I’m not saying anything earth-shattering when I say the world is crazy right now. Stress and anxiety are at an all-time high for just about everyone I know. I’m sure you can probably say the same. We’re all living it. Our country, our communities, and our churches have never been more divided. The mainstream media twists the truth and distorts facts to fit information into their narrative. Social Media is an absolute dumpster fire of loud ignorance. Everybody has an opinion. And everybody’s opinion is right. There’s no room for cordial, educated, respectful disagreements or differing points of view. The economy is a mess. Foreign relations are a mess. The crisis at the border is a mess. I’m not even going to mention C-vid because it’s a thief and I hate it. If you have kids, you’re feeling the squeeze on them, as well. I can’t imagine having to grow up constantly on edge in this current environment of Tik Tok and woke Cancel Culture. Add to that any personal issues you may be facing – problems with your job, your health, your relationships, your finances – and you’ve got a crockpot of crazy.
It’s all too much.
It’s all been too much for me. In the past year, my family has moved across the country. Our 5 kids started new schools, I started a new job, Bradley and I are traveling just about every weekend. It feels like we’re never home. And I decided that now was a good time to write a book and launch a blog. Because I hate rest and relaxation, apparently.
To my knowledge, I’ve never experienced actual anxiety. Until this past year. I began noticing a tightness in my chest and difficulty with my breathing. I initially assumed it was the residual effects from the evil C-vid that I recovered from last summer. But my symptoms kept getting worse. Eventually breathing becoming a constant struggle. I sought medical help and was diagnosed with clinical anxiety. My doctor prescribed medication, which has greatly improved my breathing.
Why am I telling you this?
Because I want you to feel less alone. Because I want to encourage you to seek help, if you need it. And because I want to help remove any shame or embarrassment that you may feel regarding your mental health.
I don’t think Mental Health is discussed enough within the Christian community. I think the Church in general has missed the mark when it comes to eliminating the stigma and caring for the mental health of their congregants. For so long, we have been fed the narrative that if we simply pray hard enough, read our Bibles enough, and believe enough, we can rid ourselves of any and all anxiety and depression. We’ve been taught that our anxiety is the result of a lack of faith.
This simply is not true.
Over the past year, my body has been absorbing all of the trauma, pain, stress, and fear that I’ve been experiencing and, as a result, I had a very involuntary physical reaction. Have I been praying? YES. Have I been trusting the Lord? YES. Have I been staying in the Word? YES. Have I been casting my cares on him? YES.
And I still need medication to help me breathe.
Friend, please hear me. You can love Jesus and still need therapy. You can be a follower of Christ and still seek Godly counsel. You can be a devoted disciple and still require medication to help balance out your symptoms. In fact, all of these things are tools that God has provided for us to live the abundant life that he called us to!
Proverbs 28:26 tell us,
“Whoever trusts in his own mind is a fool, but he who walks in wisdom will be delivered.”
Proverbs 19:20 says,
“Take good counsel and accept correction—that’s the way to live wisely and well.”
Jesus even told us in Matthew 9:12,
“Healthy people don’t need a doctor—sick people do.”
(Of course, this verse is metaphorically referring to the sickness of sin and Jesus being our Great Physician. But I believe we can also take Jesus’ words here at face value. Sick people need doctors.)
Let’s dive into this a bit further. There is a difference between the sin of anxiety and an anxiety disorder. Joe Carter wrote a brilliant article on anxiety for The Gospel Coalition. In it, he states:
“Depending on the context, fear and anxiety may be one of four types: (1) a God-given emotional response for our benefit, (2) a disordered physiological response that is not sinful, (3) a natural consequence of sin, or (4) sinful responses to God’s providential care.”
Options 1 and 2 are not sinful reactions. Options 3 and 4 are sinful reactions. In other words, our body’s natural physical response to the fallen world in which we live is just that. Natural. On the flip side, worry and stress in reaction to God’s plan for our lives is sin. We’re telling God that we don’t trust him when we unnecessarily fret over our circumstances.
So when the apostle Paul told the church in Philippi, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, present your requests to God,” (Philippians 4:6) he’s speaking about the sin of worry, not the body’s physiological response to trauma.
When Jesus told his disciples, “Don’t worry about your life, what you will eat; or about the body, what you will wear…But seek his kingdom, and these things will be provided for you,” (Luke 12:22, 31) he’s not referring to an involuntary chemical imbalance in your body. He’s speaking about the sin of worrying and not trusting the Lord to meet your needs.
In addition to the medication, there are a few practical steps I have taken to help reduce the level of anxiety in my life.
· Limit the amount of news I consume
· Set limits to the amount of time spent on Social Media
· Unfollow accounts on Social Media that trigger stress or anxiety
· Open up my Bible in the morning before I open up my phone
· Read a chapter of an uplifting book every night before bed
· Be intentional with the podcasts and music that fill my mind
· Eat less sugar and bread, more vegetables and lean meats
· Exercise 4-5 days per week
· Drink plenty of water (Topo Chico totally counts)
None of this is rocket science. But it’s all a heck of a lot easier said than done. I’ve
discovered that I have to make these choices every single day in order to see the positive results I need with my mental and physical health. And God is helping me.
There’s a difference between the sin of anxiety and a mental health anxiety disorder, and through godly counsel, sound medical advice, and the help of the Holy Spirit, we can know the difference. And we can be more than conquerors. I believe it is absolutely possible to be “anxious for nothing,” otherwise Paul wouldn’t have instructed us to do so. I believe we have the power to “not worry about our life,” because Jesus died and rose again, conquering sin and death. And we have his Spirit living within us, giving us power, love, and a sound mind. (2 Timothy 1:7) I believe that we can “cast all our anxiety on him because he cares for us.” (1 Peter 5:7) I believe we can take Jesus at his word when he says, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28) I believe Paul was serious when he told the Philippians that “God will supply all of your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:19)
And I believe sometimes that providential provision comes in the form of therapy, godly counseling, and medication.