Though every person experiences anxiety in some way, some of us experience anxiety in more severe ways that affect daily living. I am naturally bent towards worry and it lends itself into a lot of anxiety. I have even experienced anxiety attacks. Now, before recognizing I was experiencing anxiety, I just thought I was sensitive. My view was that Christians are to go to God for rest, and we shouldn’t have a problem with anxiety at all. You may know the verses like the ones below.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
Peace is what I leave with you; it is my own peace that I give you. I do not give it as the world does. Do not be worried and upset; do not be afraid. John 14:27
Anxiety Profits Nothing
We, especially those who wrestle with anxiety, may memorize Scriptures and post those of trusting God where we can see them. We are to always set truth before us, and His promises will not fail. Still, I can say that posting a verse on a wall will not make anxiety disappear. I do support Memory/Scripture boards. I have one right next to my bed and the first card I see as I turn my head is one of my favorites by Charles Spurgeon,“Anxiety does not empty tomorrow of its sorrows, but only empties today of its strength.”
Anxiety does not profit us anything. It really is a thief of the strength we have for the things of today. I personally sway more towards social anxiety. Many don’t know this. I was once told by someone that they thought I was extroverted. I laughed because that is super hilarious! I am far from it.
You Can't Change Feelings
for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.
2 Timothy 1:7
Though I used to blame my personality trait of an introvert as my reason for retreating, a lot of it was also shyness. God has not given us the spirit of timidity, but I feel timid sometimes. And I don’t know if you have tried, but you can’t change your feelings. Though this is true, we cannot allow our feeling to control us. We have a choice. We are not at the mercy of our feelings, though anxiety feels overwhelming. Elisabeth Elliot wrote,
“The difficulty is to keep a tight reign on our emotions. They may remain, but it is not they who are to rule the action. They have no authority. A life lived in God is not lived on the plane of the feelings, but the will.”
The Root of Unbelief
When experiencing anxiety, we may not be able to make the emotion go away, but we can choose to make decisions under God’s authority, even in the presence of the anxiety.
Anxiety, in general, is unbelief. We do not trust that God is going to ‘be for us’ and ‘work for our good.’ We feel the overwhelming pressure on ourselves and feel unable to perform or do whatever is before us. We need to humble ourselves and trust in God’s love for us. As our Father, He will love us well! Also, as our King, He will love us in His authority!
Social Anxiety and Courage
For those who struggle more with social shyness, it is helpful to take our eyes off of ourselves. When you walk into a room, try not to be ‘self-focused.’ Look at ways to communicate with and serve others. Treat others as more significant than you and seek to focus on those you are talking with. Guard against becoming introspective.
This takes courage. It is not easy by any means, but Christ will enable us, and we must lean on Him and not our strength. I used to try to make my anxiety and fear go away, and that is when the anxiety attacks come. When you keep stuffing down what is obviously present, it will make itself known eventually, even without your consent.
The key is to continue on even with whatever negative emotion you may have. I am helped by what Jon Bloom said,
“Courage is not the absence of the emotion of fear, but the resolve to obey despite what we feel. Exercise your trust in God by stepping out in obedience…Trusting God is safe; fearing man is not (Proverbs 29:25). God usually teaches us this through the hard lesson of obeying in spite of feeling afraid.”
That is one worth putting on a wall!
What about when the feelings have taken over and you are past the ability to 'will?'
One thing I have learned is to remove myself from the situation- Maybe go to a bathroom or outside. When we are severely anxious, our bodies go into ‘fight or flight’ mode and so our breathing increases. Try to intentionally slow your breathing; slowly breathing in and slowly breathing out while counting each breath. As I said before, trying to ‘escape' the anxiety doesn’t work. Let yourself feel the anxiety.
Talk to Yourself
Tell yourself, “I am experiencing anxiety right now. I am safe and these are feeling I am experiencing in my body. These will pass.” This separates you from the anxiety. You become a person experiencing overwhelming anxiety, but you are not anxiety itself.
Also, ground yourself. Feel your feet on the ground. Touch something that has texture, bring your awareness to where you are. Count how many green things you see (it can be any color). This gets you out of your head and into reality.
Prepare in Advance
Outside of that, realize this is your tendency and prepare in advance. Load up on helpful verses, quiet yourself before the Lord daily and find peace in Him. In reality, we have no reason to fear. God is good. He is in control. He is your Father, and He will always be with you!
Share in the comments your experience with anxiety and what has helped you.
I have an anxiety sheet for you with verses and helpful tips for times of high stress. Click here to get it!