Believing The Right Thing: Turning An Anxious Mind Into A Peaceful Heart
A quick google search will tell you that anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness disorders in the United States today. Forty million adults, or 18.1% of the US population, suffer from some form of anxiety and depression. (www.adaa.org) Anxiety has probably affected almost everyone in their lifetime at one point or another. The most daunting fact that I read when I researched this topic, is that there is no cure for anxiety. Scientists and doctors have not found a cure for treating anxiety completely. There are ways to manage it, but there is no known pill or antidote that will eradicate the symptoms or triggers that anxiety causes. Science can't, but Jesus can. How do I know that? Because I am a living, breathing example and testimony to the saving grace of Jesus. The Word of God and Jesus Christ has calmed my anxious mind, and replaced it with a heart full of peace. And I want that for you too! If you're here, reading this because you also have an anxious mind, crippled with anxiety, then read on my love. Let me share with you the ways that God has healed me from anxiety and filled me with a peace and a joy that surpasses my understanding. Where Does Anxiety Come From? The world will tell you that anxiety is caused by an event or activity that makes you feel fearful or worried. Psychologists and counselors agree that most anxiety or anxious thoughts are caused by past difficult experiences, as adults or from childhood. I don't disagree with any of this. I do believe that childhood traumas and events can trigger anxious thoughts in our current situations. Just read my article on Rewiring Your Brain & Renewing Your Thoughts to see an example of how something that happened to me when I was a kid shaped my responses as an adult! But, if you look at God's Word, there are many, many examples of how Satan wages war against us. The number one way he attacks Christians is in their mind and their thoughts. In fact, he plants thoughts in our mind and makes us believe that we are the ones thinking dirty things! Have you ever been walking or driving and suddenly had a horrible thought come to your mind that seemingly came out of nowhere? There was nothing that prompted this thought, it just sort of sprang forth of its own accord? Maybe you're driving down the road, and as you're crossing over a bridge, the awful thought comes to mind, "I could just drive this vehicle into the guardrail and headfirst into that river...." And then you realize what you were just thinking and shake your head in disbelief and wonder, "Yikes! Where did that thought come from?" Hell, that's where that thought literally came from. 2 Corinthians 11:3 (ESV) "But I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ." Let me tell you, you didn't prompt that idea. Yes, that thought ran through your mind, but it was planted there by someone else. It was an evil thought planted by Satan himself. Not only does he whisper lies into your brain so that we are deceived and led astray, but he also puts them into the first person to make you believe you thought them in the first place! And then, like the backstabbing demon he is, he comes around the backside and points a finger at you, condemning you for thinking such evil and ugly thoughts. They weren't even your thoughts to begin with. When we are condemned, or when we feel condemned, anxiety springs forth in our heart. When we have negative thoughts or continue in a negative pattern of thought, anxiety springs forth in our heart. When we have thoughts based in fear, in lies, in darkness, it gives birth to negative patterns, and anxiety springs forth in our heart. Our thoughts, whether they are from a negative experience in our childhood, or from a current situation we are going through, or from a lie planted by Satan himself, gives birth to anxiety. Anxiety comes from our thoughts. It comes from the way that we think, either about ourselves or our circumstances. How Do We Change The Narrative? We must take captive every thought we have and change the story in our mind. Do not let yourself believe the lies. Do not let yourself succumb to the negative pictures that have taken control of your mind and heart. Do not let the devil deceive you. Do not be someone who is considered easily devoured! 1 Peter 5:8-9 (ESV) "Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world." Let's take a look at this verse together. The first part says to be sober-minded and watchful. We all know what it means to be sober. Usually we think of soberness as not being drunk or on drugs. But listen to this: an example of sober is a person who always seems to have self-control of their feelings regardless of the situation. (https://www.yourdictionary.com/sober) Is that not an interesting take on sobriety? Peter is saying here, be watchful of all situations. Be aware of your feelings, for your feelings betray what you are thinking. If you suddenly find yourself depressed or anxious, take a look at your thoughts. What were you just thinking? Were you allowing your mind to run like that of a drunken man? Are you letting your thoughts get completely out of control and spinning themselves around like that of someone who is intoxicated? Have you noticed that if you let one thought run wild, you suddenly find that you're in a downward spiral very quickly, unable to get yourself out of the dark hole you spun yourself into? Did you notice that I said, spun yourself into? If we do not take captive our thoughts the minute we notice them heading into a negative pattern, we are letting ourselves spiral out of control until we no longer feel like we can control anything we think or do. I don't know about you, but I hate feeling out of control of my emotions, feelings or actions. As soon as I become aware of the negative pattern of thought, I halt it right there. I take that thought, I hold it captive in my mind as if by chains, and I change the narrative by reminding myself of who I am in Christ. Be sober. Be watchful of your thoughts. Your thoughts have power over your feelings, which affect your emotions, which affect your actions. It's important that we change our narrative. "Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour..." The devil is stated as our adversary. He is not our friend. He is not apathetic toward us. The devil hates us. Adversary means one's opponent in a contest, conflict, or dispute. He is against us 100%. He accuses us, lies to us, deceives us, hates us, attacks us, and anything else negative you can think of, he will do that to you too! Peter tells us that he prowls around like a roaring lion. Why does he say like? Because the scriptures describe our God as a lion. Remember Aslin in The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe? CS Lewis used a lion to represent Jesus, because that is how the Word describes Him. Hosea 11:10 (NIV) "They will follow the Lord; he will roar like a lion. When he roars, his children will come trembling from the west." In Hosea our Lord roars like a lion, and when he roars, His children come trembling. We come to Him when he roars. But Satan, in his deception, prowls (move around restlessly and stealthily, especially in search of or as if in search of prey) around acting like he is God, seeking for someone whom he may devour. The devil looks for people to devour. Peter doesn't specify the someone, which means he looks for Christians as well as non Christians. He looks for someone. He's looking for anyone who will succumb to his lies and to his deception. Be watchful, and do not let yourself be devoured. "Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world." How do we resist the devil? We remain in Christ. We keep our eyes fixed on Jesus. We stay in the Word, rising every day and making that our focus. By reading God's Word, by listening to sermons, and by meditating on the Word of God, we will find our faith growing. Our faith grows when we fix our eyes on Jesus and who He is and what He has done for us. If you feel like your faith isn't that strong, how much time are you spending on movies, books or tv shows that do not honor Him? I notice that my faith fails me when I pick up a fictional novel instead of a devotional. It's subtle, but it slips. This slipping leads me to turn on the news instead of a sermon. The bad news begins to fill my heart and soul and makes me worried and nervous for the future. After watching the news, I change the channel to The Bachelorette or some other tv show for entertainment, to wipe out the feelings of worry I am experiencing. The conflict and degradation from the tv show begins to sink into my heart and now I feel anxious. Whoa....did you see that transition? One "bad" choice led me down a path toward anxiety, and now I find myself feeling stressed and depressed. Am I saying that you can't watch these things or enjoy entertainment? Not at all! But watch how these things make you feel. Do they add to your life and give you peace? Or do they shake your heart and leave you feeling anxious? We resist the devil by choosing to remain in faith. We resist the devil and keep ourselves from being numbered among the devoured by by reading the Bible and devotionals, by listening to sermons, and by turning on worship music. Then, without even trying to make our faith grow, it grows because we keep our minds fixed on Him. Our job is not to grow our faith, but to spend time with Jesus, and He grows it for us. The last part of that verse says: " knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world." One of the ways that Satan deceives us is by making us think that we are the only ones suffering. This is not true! We are all in this world, waging war against the powers of darkness (Ephesians 6:12). My parents used to watch this show called The Red Green Show. Maybe you've heard of it? At the end of every episode the main character would say, "Remember, I'm pulling for ya, we're all in this together!" Keep this in mind when you feel like you're alone. We are all in this together my friend. The anxiety you feel is not unique to you! We are, all of us, fighting against the same anxious thoughts, but fixing our eyes ahead! So, stay vigilant! Change the narrative of your mind! Fix your eyes on Jesus! From Anxious Thinking to Peaceful Being So how do we go from being one with a lot of anxious thoughts to someone who is completely at peace, mind, soul, and body? Well, it happens one day at a time, one thought at a time. As you start to take your thoughts captive, find a verse that speaks to your heart that counters the lies of the enemy. When I started to grab ahold of these truths in God's Word, the devil began to attack me harder than he had before. I replaced the lies with truth, and Satan realized he was losing someone who was easily devoured. He hated it. He hated me, and he let me see it. He began to attack me while I was driving. One day, while I was driving down the freeway in Minnesota, a truck tire in front of me blew, and the tire bits exploded all around me. Despite being behind this truck, my car wasn't struck by anything and I was unscathed! I believe I kept my angels busy that day! A few weeks later, also while driving, a car in front of me kicked up a big rock and it struck the middle of my windshield, completely cracking it. I was able to replace the windshield, but that day, fear began to take hold in my heart. I began to see myself as someone the devil wanted to destroy. I wasn't wrong, but instead of immediately rejecting those thoughts, I let them take hold in my brain and in my heart. Now when something like this happens, I remind myself that I am protected because "He will cover you with his feathers. He will shelter you with his wings. His faithful promises are your armor and protection."
(Psalm 91:4 NLT) That fear was magnified when about a month following these incidences, someone rear-ended me. Because of these attacks, for several years following I experienced severe anxiety when I was driving. It got to the point that I didn't want to get behind the wheel because I would have panic attacks when I did. What happened was that because of the circumstances that happened to me, I forgot about who I was in Christ. I forgot that I am a child of God, and that He sends His angels to protect me, to keep charge over me. (Psalm 91:11) I had even experienced that protection when the tire blew, but instead of clinging to that verse and the hope that God is always protecting me, I let Satan write my narrative. I believed he could get access to me, that he could attack me, that he could kill me. Here's the thing: we are promised that we will have trouble in this life. But because we are children of God, and God has overcome this world, then we are overcomers with Him! I forfeited my protection when I let the devil trick me into believing his lies. That's how we are among those who can be devoured. Do not let him deceive you into believing you are less than you are. It was a few years after these things had happened to me that I finally cried out to God with an anxious heart and asked Him why I was so fearful when I was driving. He showed me the lies I had believed because of these things that had happened to me. He showed me that I believed I was no longer safe, that I was no longer protected. I asked Him, what do I do? And God brought to my mind that in order to feel safe, I need to change the story in my head. I began to meditate on Psalms 91, the Psalm of Protection. I memorized the verses and replayed them over and over in my mind while I was driving. It wasn't enough. I asked God why it wasn't enough. He brought me to the verses 2 Corinthians 10:3-5, and I realized that these lies had moved beyond simple lies and had turned into strongholds in my mind. Because I didn't capture those thoughts when I did, over time the negative patterns of thought became strongholds. So, I found sermons that I could listen to in the car while I was driving, that would keep my mind on Christ, and remind me of His protection and love for me. As I listened to these sermons, over and over on repeat, slowly those strongholds came tumbling down. When something has become a stronghold, it takes a stronger weapon of God that we need to wield against the attacks. Listening to sermons is a strong weapon. "So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God." (Romans 10:17 NKJV) Faith comes when we hear and keep on hearing. The word hearing is used twice! That means we need to hear a sermon, and then hear it again. And what does the word say about hearing? "How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher?" (Romans 10:14 NKJV) We believe when they hear about Him, and we hear about Him through the voice of a preacher! Pick a pastor that you love, whose teachings ignite your heart and light up your soul with the truth of God's Word. Get their sermons on podcast, plug your phone in while you're in the car, and listen to the Word of God. Belief will spring forth and through believing comes faith. Listen to them over and over until the truth of God's Word turns into faith in your heart. The lies will be replaced with Truth, and faith will smooth out the anxious fears and thoughts. Peace will take root and grow. As peace grows, anchored in God's Truth, it will blossom, and fruit will spring forth! We will have peace that surpasses human understanding, and it will impact those we are near, and touch the minds and hearts of people we spend time with. Grab hold of God's Word and let it strengthen you and change you, turning your anxious thoughts into a peaceful heart. Whatever gives you anxiety today, find a scripture to meditate on or sermon(s) to listen to. And every day choose to take captive your anxious thoughts, turning them over to Christ. Remember, It Takes Time I want to encourage you to continue this practice until the strongholds crumble like Jericho's wall. It takes time for Truth to gain a foothold, just like strongholds also grow over time. I find that if God hasn't answered my prayers after a few weeks or months, or even years! I want to quit. Satan lies to me that God doesn't hear me or care about me. He tells me that I am unworthy having my prayers answered. But then I ask God, why the delay? And He reminds me that He lives outside time and is not bound to it like we are. He reminds me that the strongest trees, are those with the deepest roots. He reminds me that the best does not always mean the quickest. He reminds me that I came into this world as a baby, turned into a toddler, grew into a child and then a teenager, and finally turned 18! It takes 18 years to become a mature adult and even then, most of us can't say we're mature at that age! So don't believe a lie that though God tarries, He doesn't care for you. Remember that the best wine is made wonderful over time. Wine is used as an example over and over in the Bible. We often forget that in order to enjoy good wine, the grapes must be crushed, until the skin breaks and the juice spills forth. Do you feel crushed? Is your skin breaking and juice spilling out? Or are you in a season of waiting, sitting in an aged barrel wondering when you will receive your breakthrough? I urge you to continue dear sister, dear brother! When you are pressed beyond measure, and your insides spill out, share it with Jesus. When you are stuck in the barrel, wondering when you will be filled with peace instead of anxiety, share it with Jesus. Ask Him to show you what verses to meditate on. Ask Him what pastors to listen to who will plant seeds of faith that spring forth into fruit. Ask Him how to best use this time, so it is not wasted. Ask of The Lord, how do I redeem the time, because the days are evil? (Ephesians 5:16 NKJV) Our God will show you the way forward. Press On! The more we use our time wisely, spending it with Jesus, in His Word, listening to sermons, worshipping Him with song, meditating on His goodness, the more we will taste and see He is good. Time that was once lost to us, will be redeemed. Anxiety will be replaced with peace. We will say: "Yet I am confident I will see the LORD’s goodness while I am here in the land of the living." (Psalm 27:13 NLT) Do I still have anxious thoughts and feelings? Sometimes I do. I'm human after all. But I know what to do now when those thoughts creep in and begin to impact my feelings and emotions, which in turn affects how I act and behave. Now I turn off the TV and I open my Bible. I tune into a sermon. I blast praise and worship. When I first started this process, it took me several years to completely replace my anxiety with peace. Several years. I was beginning to think I would remain stuck forever! But what I had a hard time seeing, was that over those years I was slowly changing. Situations would happen and I wouldn't react the same way I used to. A family member or friend would say something to me, and my feelings would spin me out of control, and I would explode. But over time, my thinking changed my emotions, which changed my actions. Things that used to trigger me grew less and less, and over time I found myself more in control. I was so busy doing the work in my head, I didn't see how I was slowly changing on the outside. But my husband noticed. My family noticed. After several years of hard work, I suddenly found myself filled with peace and not anxiety. I experienced breakthroughs and miracles, because I pressed on. It happened slowly and gradually over time, and then one day, I noticed I no longer experienced panic and anxiety when I got in the car. I no longer spun out of control with my thoughts and reacted poorly because of my feelings. I was changed. Continue in the faith, dear one! Press in and press on! Take captive your thoughts of anxiety and replace them with truth! One day you will find, you are no longer filled with anxiety, but filled with a peace and joy only our Lord Jesus Christ can bring. I want to leave you with one last verse... Colossians 1:21-23 (NKJV) "And you, who once were alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now He has reconciled in the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy, and blameless, and above reproach in His sight— if indeed you continue in the faith, grounded and steadfast, and are not moved away from the hope of the gospel which you heard, which was preached to every creature under heaven, of which I, Paul, became a minister." Don't let your mind become your enemy. Use your mind for the glory of Christ. Your future you thanks you. Oh, and that future you? She radiates peace, joy, faith, perseverance, Godliness, goodness, hope, and grace. The choices you make today will change the person you are tomorrow. With Joy, Jessica