Wrestling With Anxiety

In 1930, Writer John Maynard Keynes thought machines of the future would be of such benefit to people in the 2000s that the problem wouldn’t be “How will I ever get it all done?” but rather, “What will we do with all our free time?”

Unfortunately, this is not the case. In fact, Newsweek magazine recently reported the real problem is that stress, anxiety and depression are at an all-time high.

“Cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you. (I Peter 5:7 NRSV, emphasis added)”

Yeah, that’s a toughie for sure.

All” our anxiety. Well, that’s the goal, but the Lord created us, and He knows how difficult this is for some of us to do. The Bible says, “be perfect, as your father in heaven is perfect (Matthew 5:48),” but God knows we’ll never be perfect. Likewise, He knows some of us have great difficulty casting ALL our anxiety on Him, but that is our ambition.

That’s what we strive for.

While Jesus walked the Earth, He knew how important it was to have alone time, meditate and recharge your batteries. The Bible mentions times when He needed to be alone, and then there’s this interesting passage in Mark:

“There was such a swirl of activity around Jesus, with so many people coming and going, that they were unable to even eat a meal. So Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Come, let’s take a break and find a secluded place where you can rest a while.’ (Mark 6:31-33 The Passion Translation, TPT, emphasis added)”

In case you’ve thought of anxiety as nothing more than a bit of nervousness about a situation, please see the following, taken from the Anxiety Centre website:

Symptoms of an anxiety attack can include:

  • A feeling of overwhelming fear
  • Feeling of going crazy or losing control
  • Feeling you are in grave danger
  • Feeling you might pass out
  • A surge of doom and gloom
  • An urgency to escape
  • Dizziness
  • Heart Palpitations
  • Trembling
  • Sweating
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pressure or pain
  • Turning pale
  • Feeling detached from reality
  • Weak in the knees
  • Burning skin
  • Pins and needles
  • Hot and cold flushes
  • Numbness and tingling sensations

(Source: https://www.anxietycentre.com/anxiety-attack-symptoms.shtml)

That’s pretty heavy.

My son-in-law, Josh, struggles with anxiety. When he first married my daughter, I overheard someone say that “anxiety is learned behavior from the parents,” and is “a choice.”

While the comments bothered me, I realized this opinion stems from ignorance of anxiety as a mental ailment. It may be viewed as “weakness” by some, but the fact is millions of people battle anxiety on a daily basis, and given the choice, would prefer NOT to suffer in this manner. My son, Trey, once had an anxiety attack when he was studying fire science in college. They had him crawling through a tube in which he could barely fit, and half-way through he had a panic attack.

“I didn’t think I’d ever make it out of that stupid tube,” Trey told his mama and me later that day. “It was terrible. I couldn’t breathe, my heart sped up, my chest started hurting and I literally felt like I was going to die. I had visions of me dying and of them pulling my dead body out, with you guys standing there freaking out. It was the worst thing I’ve ever experienced.”

That helped him change his view on anxiety a bit, for sure.

But I don’t think God wants us to be victims, either. Trey fought his way out of that “stupid tube.” We have to fight; we can’t just sit back and ACCEPT it as “fact.”

When I was doing my devotions earlier today I stumbled on a passage I’d read many times before, but this time, something interesting jumped out at me.

“As Jesus and the disciples continued on their journey, they came to a village where a woman welcomed Jesus into her home. Her name was Martha and she had a sister named Mary. Mary sat down attentively before the Master, absorbing every revelation he shared. But Martha became exasperated by finishing the numerous household chores in preparation for her guests, so she interrupted Jesus and said, ‘Lord, don’t you think it’s unfair that my sister left me to do all the work by myself? You should tell her to get up and help me.’

“The Lord answered her, ‘Martha, my beloved Martha. Why are you upset and troubled, pulled away by all these many distractions? Are they really that important? Mary has discovered the one thing most important by choosing to sit at my feet. She is undistracted, and I won’t take this privilege from her.’ (Luke 10:38-42 TPT)”

I’d read this many times before, but it was Martha’s “exasperating” which stood out this time. So I looked at other translations of the Bible, to see how they explained Martha’s reaction.

The King James Version (KJV) says “Martha was cumbered.Cumbered means, “to be hindered, hampered, overloaded, burdened, inconvenienced or troubled.”

The Living Bible (TLB) says “Martha was the jittery type (my personal favorite).”

The VOICE Bible translation says “Martha was anxious.”

The New Matthew Bible (NMB) says “Martha was distracted.”

The Contemporary English Version (CEV) says “Martha was worried about all that had to be done.”

The Good News Translation (GNT) says “Martha was upset.”

The International Standard Version (ISV) says “Martha was worrying about all the things she had to do.”

The New Testament for Everyone (NTE) says “Martha was frantic.”

In verses 41 and 42 of The Message we read, “The Master said, ‘Martha, dear Martha, you’re fussing far too much and getting yourself worked up over nothing. One thing only is essential, and Mary has chosen it—it’s the main course, and won’t be taken from her.’ (emphasis added)”

While anxiety may be real, many times we get ourselves “worked up over nothing.” Martha was so busy doing STUFF for God, she lost sight of the fact that her first priority was to rest at the feet of Jesus.

I experienced this as a young man when I worked at a small church as the Assistant Youth Pastor, Youth Activity Director and Assistant Sunday School Teacher. I was so busy working for the Lord that I allowed myself to get depleted of God Himself. I was giving, giving, giving, and took no time to relax and receive comfort from the Lord and others.

So how do we relate Martha’s anxiety to our lives? I’ve scribbled down a few things I use to try and stay focused and keep the anxiety to a minimum:

  1. Realize you are NOT ALONE – Josh would tell you, you’re not a freak! This is extremely common, so don’t think badly about yourself if you slip into fits of anxiety sometimes. You have enough to deal with in fighting anxiousness; don’t add regret and self-loathing to the list!
  2. Meditate – I’ve mentioned this several times, but I find my meditation time ESSENTIAL for better mental health. It helps me to forget about everything around me, and completely soothes my frayed ends.
  3. Calm your mind and slow your breathing – I dealt with this just last night in trying to help my grandson calm down when he was upset about his mom not being there when he went to bed. She works overnights, and he began crying, saying he wanted his mommy. The first thing I did was say, “Ok, Joshy, slow down and breathe. Calm down, wipe your tears, and breathe in your nose and out your mouth.” This simple trick helped him calm down so I could address the real problem.
  4. Learn, Grow, Study – I think it’s imperative we continue to study and grow, as opposed to remaining stagnant. Knowledge IS power, after all.
  5. Seek out like-minded friends – Don’t keep people in your inner circle who will drag you down or make you feel bad about yourself.
  6. Schedule time to CUT LOOSE – Life is hectic, so you have to pencil in leisure time. Schedule time on your calendar to have FUN. Like when our family went to an amusement park a few months ago (picture below). Josh threw caution to the wind and had some fun with Trey and my daughter.

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  1. Give your whole life to Jesus, holding nothing back – As you press into Christ, you will feel your faith grow to epic, scary proportions! You’ll find yourself serving God with abandon, trusting Him fully, no matter how crazy things seem to get. There’s something liberating about giving the Lord COMPLETE control and letting go of the reigns.

Anxiety is a real issue, but it’s manageable if you’re willing to put in the work.

Remember, your goal is to be a champion, not a victim!

Blessings.

3 thoughts on “Wrestling With Anxiety

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