As a Christian woman, how often do you find yourself feeling a bit anxious? How often do you find yourself experiencing a severe case of anxiety? How do you handle it when those feelings arise?
Some of the most googled questions about anxiety include:
- What triggers anxiety?
- What are coping skills for anxiety?
- How do I deal with anxiety without medication?
- How do I stop anxious thoughts?
- Can I overcome anxiety with God?
In this post, we will dive into Scripture and look at 5 essential ways to deal with anxiety as a Christian.
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How to Deal With Anxiety
As Christians, we should always look to the Bible as our governing authority for everything in order to be equipped with how to deal with the things of life the way God wants us to. And that includes anxiety.
If you haven’t already, be sure to read the first part of this post series entitled 6 Key Things the Bible Says About Anxiety, which will equip you with biblical truth regarding anxiety, and how Christians should approach the subject.
Anxiety falls under the mental health category, and therefore has several scientific and medical coping methods that can be applied universally; some of which we will discuss in this post. However, from a biblical perspective, there are also key differences in how we as Christians should deal with anxiety compared to non-Christians.
So, let’s take a look at five essential ways to deal with anxiety as a Christian.
1. Identify What Triggers Your Anxiety
Medically, there are root causes to anxiety, such as environmental stressors, genetics, brain chemistry, and even withdrawal from illicit substances.
However, as Christians, we know from a biblical perspective that the root cause of every issue or problem of mankind is sin. And as the result of our sinful nature, which is corrupted with unbelief in our hearts and minds, we experience the effects of sin daily, which includes anxiety.
- Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned. Romans 5:12 NIV
- Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me. Psalm 51:5 NIV
- Anxiety in a man’s heart weighs him down. Proverbs 12:25a ESV
While sin is the root cause of everyone’s anxiety, the symptoms, triggers, and effective coping strategies can differ amongst individuals. The question is, do you know what your anxiety triggers are?
Is it a person, conflict in a relationship, watching the news, specific music or TV shows, social media, a certain place or environment, a smell, or social events? Is it negative thoughts, comparing yourself with others, financial concerns, a rebellious child, a nosy neighbor, or meddling in-laws? Or maybe it’s an upsetting health diagnosis, a phobia, frustration at work, sudden life changes, past guilt, or sexual frustration.
Whatever it is that triggers your anxiety (and it may be a combination of things), you must identify it.
Becoming more aware of what triggers your anxiety is a good starting point to help you acknowledge, understand, and evaluate your feelings, so that you can make intentional choices about shifting them. Depending on what your triggers are, there are times where simply learning to avoid them for a period of time, or cutting them out of your life altogether, could in fact alleviate a lot of your anxiety.
You may need to stop watching the news for a month, deactivate your social media accounts, end a friendship with someone who is always negative, get out of a verbally abusive relationship, change the type of music you listen to, or learn to say “no” to certain invitations.
Identifying anxiety triggers may take time, but it’s a vital step when it comes to dealing with your anxiety. One thing that may be helpful is monitoring your thoughts and starting a journal where you write down when your anxiety is noticeable. Record what you think might have led to the trigger. Be patient with yourself and be willing to explore things in your past to identify how they may still be affecting you today.
Once you have identified to the best of your ability what triggers your anxiety (and even if you can’t identify them right away), the first place we are to go to for help is God!
2. Go to God About Your Anxiety
Scripture teaches that God wants us to go to Him about our anxiety:
- “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30 NIV
- Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. 1 Peter 5:6-7 NIV
- Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous be shaken. Psalm 55:22 NIV
It may sound basic and simple like some Christian cliché, but the fact of the matter is that true rest for our hearts/minds is ONLY found in Jesus. The good news is that, as Christians, we have that rest through our relationship with Him already! However, we must keep going to Him to reap the ongoing benefits of that rest.
When we continuously go to God with our anxieties and learn to trust in Him from a heart posture of humility that recognizes that He is both sovereign and good, then we will enjoy the rest He provides.
Going to God about our anxiety isn’t about pretending that our anxiety isn’t real or serious. Rather, it’s about learning how to run to Him in prayer and seeking Him through His Word when our anxiety is triggered. It’s about being honest with God about our feelings, frustrations, and fears, and asking Him for help. It’s about analyzing our triggers and seeing what the Word of God has to say about them.
Sometimes, I don’t think we realize that being able to give every one of our anxieties to God is a privilege that ONLY Christians can enjoy. He does not want us to allow anything to disrupt the rest He has for us.
I know that sometimes when we are overly stressed or anxious, it can be hard to spend time in God’s presence. We may get easily distracted, find it hard to retain what we’re reading in the Bible, or may not even want to spend time with God. But the godly opposite of anxiety is peace and contentment rooted in trust in God’s Word. And that is what God wants for us.
I promise, that the more we practice going to God with our anxieties, the more we can develop the mindset that Paul learned to have over time as he gave his anxieties to God:
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.Philippians 4:6-7 NIV
Let’s not make going to God about our anxieties a last resort or something we don’t do at all. Let’s not seek help from everyone but God, or try to numb our anxieties with alcohol, drugs, sex, gambling, or other things. Instead let us go to Him and trust in His sovereign, all-wise, all-good, all-providing, all-protecting, ever-loving care.
Prayer and reading God’s Word is the best possible starting point for dealing with anxiety for ALL Christians, as it invites God into the anxiety with us. It acknowledges that we know that ultimately, we need God in order to deal with our anxiety effectively.
In some cases, time with God will help to alleviate our anxiety almost immediately. In other instances, it may be just enough to shift our focus temporarily from what is causing our anxiety on to God, allowing us to calm down and regroup.
- You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you! Isaiah 26:3 NLT
- Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. John 14:27 NIV
- Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. Hebrews 4:16 NIV
And even in extreme cases of anxiety, when we go to God about it, He will reveal to us when it’s time to pursue other coping strategies or additional sources of help.
3. Practice Self-Care Regularly
Earlier we talked about anxiety triggers. Sometimes poor self-care habits can be the culprit, exacerbate the anxiety, or both.
When it comes to dealing with anxiety it’s so important that we don’t underestimate how much our mental health depends on us taking care of ourselves regularly.
Self-care is actually biblical and necessary for all Christians. In fact, I would go as far to say that there is no way we can neglect self-care, and still enjoy life the way God intended.
Everything from eating, exercising, relaxing, and getting enough sleep, to laughter, having fun, and doing the things you enjoy is important and beneficial.
According to Medical News Today, substances such as caffeine and some nutritional deficiencies can actually make anxiety worse. Additionally, getting enough exercise and eating a nutrient-rich diet can help to reduce it.
Think about it. When we skip meals, don’t get enough sleep, or work non-stop without breaks, it affects us. When I’m not feeling well I get very irritable, and things that don’t normally upset, worry, or stress me out, do. On a day where I’m running off fumes because I only got three hours of sleep, and have skipped breakfast and lunch, not only am I not physically equipped to deal with anxiety flare ups, but my anxiety is often multiplied!
I can’t tell you how many times, I have gone to God about my anxiety, and a part of His answer to me from His Word was that I need to take better care of myself:
- No one hates his own body but feeds and cares for it, just as Christ cares for the church. Ephesians 5:29 NLT
- It is useless for you to work so hard from early morning until late at night, anxiously working for food to eat; for God gives rest to his loved ones. Psalms 127:2 NLT
- Then Jesus said, ‘Let’s go off by ourselves to a quiet place and rest awhile.’ He said this because there were so many people coming and going that Jesus and his apostles didn’t even have time to eat. Mark 6:31 NLT
Learning to practice self-care regularly will go a long way when it comes to our mental health and dealing with our anxiety. We must simply learn to make proper nutrition, physical exercise, adequate sleep, relaxation, stress management techniques, laughter, and doing things we enjoy a priority.
4. Seek Outside Help When Necessary
If your anxiety escalates to the point where it regularly interferes with daily life functions, typically, that is the point at which you should be seeking outside help, as you may have developed an anxiety disorder.
Outside help could include mental healthcare professionals, as well as, family, friends, a pastor or spiritual leader, and a support network of people who struggle with anxiety.
According to Medical News Today, in 2019, 40 million people in the United States were living with anxiety disorders (before the Covid). It is the most common group of mental illnesses in the country and is highly treatable. However, only 36.9% of people with an anxiety disorder receive treatment.
Unfortunately, there are many long-standing biases regarding mental illness that have become prevalent amongst Christians today. These biases have led many to feel ashamed of their anxiety issues, and therefore unwilling to talk about them in churches or seek the necessary help they need.
However, when we look at Scripture, there are three key things we see in regard to the pursuit of medical help:
- God does NOT condemn or negate the utilization of doctors, medicines, or earthly remedies. In fact, they are resources that He often uses to bring healing and recovery:
- Then Joseph directed the physicians in his service to embalm his father Israel. So the physicians embalmed him. Genesis 50:2 NIV
- Our dear friend Luke, the doctor, and Demas send greetings. Colossians 4:14 NIV
- Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord. James 5:14 NIV
- Then Isaiah said, “Prepare a poultice of figs.” They did so and applied it to the boil, and he recovered. 2 Kings 20:7 NIV
- Stop drinking only water, and use a little wine because of your stomach and your frequent illnesses. 1 Timothy 5:23 NIV
- But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. Luke 10:33-34 NIV
- Although the bible recognizes the need for physical healing, it always prioritizes the need for spiritual healing:
- On hearing this, Jesus said to them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” Mark 2:17 NIV
- Since my people are crushed, I am crushed; I mourn, and horror grips me. Is there no balm in Gilead? Is there no physician there? Why then is there no healing for the wound of my people? Jeremiah 8:21-22 NIV
- As Christians we are to ALWAYS seek help from God when it comes to ANY medical issue. Here are two scenarios from Scripture. One shows a woman who consulted doctors for years and actually got worse but received healing when she went to Jesus. The other shows King Asa who had a severe disease in which he ONLY consulted physicians, and didn’t seek help from God at all.
- And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years. She had suffered a great deal under the care of many doctors and had spent all she had, yet instead of getting better she grew worse. When she heard about Jesus, she came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, because she thought, “If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed.” Immediately her bleeding stopped and she felt in her body that she was freed from her suffering. At once Jesus realized that power had gone out from him. He turned around in the crowd and asked, “Who touched my clothes?” “You see the people crowding against you,” his disciples answered, “and yet you can ask, ‘Who touched me?’ ”But Jesus kept looking around to see who had done it. Then the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came and fell at his feet and, trembling with fear, told him the whole truth. He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.” Mark 5:25-34 NIV
- In the thirty-ninth year of his reign Asa was afflicted with a disease in his feet. Though his disease was severe, even in his illness he did not seek help from the Lord, but only from the physicians. Then in the forty-first year of his reign Asa died and rested with his ancestors. 2 Chronicles 16:12-13 NIV
God knew that as humans in a fallen world that we would get sick, and therefore need doctors. And thankfully He has created some very intelligent beings and given them the abilities to learn how to care for and operate on the human body.
The problem is never that we seek outside help and consult physicians. The problem comes when we as Christians, neglect to seek help from God. When it comes to medical issues (physical and/or mental) we should ALWAYS seek help from God through prayer, along with going for appropriate medical treatment if necessary – not instead of doing so.
Treatment for general anxiety or an anxiety disorder might include a combination of different types of therapy, medication, and counseling, along with self-help measures.
As a part of the aftermath of the pandemic, my teenage son was diagnosed with a social anxiety disorder. And as a mother, who had never personally dealt with anything like that, it was a very trying time. Figuring out that he even had a problem and that he needed help was just the beginning.
The process involved finding the right therapist, getting a proper diagnosis, getting a psych consult to see if medication was needed, getting in-home counseling, and getting additional assistance with school to make sure he didn’t fall behind while he was homebound for his entire freshmen year of high school. Not to mention the toll it took on me physically and mentally. I ended up seeing a therapist for the first time as well for my own anxiety.
But through EVERY step of all that, I spent time in prayer and reading God’s Word. I can’t stress enough how much spending time in God’s presence helps to find healing, peace, and mental rest in times of distress! And I am grateful that God heard my cries, listened to my prayers, and provided the very community and host of professionals that both my son and I needed during that time. And that included family, friends, and spiritual leaders that I stayed plugged in to who I could confide in and get continual support and encouragement from.
So, is it okay for Christians to seek professional help for anxiety? Is it ok to go to therapy? Is it okay to take anxiety medication? Yes, yes, and yes! Not because I say so, and am a witness that it works, but because there is nothing in the bible that suggests otherwise. There is, therefore, no need to be ashamed if you suffer from an anxiety disorder. You are not less of a Christian because of your struggle.
God does care about our mental health, and He shows us that he cares by providing us with the things we need – access to Him through prayer, His Word, therapists and counselors, medication, resources, and a good support system. And if the resources and professionals aren’t readily available, the good news is that all we have to do is seek God and ask Him to provide. That’s literally what I did!
And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.Philippians 4:19 NIV
5. Acknowledge That Healing Can Be a Process
Because anxiety in general is something we all will experience to some degree in our lives, it is important to realize that learning to properly deal with and cope with it can take time. In fact, no matter what type of anxiety you have, healing can be a process, and can come in many forms. We literally must take it one day at a time.
For some, anxiety may only flare up occasionally, here and there. Others may go through seasons of anxiety due to life changes or circumstances. And others will be diagnosed with anxiety disorders that they may struggle with throughout their entire lives.
First, it’s important to note that God can heal us from anything, and that includes anxiety disorders. Secondly, it is equally important to note that God may NOT heal us from an anxiety disorder. In either case, we must learn to lean into God through prayer and His Word as we go through the process.
There may be some instances in which we receive immediate relief from our anxiety during a worship service or an encouraging visit from a friend. Other times we may need to have a few counseling sessions with a spiritual leader or meetings with an anxiety support group as the need arises. And for others it may be months or years of intense therapy sessions and ongoing treatment from a doctor, including the utilization of anxiety medication.
My mind automatically goes to David and the anxiety he experienced for several years while he was awaiting the promise of God to become King over the nation of Israel. God had called and anointed him for the job, but the time and the journey between the call and when it came to fruition was long and rough. David actually spent a lot of his journey on the run for his life from the existing king:
- I am worn out from my groaning. All night long I flood my bed with weeping and drench my couch with tears. My eyes grow weak with sorrow; they fail because of all my foes. Psalm 6:6-7 NIV
- How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and day after day have sorrow in my heart? How long will my enemy triumph over me? Psalm 13:1-2 NIV
- Look and see, there is no one at my right hand; no one is concerned for me. I have no refuge; no one cares for my life. Psalm 142:4 NIV
- The enemy pursues me, he crushes me to the ground; he makes me dwell in the darkness like those long dead. So my spirit grows faint within me; my heart within me is dismayed. Psalm 143:3-4 NIV
David eventually became King of Israel and reaped the blessings of God’s promise, but his story is a great example of how God does not always just swoop in and eliminate or heal our anxiety. If we are being honest, most of the time we just want our problems to resolve themselves quickly or disappear altogether.
I remember literally crying myself to sleep some nights, begging God to take away my son’s and my own anxiety. But, oftentimes situations serve to teach us something valuable and necessary that we wouldn’t learn otherwise.
Sometimes God wants to strengthen us for the future, discipline us, prepare us to be a testimony of encouragement for someone else, or simply to glorify Himself in our situation. After all, how will we get to know Him as a healer, provider, or as our strength if He doesn’t put us in situations where we need to call on Him for healing, provision and strength.
Let’s take a look at how God responded to the Apostle Paul when he pleaded with Him three times to take away his problem:
Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.2 Corinthians 12:7-10 NIV
Who or whatever Paul’s “thorn in the flesh” was, God did NOT remove it. Instead, He gave Paul the strength to bear it. And God will give us the same strength to manage those days where anxiety feels unending and overwhelming.
The good news is that the more we lean into God, the more we will learn to better handle and cope with our anxiety when it arises. In fact, over time, we will even find ourselves learning not to let things trigger our anxiety the way they used to.
Paul eventually got to the point that no matter what was going on in his life, he found contentment in His relationship with Christ. And He did it all by leaning on the strength of the Lord:
I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.Philippians 4:12-13 NIV
When we remember that life is a process, that God is sovereign over everything that happens to us (including how we feel), we too can begin to experience some healing and peace when it comes to our anxiety; knowing that we will never be completely free from it on this side of heaven but embracing all that God has made available to us in the midst of it.
Anxiety Won’t Last Forever!
We all have things that will trigger our anxiety to some degree. It may be our finances, our relationships, our jobs, our personal struggles, anticipation about the future, fear of the unknown, unanswered, or delayed prayers, problems in our households, health issues, or even persecution for our faith.
But we have also learned how God wants us to deal with our anxiety when it arises. I don’t know about you, but I am grateful for the wonderful resources, both spiritually and physically, that God has provided for us.
As Christians, we have a God that we can lean into at any time by talking to Him about our anxieties, finding encouragement through His Word, and meditating on His promises. We can also prioritize self-care by making sure that we eat well, stay active, and get enough sleep daily. And because we know that God cares for and loves us, we can be confident that if we need outside help of any kind that He will send us the right resources and people at just the right time.
We’ve learned that healing from anxiety can be a process. Some may be healed to some degree in this life, while others may struggle with an anxiety disorder their entire lives on earth.
But the good news is, that anxiety won’t last forever. It will be defeated for all of us in eternity!
He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.Revelation 21:4 AMP
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