At the age of five, I was introduced to fear and anxiety. Before this age, my biggest worries included crying when my mom went to work or laughing so hard I peed my pants at school. But by the time dread and tension knocked on my door, I realized that scary things weren't ghosts that go "boo" in the night, but real spiritual forces at work around us — and the stressors of life were much more than having an accident in the classroom.
Growing up in a Christian home, I was taught to follow the Lord at an early age. However, when Christ entered my life at age eight, that didn't mean the road ahead would be easy. I learned to know how addictions can break a family through my siblings' compulsions. I felt my share of heartbreak when my father got diagnosed with chronic pain and began to wither before my eyes.
As a coping mechanism for control, I tried to deal with my fear and anxiety any way I knew how. I developed an eating disorder and orthorexia and believed that if perfection and power reigned in my life, I would have an effective plan in place. At age 21, those walls came crashing down, and the Lord spoke to my heart. So how do we truly gain freedom from our fears and anxieties?
Photo Credit: © iStock/Getty Images Plus/kevron2001
1. Identify Your Core Beliefs
By the time I was knee-deep in fear and anxiety, I can now see the ingrained patterns of beliefs that got me to where I am today.
As I grew, I did not realize that what I absorbed mentally would affect me physically, socially, emotionally, and intellectually for the rest of my life. At 25, I am just now learning to identify what my counselor calls "core beliefs."
Because anxiety and fear entered my life at such an early age, the trauma I have experienced runs deeper than the surface. While I did have a predisposition from inheriting genetic anxiety from my parents, biological, psychological, and sociological factors made it difficult for me to understand, let alone deal with it, properly.
To combat these vices, try identifying things you believe about yourself, the world, and others. Scripture tells us in Philippians 4 to think only on sound, pure, lovely, and honorable things. By identifying negatively-rooted core beliefs, it will become much easier to tear down the lies eating your soul.
"Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you." (Philippians 4:8-9, NIV)
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2. Shift Your Focus (Re-Frame)
Once we have identified what we believe and why we think it, it becomes easier to toss the lies and replace them with God's truth. Especially when fear and anxiety come knocking on our doors, it's crucial to recognize worry or despair talking.
At the height of my struggles, it was impossible to tell the difference between my voice and the enemy's. Everything I heard in my mind, whether it was my tongue or not, I believed, and that's dangerous thinking.
Instead of automatically assuming every concern or worry you have is valid, or every thought factual, take the time to shift your focus and reframe the situation. Taking our eyes off the problem and on Jesus reminds us that no matter the circumstance, He is more excellent.
This is why 2 Corinthians 4:18 tells us in the NLT, "We do not look at the things that can be seen. We look at the things that cannot be seen. The things that can be seen will come to an end. But the things that cannot be seen will last forever" (2 Corinthians 4:18, NLT).
Looking to Jesus, we can then ask Him to help us reframe the problem or matter at hand. Instead of thinking "I have to be in control" or "I'm never going to get married," for example, avoid accusatory and indefinite statements. "I have to be in control" can be replaced with "I can safely let go of some control." Seeing the situation in another light and turning it into an adaptive, rather than negative, view will enable you to deal with emotions more appropriately.
3. Write It Out
Finally, after we've identified our core beliefs causing fear and anxiety, and have learned to give them to Jesus so we can reframe the situation, it's time to write it out. Although I might be a bit biased as a writer, writing things down helps us process better and write our words as prayers to the Lord.
Romans 5:8 is one of many passages of Scripture that remind us the Lord always wants to hear from us, even when we're messy and broken.
"But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us." (Romans 5:8, ESV)
Even amid the chaos of anxiety and fear, God desires so much more for us, including a sound mind. He who thinks wonders about you wants you to believe wonders about yourself.
"Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed. And in Your book they all were written, the days fashioned for me, when as yet there were none of them. How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God! How great is the sum of them!" (Psalm 139:16-17, NKJV)
The more we seek to know the Lord, the more profound we will know and understand ourselves accurately. Even if we have to slay the giants of fear and anxiety first to gain accurate perception, the 2020 vision will be worth it.
"Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent." (John 17:3, NIV)
Photo Credit: © Unsplash/Hannah Olinger
Originally published Tuesday, 01 June 2021.