Monday, March 17, 2014

Focus on Self = Anxiety

The other day while I was vacuuming I had a thought that stopped me. 

While I was mindlessly running the sweeper over the carpet, I was thinking--as usual-- about anxiety and that awful feeling that takes over from time to time without warning.

That agitation and uncomfortable feeling that makes me feel like I can't sit still, like I can't close my eyes for fear of what may happen when I'm asleep and unguarded. That feeling that something bad is going to happen and "the other shoe is going to drop." 

The regret that I anticipate should something happen to my kids before I tell them one more time that I love them. 

And then I remembered something I'm learning is James 4:8 

"Draw near to God and He will draw near to you." 

The Message version shows a great picture of how we should be when we are feeling at our absolute lowest with anxiety: 

"Get down on your knees before the Master; it's the only way you'll get on your feet."

And as I was absent-mindedly vacuuming up dust bunnies, it hit me: How much time must I spend on worry and being anxious? How much focus do I give those negative parts of my life? How much closer would I be to overcoming this struggle if I stopped adding fuel to the fire?

Is it really as simple as focusing on God? On serving other people?

Worry = stress = worry = doubt = worry = stress = worry = doubt = worry....

You get the idea. 

Have you heard the phrase "Starve the beast"?

Maybe in a political sense you have, but there is so much truth to those three little words.

Even... think about feeding animals or birds. What happens when you consistently give them food? They grow to expect it and come back asking for more!

What we feed will grow and come back asking for more. 

It's the same for our anxious thoughts.

Again...let me stop right here and remind you that I understand there are times when professional help is in order. If you ever think about hurting yourself or someone else, you need to seek professional attention immediately. There is no shame in seeking help. A list of  resources can be found HERE

So go with me here...

What would happen if we gave more time and brain space to thinking about God and less to thinking about all that worries us? 

What if we took these verses to heart? (And please don't skim. There is power in His Word.)
"Because you have satisfied me, God, I promise to do everything you say. [Remember God's command to not worry?]
     I beg you from the bottom of my heart; smile,
     be gracious to me just as you promised.
When I took a long careful look at your ways,
     I got back on my feet on the trail you blazed.
I was up at once, I didn't drag my feet,
     was quick to follow your orders. 
The wicked hemmed me in--there was no way out--
     but not for a minute did I forget your plan for me.
I get up in the middle of the night to thank you;
     your decisions are so right, so true--I can't wait till morning!
I'm a friend and companion of all who fear you,
     of those committed to living by your rules.
Your love, God, fills the earth!
Train me to live by your counsel." (Psalm 119: 57-64, MSG, emphasis mine)

I have spent too many nights lying awake worrying when I should have been counting my blessings and thanking God. 

What if I purposely set out to serve others and to openly thank God for His blessings? 

What if I consciously trained my thoughts on Him and His ways and trusting Him rather than worrying about what might happen?

What if I poured the love He has given me into someone else?

What if I stopped focusing so much on me and started focusing more on Him?

Something Beth Moore said has stayed with me for quite a while.

She said something like, Even those who think bad things about themselves constantly are still constantly thinking about themselves.

Isn't that the truth?!

She may have meant it more in the regard of women who disparage themselves, but I think the same could be said about anxiety and worry.

I think it's time to start being purposeful with what we are taking in, what we are putting out, and what we allow in the prime real estate of our minds. 

How many blessings are we missing out on because we are paralyzed with fear and cannot take a step?
How many opportunities are we missing to minister to others because we are wrapped up in ourselves and our worries and fears?

For me...I almost don't want to know how many opportunities have been missed because I simply did not trust God enough to not worry

I am starting to allow myself the thought that my anxiety may never fully go away. 

Paul prayed in 2 Corinthians 12:

"Because of the extravagance of those revelations, and so I wouldn't get a big head, I was given the gift of a handicap to keep me in constant touch with my limitations. Satan's angel did his best  to get me down; what he in fact did was push me to my knees. No danger then of walking around high and mighty! At first I didn't think of it as a gift, and begged God to take it remove it. Three times I did that, and then he told me,

My grace is enough; it's all you need.

My strength comes into its own in your weakness.

Once I heard that I was glad to let it happen. I quit focusing on the handicap and began appreciating the gift. It was a case of Christ's strength moving in my weakness. Now I take limitations in stride, and with good cheer, these limitations that cut me down to size--abuse, accidents, opposition, bad breaks. I just let Christ take over! And so the weaker I get, the stronger I become." (v 1-12, MSG, emphasis mine)

No one expects us to walk around literally cheering that we struggle with anxiety. But God is expecting us to draw near to Him and rely on Him to get us through it. 

I'm finding that in my weakest moments, when it's hardest to believe or trust or draw near to God, that's when I grow the most and that's when He reveals Himself to be worthy of my Trust. 

God can and will be there for us. We just have to step forward in faith. 

"The fundamental fact of existence is that this trust in God, this faith, is the firm foundation under everything that makes life worth living. It's our handle on what we can't see." (Hebrews 11: 1-2a, emphasis mine). 

It's our handle on what we can't see.

Anxiety, by my definition, is my fear of what I can't see. What I think might be. What I am unsure of. What I am afraid will happen.

And right here, God is telling me to be faithful. To trust. To believe in Him. 

"Be strong. Take courage. Don't be intimidated. Don't give them a second thought because God, your God, is striding ahead of you. He's right there with you. He won't let you down; he won't leave you." Deuteronomy 31:6

Let's pray about that together:

Father, it is SO HARD to trust and believe when everything inside us is frantic and scrambled and unsure. You are not a God of confusion, but a God of order, so we must realize these feelings are not from You. Your feelings are of peace that passes understanding, even in the midst of a huge storm.

Father, anxiety and worry is like a pest that slowly eats away at us. Every moment spent in worry is another moment taken from You. It's another moment we are not believing in and trusting You and Your Word. This saddens You, but You are also merciful and You love us. You are so willing and eager to give us rest and us to know how to receive that. Please calm our anxious thoughts and guide us to You and Your security. Thank You that You never let us down or leave us. In Jesus' s name, Amen.

Post #1 is HERE.
Post #2 is HERE.
Post #3 is HERE.
Post #4 is HERE.
Post #6 is HERE.
Post #7 is HERE.
Post #8 is HERE.

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