Anxiety is one of the worst things I’ve ever experienced in my life. It is highly misunderstood by those who have not experienced it and can be incredibly difficult to describe, therefore, it is a very lonely place to find yourself.
The American Psychological Association define anxiety as an emotion characterized by feelings of tension, worried thoughts and physical changes like increased blood pressure. People with anxiety disorders usually have recurring intrusive thoughts or concerns. They may avoid certain situations out of worry. They may also have physical symptoms such as sweating, trembling, dizziness or a rapid heartbeat.
For me, anxiety came in the form of constant unease and unrest. My mind was always wondering “what if” and seemed to formulate the worst-case scenarios of every situation possible. I could never rest, I was always thinking, always on edge and never settled. All this comes with the physical symptoms of exhaustion, weakness and general malaise.
What is the opposite of anxiety? I believe it to be peace. Peace is not the absence of challenges BUT a state of calm within those challenges. Peace is what gives you the ability to sleep even when you are in the midst of an overwhelming issue. We see an example of this peace when Jesus and the disciples were in a boat and a storm arose. Now, Jesus was sleeping soundly through this storm, yet the disciples panicked and were even frustrated that Jesus was able to sleep. But why was He able to sleep? Because He was at peace knowing that the One in whom He believed (God) would keep and protect them in any circumstance.
Have you ever been so concerned about an issue and shared it with someone else only for them to say, “Oh that’s no big deal, don’t worry”? You might be left thinking ‘How can I NOT worry?!’ but, depending on the person you are speaking to, oftentimes they may be speaking from a place of peace. Peace that is so assured of the supernatural ability of God that they do not entertain worry, even in the slightest form.
I have battled anxiety in my life on many occasions, one time in particular was before I went back to university for the second time. I had previously dropped out due to issues with my mental health and now I was studying a new course at a new university (albeit the same town). My life had changed as I had accepted Christ, but I still had a way to go with dealing with my issues. The thought that constantly plagued my mind was, “What if it happens again?”, “What if you have to drop out of university again?”, “What if you have a setback and become depressed all over again?”. Avoiding university and entering the working world instead was the option that seemed easier and familiar. But I knew for the career path I was taking, I needed to get a degree.
I took the plunge and went to university – afraid, anxious and overwhelmed, I still went. Initially, I did not enjoy university at all because I was not living in a state of peace, my mind was so fixed on staying in control that I was, in fact, out of control. It was during this time that I realised, it was time to experience the peace that is available in Christ.
One scripture that reigns true from this period is Psalm 29:11
“The Lord gives strength to his people;
the Lord blesses his people with peace.”
The first thing to note from this scripture is that both strength and peace come from the Lord. Who is the Lord? He is the Almighty God in whom I believe and serve. He is the creator and giver of strength and peace therefore, if you try to look for it elsewhere, it won’t be authentic and true peace. I used to do this a lot, finding solace in other things other than God, like TV, people and other activities but these will only ever be temporary peace. True and real peace can only come from the Lord.
Another thing which struck me in this verse is the fact that God gives strength but then He blesses with peace. Is there a difference between giving and blessing? According to Cambridge dictionary, to give is to offer something to someone and to bless is to ask for God’s help for someone or something. My personal understanding of the difference here is that strength is something that is offered to us, whether or not we take it is up to us where as peace is something we are blessed with, it is bestowed upon us, supernaturally, through the Father. Therefore, it is readily available for us to walk in.
Practically speaking, what does this look like? It looks like being honest about our fears and anxieties but not becoming slave to them. Rather, we talk to God about them, we keep professing His peace that has been promised to us. It might not happen instantly, but the more you do this, the more you see His peace become real. Another thing to do is rationalise your anxieties – get a pen and paper and write down what is making you feel anxious then work out how to actively solve those problems. And always, always continue to pray.
I hope that you are encouraged. Know that you are stronger than you think, as it is said – you have lived through everyday thus far, you are a warrior even when you don’t feel like it. It is my heartfelt prayer that every person reading this will be free from the spirit of anxiety. I pray that Abba Father will comfort every anxious heart with his unending peace. You will overcome in Jesus’ name.