Let’s face it. Anyone who has emotions has experienced some form of anxiety this year. If you’ve not, please get in touch as I would like to know how the heck you haven’t! But for some, the anxiety and fear experienced hasn’t been to a level that would be considered ‘normal’ in these circumstances. I can safely say I am one of those people.
About 10 years ago, I was diagnosed with Anxiety. I don’t think it took too much to know something wasn’t right after a couple of years of going to the doctor two or three times a week, every week. No exaggeration. My anxiety is generalised, constant, (24 hours a day 7 days a week!) and extremely tiring but feels strongest around anything to do with health. So, you can image the havoc that a deadly global pandemic would wreak on anyone, let alone someone like me. Only about a week and half ago, I experience one of the worst anxiety attacks I’d had in a while, which included lots of shaking, crying, and throwing up.
If you’ve ever struggled with anxiety and have experiences like this, not only is it very distressing in the moment, but after your mind comes around, the difficulty is added to, when you feel depressed and disheartened about the fact that you’re so anxious and depressed. I have just released a series of prints called ‘Perfect Peace’ that are designed to encourage people to walk in peace with God, and here I am experiencing uncontrollable anxiety. How does that fit together?
There is huge freedom in understanding that despite overwhelming, sickening anxiety, God is still at work, and true peace, joy and hope are still possible. While I’ve experienced some of the worst anxiety I’ve had for years, I have also experienced the deepest, truest, most overwhelming peace I’ve ever known in my life. I want to share with you how God has made that possible, and I trust that if you’re feeling anxious, or living with clinical anxiety, it will encourage peace in your life even at the start of Lockdown 2.0!
You Have A Choice
Before the pandemic hit, I would say I delved into my bible and had a time of worship and prayer maybe once a month if that. Since the pandemic hit the UK, I pray constantly, I seek God daily through his word (well as daily as possible, lets be real, the odd day I don’t!), and I make sure at some point, a song of praise or worship is in my ears on my lips. Now, even as I write this, I shrink back into my chair in embarrassment at how that sounds. I am not bragging, I have nothing but God’s grace to boast about, so hear me out. I do it because I know in this moment, just how much I need God. My husband, has praised me for my change, but my response is always “I have no choice, if I didn’t, I’d be a hopeless heap on the floor!”
The truth is we do have a choice. A choice whether at this moment we will allow fear, anxiety, worry and stress to dominate, or whether we will let the truth of God’s goodness and His word, soak in our hearts and give us hope and peace. The choice is not whether you feel anxiety, the choice is what you do when you feel it. Clinical anxiety and mental health issues are far more complex, so at times we need help from medical professionals and those qualified to help treat these issues. But having clinical anxiety, I can very confidently say, I have still been able to find daily freedom from anxiety by the grace and love of God.
When I have anxiety attacks, I notice that in the steps leading up to it, I am dwelling on the stressors, the fears, the thoughts that are igniting anxiety in me rather that the truth of who God is in this situation. In the leadup, before anxiety builds up so much that it become uncontrollable, it’s important to make the choice to turn your eyes on Jesus. Even after moments of intense anxiety it’s still important to do the same as defence and preparation for future attacks.
These verses have been my mottos this year: “He will keep in perfect peace, the one whose mind depends on Him.” (Isaiah 26:3). “Peace I leave with you. My peace, I give to you. I do not give you as the world gives. Do not let your heart be troubled or fearful.” (John 14:27)
The peace of God is not mere momentary calm or tranquillity; it is eternal hope and truth. It’s ours to receive, but we must choose to seek after it in our heavenly father daily, hourly.
Specific Prayers And Powerful Scripture
Prayer is not only a means to ask, but a necessity for hope and peace. It says in Philippians 4:6 -7 “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
After I had my anxiety attack the other week, I remembered this verse in Philippians. So, I started to pray, “God, please give me peace. Amen.” After I finished praying, I thought, gosh that was a rubbish prayer! Now, I’m a huge advocate for quickfire prayers, and minimal Christian jargon, but in that moment I thought; God knows what is on my mind and in my heart, so why not be honest and specific. I prayed, “God, I know ultimately I’m anxious right now because I fear death. I’m not really sure if it’s right to ask you for a sign, but please show me that I have nothing to fear in death, and help me to be assured of the truth that I will be with you in glory. Amen.”
Immediately after I prayed, I opened my bible to read the passage for my devotional in John Ch. 15, but I landed on a page where I had highlighted John 14:1-6. This is what it said:
“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.”
It was like I could audibly hear Christ speaking these words to me, and an overwhelming peace and a sense of God’s love for me flooded over me like a wave. Prayer is powerful, so be specific and persistent when you can. The word of God is truth, so know it well. God can and will through the power of the Holy Spirit, bring freedom from anxiety. It may not be in the same way and is not likely to be in one instantaneous moment, but God knows what you and I need.
The need for prayer is constant. Even after I’ve had multiple experience when God speaks to me and answers my prayers so clearly, it is easy to forget, to be distracted, and overwhelmed by anxiety again and again. The battle is ongoing, so the prayer needs to be too.
Satan Attacks, God Promises
Like the Apple ad says, “There’s an app for that!” Well, ‘There’s a verse for that!’ There is no anxiety that I have faced, that hasn’t got scriptural truth that nips it in the bud. Satan knows that we are chosen, victorious, mighty in Christ, so his only option is to attack our peace, and distract us with fear, so that we won’t be effective and fruitful for the kingdom of God. His name is even derived from a verb meaning to obstruct or oppose. That’s why opening God’s word and knowing scripture is so important. So that when Satan tries to attack, we can obstruct his lies and accusations with truth. Now you might not be a big reader like me – it takes me a year to finish a book! But you can learn verses, read a short passage and dwell on its truth. Here are just a few anxious thoughts that have run through my mind, and powerful verses that have stopped fear in its tracks.
- How do you know you’ll make it to heaven when you die? You’re a sinner!
“Truly I tell you, anyone who hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not come under judgment but has passed from death to life” John 5:24
“There is therefore now, no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus”. Romans 1:8
- God is too mighty and far off to bother with my problems.
Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, so that he may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your cares on him, because he cares about you. 1 Peter 5:6-7
- I’m a weak anxious mess. I won’t be able to handle anything!
“For God has not given us the spirit of fear, but of love, power, and a sound mind.” 2 Timothy 1:7
“Have I not told you? Be strong and courageous, do not be afraid. The Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9
- I’m scared of what’s going to happen to me and my loved ones during this pandemic and in the future.
“We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28
“I will never leave you or forsake you.” Deuteronomy 51:6
Finally, Be Strong In The Lord
In this life we will have trouble. This is a truth that I still struggle to find peace with at times, but its truth. God is not surprised when we face trials in this life. Even through this pandemic that has caused so much fear, job loss, anxiety and even death, God is still in control, and the fact that He is good, and uses all things for our good, gives me great comfort. I may not understand it all, but God has called me to trust in Him, and share the gospel and that is what I will chose to do. When I think through my life of the things God has protected me from, I know I can trust him with my future.
He has called us to be strong in His mighty power, (Ephesians 6:10) because He has purpose for us here. He has purpose through the pain, and we have a calling. I challenge you as I challenge myself, not only to pray looking inward at your need, but pray for God to be glorified through your life.
Whether you are living with clinical anxiety, or experiencing fear and stress, I pray that by the power of the Holy Spirit, our helper, that we will trust and obey, pray continually, seek His word, and find freedom in Him daily.
“Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.”