The Tornado of Anxiety

Anxiety has been a constant companion probably for more of my life than I realize.  I most likely experienced anxiety attacks before I could label them. Being an chronic over-thinker hasn’t helped that much.
Also, I have the deadly disease of jumping to the worst conclusion possible as quickly as possible.  
“I haven’t heard from them, they must have died.”
“I wasn’t invited, they must hate me with the power of the fiery sun.”
Or the most frequent words I uttered as a child, “Everybody hates me.”  I have the natural bent for hyperbole.  (Which is fun to relive every year when I teach it to middle schoolers.)
In this ailment, I can let my mind spiral out of control.  I can let myself jump off the cliff of despair without much effort.
That is if I don’t catch myself.  I have learned (mostly the hard way) that I will continue on the path of spiraling thoughts and will keep going unless there is a road block.  I will end up in a frantic mess of a person, spouting off nonesense and unable to think clearly or focus on anything. Sometimes even ending in an anxiety attack filled with sobbing and snot.
There needs to be safety nets, stopping points of truth to catch me when I head down that path.  Even more so, I have to let others know about my thoughts so that they can help stop me, people to whisper truth to me, or let’s be honest, most of the time they have to shout it.  
Honestly, I didn’t know that I spiraled that much until actually verbalizing it to someone and began realizing that is what I was doing.  It was all because of a crush.  
I mentioned that he commented on how I lost weight.  And I began saying, does that mean he notices me?  Has he been thinking about me?  What if he wants to ask me out?  What if he is too afraid because he thinks I am not interested?  How do I flirt with him?  What could I do to make him interested?  
This now sounds simply ludicrous when I speak it out loud or even type it out.
In the midst of the conversation, my friend stopped me and said.  “You have lost weight, and he was probably being kind and giving you a compliment. If he meant something more, he will say so.”
That was it.  She brought me down to earth.  She caught me in the midst of a spiral. At first I was angry, how dare she burst my bubble of fantasy?  How dare she say that he didn’t like me?  Even though I was somewhat angry, I realized that it was exactly what I needed.  I needed to be brought down to earth.
We can’t limit this to just a schoolgirl crush situation, because it can happen in any other situations, like friendships, community, and work.
“What did the boss mean by that email to everyone about getting those reports in on time? Was he talking about me?  I always get my reports in, sure a little late, but not as late as other people. Was he commenting on my performance? Was he indicating that he is looking for reason to fire me?  Is my job safe? Do I need to start updating my resume?  Looking for a new job?”
Anxiety is an ugly thing. It tells us that we need to worry, that we aren’t measuring up, that we are not enough.  Anxiety tells us to question everything, to look into everything.  It is also very self focused.  It draws us to just worry about ourselves.   
Anxiety has tunnel vision, only seeing the things that feeds its interests. 
One of the best things for when we let our thoughts get out of control is to let someone else in on what we are thinking because anxiety takes away our ability to have a proper perspective.  
When we let someone else in, an objective person, they can pull us out of the tornado of our thoughts. It could be someone that points us back to truth of God’s word.  Or someone to tell us about reality, since much of anxiety is lived in a fantasy world.  For me sometimes, it is simply someone to say, what is really true about all of the questions you just asked. 
Even more so retraining our thinking as to not be as apt to head down the path of over-thinking.  What better way than to use scripture.
 “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” Phil 4:8
To be honest, I used to hate this verse.(I know you aren’t supposed to hate God’s word.) But the reason was it seemed like a list of rules to me.  It seemed like a standard that I could never attain, which made me resentful.  I thought there was no hope to measure up. I even thought this verse was for those good Christians who just thought about rainbows, bunnies, and baking cookies for their neighbors.  That me, the messed up failure of a Christian, couldn’t ever live that way.
Now in the midst of thinking about anxiety……sigh….. I see that Paul has a point.  Funny that this verse comes right after Phillipians 4:6-7:
do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
UGH, that verse hurts in a good way.  Then for Paul to turn around and tell us to think on what is true!
It is hard now to think of that verse as a list of rules, because I realize that those instructions are actually in pursuit of that peace that he is talking about.  And when our “friend” Anxiety is in the house, there is no peace, no rest for your mind.  
See when we build in safety nets and roadblocks of truth, and even retrain ourselves to not even head down the path of spiraling anxiety, we will actually live with that peace of God. The more that we walk down the path of truth, the easier it gets to live that life on a regular basis, and anxiety will no longer be welcome.  
Friends, let us take hold of the truth of God’s word and his peace.  Let’s build boundaries and safety nets in our minds so that anxiety can’t even get through the door.  Don’t live the life of anxiety alone, let other people in and speak truth to one other, so we can all experience the “peace of God that surpasses all understanding.”
What are you anxious about?  What areas of truth do you need to think on?  Are there other scriptures that help pull you out of the spiral? 
photo credit: Path via photopin (license) 

photo credit: DSC00940 via photopin (license)

But if not…

Never have I thought of myself as an anxious person, someone riddle with worries and doubt. (Perhaps maybe prideful!)  However, as I am experiencing changes and uncertainties in my life currently, I am struck at how anxious I really am.  Worries of the now, the future, and guilt and condemnation over mistakes of the past. 

Anxiety is a daily fax to God saying ‘I don’t think you have my best interests in mind.’
 – Tim Keller

What makes me think that I know what is best for me, I can barely manage to get to work on time or budget my money, what right do I to say that God doesn’t know what he is doing, that he doesn’t care about my life. And really, I can’t decide what sort of shampoo is best for my hair, so what do I always know about my best interest.

Plain and simple, my anxiety says that…..

I don’t trust that the GOD OF THE UNIVERSE is sovereign over alll.
I don’t trust that HE who created me probably knows what is best for me.
(I need an alarm clock that yells that at me in the morning.)

However, I am not talking the “Trust God” that sometimes so flippantly slips off our tongue like so many else Christian phrases.  I am not talking the “Trust God” that people say when they fly on a plane or go on a road trip.  Or even the trust that sometimes people call on when they hope everything will turn out good for them, to get that promotion or that the guy they like will ask them out.

I am talking the trust that involves dropping your anchor in the only hope that is eternal, no matter what his answer is.

I am talking the trust of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. 
I am talking the trust that the original 3 amigos had in God when they were about to become BBQ.  

Daniel 3: 16-18
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered and said to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. If this be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king.But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.”

They had a lot to be anxious about.  They were captured and taken to Babylon.  Their friend Daniel had refused the king’s food for them and they were eating vegetables and water. (Not the best kind of diet plan.)  They were studying witchcraft and sorcery.  They were away from their families and friends.  They had to learn another language.  They were given new names.  God gave them favor in the eyes of the king. He put them into positions of power and stature.

And then…..the king told them to bow to his god’s idols.  They didn’t.  Things probably won’t end well when you refuse someone that isn’t used to the word, no.  He then threatened to throw them in a fiery furnace if they didn’t.

God had provided for them up to that point, he had given them everything, he had protected them, they believed down to the core that if anyone could deliver them it would be their God. 

But if not….that line gets me. 
Even if God didn’t deliver them now, it wouldn’t be the end.  They knew that even if all the horrible things that were about to come, actually came, all would not be lost.

Do I think the same?  Do I believe that?  In my anxiety, where am I putting my hope and trust? 

Their hope wasn’t in the favor of the king, it wasn’t in their stature in Babylon, it wasn’t in the food they ate, or what they studied or even what language they spoke.  Their hope wasn’t in the temporary life of this world.  Their hope lay with the God of this universe that given them everything up to this point, why would they stop trusting him just because the king threatened their life.

Why do I stop trusting God when things seem uncertain and scary?  (It’s not like I am being threatened to be thrown in a fire.)  Why do I quickly jumped to my own rescue or trust in my own devices before God’s?

And even if he doesn’t answer my prayers and my uncertainties in my life don’t change. Will I choose to trust Him then?