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I’ve always been curious as to the stubbornness of my anxiety and sinful habits that nag away at me. I thought it a useful topic to discuss as we walk through this fabulous series on emotional healing.
I’ve mentioned my struggles with anxiety previously. Like many of us it’s been a regular companion for as long as I can remember. I’ve spent enough years of my life in counselors chairs that I figured it was something that would be with me all of my days. There was a self-defeatist sense of ‘oh well, it must just be part of what makes me, me.’ I know many others who struggle with it think similarly.
Some of you may be able to relate to this as you too have had anxiety as a companion or perhaps it’s some habitual ‘thing’ that just hangs around. You’ll have some days where it doesn’t make an appearance, others when it says ‘hi, don’t mind me, I’ll just sit over here,’ and other days when it just gets plain bossy and makes everything so much harder and, scarier, leaving you in despair.
“Help me, Jesus,” is a much-repeated cry on such days.
A Thorn or what?
We’re all familiar with Paul’s ‘thorn’ that he carried with him for most of his days. I know I’ve often resigned myself to thinking my anxiety is my ‘thorn’. But I’ve come to realise that’s a lie.
We talk a lot about the Devil and his role in continually badgering us. Remember John 10:10, he’s come to “steal, kill and destroy.” Yes, we’ve got a target on our backs and his aim is pretty good because he gets a lot of practice.
But it’s not just that enemy we have to contend with. There’s the “enemy within the camp.” Our flesh. I love this definition of the flesh I read recently which provided much insight:
“… the outlook orientated towards the self, that which pursues its own ends in self-sufficient independence from God.” (Anthony Thistleton)
There’s an internal battle going on inside us. Because of the rebellion that took place at the fall, there’s been an “enormous disruption in our human nature.”1 As Hewetson contends: “the body’s desires are entirely legitimate and simply doing what they were created to do. The evil lies in the fact that because of our failure to submit to God, these desires refuse to submit to us and rebel against their lowly position.”2
Hence, the longer we’ve lived with a particular habit or perception or way of thinking, the harder it is to dislodge it. And willpower won’t be sufficient to move it out altogether. We need supernatural help.
Over the past year I believe I’ve made some significant headway regarding my anxiety. One of the key steps was to acknowledge (and keep reminding myself) that God doesn’t want me to live with anxiety. It’s not in His plan. For me. Or anyone.
“Jesus came that we may have life, and that we may have it abundantly.” This is the flip side of John 10:10.
We can have confidence that in walking with Jesus we are “moving away from lingering imperfections toward more and more holiness.”3 The more we keep our focus on Jesus and the things above (Colossians 3:2) the stronger our protective walls become forcing the enemy to gradually retreat.
Another key consideration was understanding that I am a son of God. As I mentioned in my comment to Lynn’s post last week I knew this in my mind but it’s only really in the past year or so when I believe it’s sunk into my heart.
“Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.” (Prov 4:23 NLT)
The heart. We can rely too much on our minds and what we are thinking but God looks at the heart. He wants us to love Him with all of our heart … trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your understanding.
How do we get heart healthy in 2017? A few thoughts on what I’ve actively been doing these past 18 months or so that I believe have helped me get to where I am now.
1. Get moving
Not just exercise – do that. But actually be positive and take action. God uses us to implement His purposes for our lives. Think of all those great OT stories, eg, Abraham had to leave home, Noah had to build a boat, etc. My anxiety has many times stopped me from starting because “where should I go? what if it isn’t the right way? What if I do it wrong?” You get the gist.
Last year I moved forward by committing to an action that I’d put off for years. Why had I put it off? Pride and fear.
I’m so pleased now that I stepped out as it has definitely helped me. Stepping out does take courage and having someone close who can encourage you, move with you even, is a good way to help take that step.
The greatest counter measure to fear is to start something.
2. Get into the Word
You’re probably tired of me saying this but golly gosh, falling in love with the Word has changed my life. The Word is a lifeline, an instruction manual, a love story, a magnificent mystery, and a supernatural book. And it’s a person.
“… but be transformed by the renewing of your mind …” (Rom 12:2)
Getting the truth into our hearts truly is a strong weapon against those perceptions or deceptions that we’ve carried around with us for too long.
3. Guard your heart
We need to put a gate against all the negatives that can infect our hearts. Many of us struggle with such negatives in our marriages. The enemy uses offense to weaken Christians. Offense can bubble away inside us for years. Our pride will encourage it to convince us we are justified in feeling such and such. And then before we know it relationships are strained. Forgiveness is a powerful weapon against offense.
Like many of us being actively involved in church happenings has been a challenge for me. But I also enjoyed being anonymous as it made it easy for me to stay uninvolved. Last year I was asked to increase my engagement in a couple of different groups. I’ve been so blessed by both and have seen my faith and love for Jesus grow as a result.
I was reminded only today of what Acts said about the first church:
“And they devoted themselves to the Apostles teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles.” (Acts 2:42-43)
God loves community. He knows it’s good for us. I’ve been a laggard for too long and used my situation to stay in the shadows.
I’ve still got a long way to go. Anxiety pops its head up most days to remind me it’s only a few thoughts away from jumping back in. And yes, they’ve still been some tough days but I’m filled with far more hope and confidence than I was previously.
“Finding fulfillment in God is the most powerful antidote to any sin.” (Gary Thomas). Keep fixing your eyes on Jesus.
Grace and peace, dear friends. I do apologise for the too long a post. Thank you for persisting. May 2017 be a great year where we all experience release from the “stuff” that has vexed us.
Notes: 1. “Good For You. The Extraordinary life of the Ordinary Christian”, Canon David Hewetson, Barton Books, 2015. Pg25. 2. Ibid. pg 26. 3. “Taste and See. Savoring the Supremacy of God in All of Life.” John Piper. Multnomah Books, 2005. Pg100 Referencing Hebrews 10:14 NASB