wild Fire tore through our ranch, leaving us evacuated for 10 days and unsure if our home had survived. The Spirit kept reminding me to forget not God’s benefits.
When you are overcome with fear you must combat anxious thoughts by remembering all of the ways God has provided, protected and helped you.
4. Choosing the Wrong Friends
Friendship has certainly lost its meaning in the social media era. Anyone who confirms you as a friend gains access to you whenever they want. And somehow amassing numerous friends has become the presumed measure of our worth.
Thus, we are preoccupied with scrolling our screens while forgetting to build a sweet friendship with Christ. Proverbs 18:24 warns, “A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.”
Social media allows people to inundate you with strong opinions on a vast array of topics. Especially with the lockdown, it’s tempting to be virtually consumed with filling our God-given need for community.
Beware who you allow to influence your mind. If your friends regularly talk about what’s wrong in the world, and how anxious they are about tomorrow, they’ll take you down a path of worry.
Prepare yourself now to combat worry. Choose well your friends (see Ecclesiastes 4:9-12). Set a guard over your mind. Don’t be influenced by anxious friends. Determine to build relationships with people who will lift you up, point you to Christ, and pray for you when you share your fears.
Finally, be the type of friend who helps others combat worry with God’s Truth. Know scripture so well that when He gives you opportunity you’ll be able to share with others biblical accounts of God’s faithfulness. And know your own story. Take time to consider God’s goodness and be ready to give an account of His faithfulness in your own life, in history and in what He has promised will come to pass.
Let it begin with your, friend. Forget not His benefits. And pour courage into this generation who is desperate to believe that upon Jesus they can cast their cares––because He truly cares for them.
*This article first published at Crosswalk.com
“Rhonda’s Stories are riveting and funny,” says event planners. Rhonda Stoppe appears many times on Focus on the Family, Dr. James Dobson’s Family Talk and Family Life Today. Audiences will laugh & cry as they connect with Rhonda, an international Christian speaker & author of 6 books. Rhonda helps women break free from regrets, and helps them become more influential than they ever dreamed possible to live life with no regrets. Sign up for Rhonda’s Nurture Letters and receive a FREE GIFT! Visit NoRegretsWoman.com.