We live in an anxious world right now. And I am very familiar with anxiety. I have lived with it all of my life.
I was a shy unconfident child, afraid that I wouldn’t be loved if I wasn’t perfect (which of course I wasn’t). Panic attacks took hold in times of change – starting university, moving away to get married – and merged with hyperemesis gravidarum both times I was pregnant. And it’s been an integral part of every depressive episode I’ve had.
Yes, I know anxiety.
I think it will always be something I have a tendency towards. But over time, and especially recently, I’ve come a long way in learning to manage it. So here’s some of the things I’ve learned and maybe they’ll help you in coping with our current world crisis:
We think that the opposite of anxiety is peace or calm. But it’s not. The antidote to anxiety is trust.
The thing about anxiety is that it happens when we are shocked into realising that there are things we cannot control. And for some of us, control is what gives us our security. So it’s earthquakingly horrifying to discover this isn’t true. And against all our instincts not to fight against this, not to try and find something in the situation we can control.
So the first step is to remember Who is in control.
Now it’s one thing to realise that we are not in control, that we are not, in fact, God. But it’s another to move beyond this and feel ok about not being in control.
And that’s where trust comes in.
We have to know someone to trust them. When we are on a long journey, I can fall asleep with my husband driving – I know how good his driving is; I know he loves me and will do anything to look after me; I trust him with my life. That’s what we need with God.
So I have found the way to cope with anxiety is fourfold:
1. Acknowledge what is worrying or frightening me
2. Remember alongside all the things I am thankful for
3. List what this God who loves me and mine is like
4. Put my concerns in His hands
I usually do this by writing in my prayer journal. It seems to contain the worries that way and helps me see the real balance of good and bad in my life. Then it gives me evidence I can go back to later of Who God is. And then I picture placing whatever or whoever it is into God’s big hands. Sometimes during the day, if I start to feel overwhelmed, I simply pray ‘In Your hands, Lord.’
I’m not saying this is a lesson easily or fully learned. It takes frequent practice. But I’m working towards it becoming a habit.
I’ve found it’s also worth remembering that God’s version of being in control might not be ours. He sees a bigger picture that is beyond our vision. And His promise is not to take away difficulties but to walk through them with us.
But He loves us and His hands are big enough to hold the whole world. So let’s take our anxieties and use them to give us even more reasons to trust Him and love Him more.