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I’ve dealt with anxiety my entire life. As a kid I used to become physically ill before school due to being so nervous. I’ve had panic attacks frequently through my life. And I’ve had to muscle my way through postpartum depression and anxiety. I’ve had to become an unwilling expert in the world of anxiety. When I became a Christian at 14, I found the perfect solution in managing anxiety in Jesus. When I met the God of Peace, I found the perfect coping mechanism. Unfortunately, I also met other Christians who had some misguided beliefs on what dealing with anxiety from a Christian worldview should be like.
I know how incredibly hard it is for someone dealing with chronic anxiety as a Christian. Not only are you dealing with the anxiety itself, but you’re fighting against a larger stigma towards mental health in the church. For a long time, having mental health struggles was viewed as a reflection of your right standing with God, but is it really? It may be audacious to think this way, but I believe the Bible speaks the exact opposite.
So what does the Bible say about anxiety? How do we deal with it in a healthy, holistic, Christ-like approach? Are we really just steeped in sin if we deal with anxiety on a daily basis, or have we just been gaslighted to feel that way by people who have no concept of what it’s like to deal with a chronic mental illness?
Anxiety Facts To Remember
When we talk about anxiety, it’s important for us to remember some facts, such as the following:
- Anxiety is the most commonly reported mental health issue.
- Anxiety is more than just “being worried,” and can be a full blown mental health disorder. These disorders being generalized anxiety disorder, panic disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, social anxiety disorder, and many others.
- Anxiety has a load of symptoms such as having a persistent feeling of worry, persistent fearful thoughts, hyper-fixations on negative thoughts, and many others you can find listed here.
- There is not always a noticeable cause to anxiety. For many it is truly a chronic mental health disorder. Though most people will experience a stray anxious thought from time to time, about 20% of people experience them chronically. Meaning that we’re not just being anxious for the sake of being anxious. It is a chronic state of mind that takes a lot of work to undo.
- A whopping 31.9% of teens between the age of 13-18 have an anxiety disorder.
As Christians, when we keep these things in mind, we have more grace and mercy towards those who battle these things on a daily basis. I can say from experience that nobody wakes up in the morning and says, “today is a great day to have some panic attacks and spiraling negative thoughts.” With that in mind, how can we deal with anxiety as Christians?
Stop Gaslighting Yourself
I’ve heard a myriad of bad advice about dealing with anxiety from a Christian perspective. One way being to use scripture as a way to talk yourself out of your feelings, or to shame your anxious thoughts with scripture. “Be anxious for nothing” has been used as a weapon against Christians with mental health disorders for a very long time. Many Christians with anxiety have been told they have a “lack of faith” because of their anxiety. Those are just a couple examples of how others in Christian leadership have gaslit those with mental health disorders. Often those of us with this struggle have internalized that terrible advice to the point that when we experience anxiety, we convince ourselves it’s nothing. Research shows that when we gaslight ourselves out of our anxious thoughts, they are likely to manifest later as physical symptoms. Simply put, convincing ourselves nothing is wrong, even if it’s with scripture, doesn’t work.
The first step in achieving actual peace of mind is by realizing there is a problem. Those who have experienced alcoholism or drug addiction would attest to that truth. The first thing you need to do to overcome anxiety as a Christian is acknowledge that you’re dealing with anxiety.
Understand Having An Anxiety Disorder Is NOT A Sin, But A Condition Of Living In A Fallen World
For goodness sakes, can we please quit telling those with mental health issues that their struggle exists because they’re in sin? There is literally zero evidence of that in scripture. In fact, there is substantial evidence in God’s word that those who struggle with anxiety will find comfort in God.
Once upon a time, before sin was a thing, there was no such thing as anxiety. What was there to even be anxious of? Everything was provided for, we had eternal life, we had God’s presence always with us in perfect form, all was good! But thanks to the fall of man, we now have to get through a myriad of stressful situations. Having anxiety is not a reflection on your spiritual standing with God. You were made to be in communion with Him. You were made to live in His presence. Having a chemical imbalance in your brain doesn’t disqualify you from the presence of God.
So give yourself some grace. Your feelings of anxiety aren’t happening because you’re some kind of failure. They’re happening as a byproduct of the fall of man. And just as God’s presence was with Adam and Eve, it is with you too. The God of Peace didn’t hang his hat after the fruit was eaten. He sent Jesus Christ as our sacrifice for our sin, so we may live in total peace with God. There is NOTHING you can do to be rid of that.
Take comfort in the Good News of the Gospel. Because your anxiety issues don’t disqualify you from God.
Don’t Try To Muscle Through The Anxiety Alone
Yes, God’s presence is always with you in the fight against anxiety, and you should absolutely hang onto that. But we were not meant to deal with this alone. Getting professional help is the best thing you can do for any mental health struggle. Cognitive behavioral therapy is a proven practice for treating anxiety. Through cognitive behavioral therapy, also sometimes referred to as CBT, you learn different ways to cope with anxiety in your everyday life. You learn practical steps to manage your anxiety through various lifestyle changes. You also just get a person to talk to. Many churches offer small group settings for discussion and coping with mental illness as well. Don’t forsake going to a church, especially one with a healthy view of mental health. In fact, many churches offer mental health services at a lesser cost than through private practices or insurance. You can also speak to your family doctor about getting help.
Of course you’ll have God’s help through anxiety, but we were never meant to shoulder this alone.
If you’re in need of finding therapy services, at the end of this article I’ve posted a couple of great resources for mental health services you can check out.
Surround Yourself With People Who Have A Healthy View Of Mental Health
If you’re attending a church, or surrounded by other Christians who make habit of gaslighting your mental healthy struggles or others, then it’s time to find new people. A good christian friend, or just a good friend in general, isn’t going to make you feel like garbage for feeling like garbage.
Take a look at what social media accounts you’re following as well. Do the accounts you’re following help you in your walk with Christ and mental health, or do they harm you? Social media can be a powerful tool in advocacy for mental health, but when we fall into “doomscrolling” habits, it can actually make things worse. Who you surround yourself with isn’t just important for our in-person interactions, but our internet interactions as well.
If you’re looking for what makes a good friend, take a look at the book of Proverbs. There are so many bible verses in Proverbs that outline what to look for in a good friend. Here’s just a couple examples:
- Proverbs 17:17 – “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity.”
- Proverbs 27:9 – “Perfume and incense bring joy to the heart, and the pleasantness of a friend springs from their heartfelt advice.”
So take an inventory of the people you surround yourself with. Are they genuinely helping you and guiding you through your struggle? Or are they downplaying it or ignoring it? Is the church you’re attending preaching that mental illness exists because if sin in your heart? If you were to bring up your struggles to your pastor or friends, what kind of advice would they give? Would they validate your struggle and attempt to comfort you, or would they tell you what your shortcomings are and use platitudes to brush over the problem?
Cast Your Cares, Because He Cares For You.
Finally, when dealing with anxiety in biblical ways, we have to always remember who is on our side. The Lord is for us in our daily struggles with mental illness. Though some would like to think that our struggle is a sign of being distant from God, it is in fact the opposite. He is near to the brokenhearted (Psalm 34:18). One of my favorite verses in 1 Peter says to cast our cares on the Lord because He cares for you (1 Peter 5:7). We have a Heavenly Father who cares about us. That alone is the truth we cling to when we fight this war in our mind.
When we read scriptures that sound like condemnation to the anxious, such as “be anxious for nothing,” we need to remember to read the entire passage in context. The context of the scripture in question (Philippians 4:6-7) “do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Though some would like to use that as a weapon against the anxious, I actually see it as the opposite.
God is telling you that you can talk to him! Us overly anxious types like to keep our anxieties locked up. God is telling you to reveal them to Him! Give them to Him, and he will give you peace! To put it simply, anxiety dies in the light. Those dark, irrational thoughts that keep you up at night die in the light of God’s word. So speak them to the Lord, and allow His peace to come to you.
Resources on Dealing With Anxiety
If you are struggling with anxiety and are in need of resources, here are a few to get you started:
Mental Health Services
- Betterhelp– Is an online therapy service that makes therapy accessible and affordable for all people. They have a huge database of therapist with many specialties, and offer many ways to participate in therapy.
- Faithful Counseling– Is very similar to Betterhelp, but is a database of online Christian therapists. If you would prefer to receive therapy from a faith-based perspective, then this could be just for you.
Mental Health Advocacy Organizations
- Anxiety and Despression Association of America – Provides a database of therapists in your area, and provides support groups for those suffering with anxiety and/or depression. They also have lots of specific information on varying mental health disorders which were cited throughout this article.
- Substance Abuse And Mental Health Services Administration – SAMHSA’s National Helpline is a free, confidential, 24/7, 365-day-a-year treatment referral and information service (in English and Spanish) for individuals and families facing mental and/or substance use disorders. 1-800-662-HELP (4357)
- “Emotionally Healthy Spirituality” by Peter Scazzero
- “Depression, Anxiety, and Other Things We Don’t Want to Talk About” – by Ryan Casey Walter
Articles from The Overcoming Mom
I have written a TON of blog posts about managing anxiety. Here’s just a few:
- What Every Mom Needs To Know About Panic Attacks
- 20 Christian Affirmations For Overcoming Anxiety
- 7 Ways To Calm Your Anxiety Right Now
- 5 Things You Need To Do When Dealing With Anxiety
- 9 Phrases To Never Say To Someone With Anxiety
- 6 Tips for Conquering Anxiety As A New Mom
- 10 Bible Scriptures For Overcoming Anxiety