Anxiety. It’s the thing that no one wants to talk about, and yet 40 million adults in the United States alone have significant anxiety. That’s 18% of the US population.* We all feel anxious at some point or another, but this 18 percent experience it much more frequently and intensely than the rest of the population. Women are more likely to have anxiety than men. If you are a woman and then had a child or children, my guess is your anxiety probably got worse, not better. (If it got better, please tell me your secret!)
Being a mother can bring a unique set of worries into an already worried life. It can magnify existing worries. It can make life seem overwhelming at times. And yet, we rarely talk about anxiety with others or seek help. We can feel guilty, judged, ashamed, or weak if we bring up our struggles to another person. It can feel isolating. Lonely. Like everyone else is a better, happier, more carefree mother than you. I know because I’ve been there. I’ve had anxiety most of my life. It might not ever completely go away, and I try to accept that. But there are five things I’ve noticed that can make it more manageable.
In this mini devotional series, we’re going to look at five ways we can lessen anxiety and rest in the promises that God has in His Word for us.
The first way is when we: refocus, turning our mind back to God + His Word.
This is the one we’ll look at in Part One. The remaining four will each have their own part. Are you ready to dive in? Let’s begin!
(Or, pause right here if you need to! Each devotional will have “pauses,” good places to stop when you need to and jump back in when you can!)
Part One- Refocus: Turn Our Mind Back To God + His Word
There are so many things that can distract us from God and His Word. Anxiety itself is a huge distractor. Our minds want to ruminate on whatever the worry of the day (or month) is much more than it wants to meditate on the Word of God: What can I do about my child being bullied in school? Will we have enough money to pay the water bill? Will my test results be positive? Will I ever lose this baby weight? How do I help my sick mother? How will I manage this all?
Questions and worries can run through our mind day and night. They can snowball and get bigger and bigger until they feel out of control. When this happens, turning our mind back to God and His Word is crucial to break up our negative thoughts and help us fight our fears. The Bible is full of promises that can help us fight our fears, but if we are too consumed with worry to actually open the Bible and read them, they cannot help us! We have to practice turning our mind back to God, giving him our burdens, in the midst of our worry until it becomes a habit. This definitely takes practice. (We will fail, but we have to keep trying!)
Do you ever feel like your anxiety is closing in on you? David was one person in the Bible who had many worries, fears, and anxieties. He wrote beautiful Psalms of praise, to be sure. But many of the Psalms he wrote were about his enemies and the fear he felt as a result. In Psalm 55:4-5 he writes:
4 My heart is in anguish within me;
the terrors of death have fallen on me.
5 Fear and trembling have beset me;
horror has overwhelmed me.
He just wants to run away from it all (Have you ever felt like that? I know I have!) In this Psalm, he is in anguish over the betrayal of a sweet-talking friend. As he describes his betrayal, David brings the focus back to God, saying in verse 16:
As for me, I call to God,
and the Lord saves me.
And in verse 22:
Cast your cares on the Lord
and he will sustain you;
he will never let
the righteous be shaken.
Cast your cares. He will sustain. The Hebrew word for “cares” is yehab: “a lot, what is given.” Sometimes what life gives us is a major source of anxiety: illness, accidents, losses, setbacks. How many times do we try to carry these cares on our own? We are afraid to let them be carried by anyone else. We think that if we let someone else do the carrying, that person will “drop the ball.” But God never “drops the ball.” He is always faithful.
What is one worry (or several) that you are afraid to give to God? What would happen if you did?
(Pause right here if you need to and jump back in later when you can!)
Colossians 3:1-2 also talks about turning our minds and focus back to God:
1Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.
Paul goes on to talk about putting to death whatever belongs to our “earthly nature.” I know for me, anxiety definitely falls into that category. When I’m anxious, I’m not turning my mind to God and trusting Him. I have to continually remind myself to turn back to God, setting my mind on “heavenly things” instead of “earthly things” like my worries. One helpful reminder is to say, “I have no fear or anxiety, I trust in the Lord with all my heart.” Based on Proverbs 3:5, this is one of the daily affirmations that Stephen Furtick gives in his book Sun Stand Still. It may sound odd to say this, especially in the midst of a very anxious moment. However, saying this helps to refocus our mind on God when, like David, we are overwhelmed with anxiety.
What are some ways you can “set your mind on things above” instead of your worries?
Closing thoughts as you finish Part One:
We don’t often don’t have the long, uninterrupted quiet times that we desire. Or, if we do get a few minutes alone, we often just want to sleep, shower, or eat in peace! But today, if you have 10 minutes, challenge yourself to read Psalms 55 and/or Colossians 3 in their entirety. There are many other good truths in these chapters that are beyond the scope and topic of this devotional.
If you only have 5 minutes, write “I have no fear or anxiety, I trust in the Lord with all my heart” on a sticky note and put it somewhere where you will see it often. You may have many anxious thoughts throughout the day, but try with just one to pray about it and say, “I’m giving this burden to You, God. I’m turning my mind back to You, I’m not dwelling on earthly things. I trust in You with all my heart.”
Having anxiety is hard. Know that you are not alone and that God sees you and still loves you in the midst of your worries.
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* Statistic from: aada.org
All verses from the NIV translation, accessed from: http://www.biblegateway.com
“Yehab” definition from Strong’s Concordance, accessed from: http://biblehub.com/hebrew/3053.htm