I’ve walked with anxiety most of my life, but I didn’t define it until adulthood. For those of us who experience anxiety at any number of levels, I think we’d all agree that it can be truly crippling if we let it. I’ll be the first to admit that for most of my life anxiety has kept me from really living out all that God has for me. But these days, my relationship with it is different. In fact, my battle with anxiety has taught me so much about God’s character!
Growing up, my anxiety started with the feeling of being a little sick to my stomach before a big day at school or completely blanking out before a test. It looked like nervous energy that got me in trouble in class or the immense fear of being imperfect at anything new that I wanted to try. Even now, when I feel anxious, my body reacts, and sometimes I’ll feel physically sick. But the most impactful way that it tends to affect me are the ways that you can’t always see or feel—my spiritual health.
Over the years, anxiety has kept me from taking action. It has kept me from stepping forward in faith and trusting in the Lord at times when I knew that was my next step. In the worst of moments, I’ve forgotten the truth from Romans 8:28 that God’s working all things for my good.
But earlier this year, God spoke to my heart on this subject in a new way. I was in the middle of a moment of intense anxiety, feeling like I couldn’t do what was set before me. But in that situation, God reminded me of Isaiah 41:10 NLT: “Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.”
This very real battle with anxiety taught me something about God’s character that drastically changed the way I show up for the world.
You see, no matter how anxious we feel, God is still with us. He is strengthening us no matter the situation and wants to help us figure things out. He even holds us up when we have no strength of our own. Our anxiety doesn’t change God’s character—He stays the same (Hebrews 13:8). So why let our circumstances continue to hold us back from all that God has for us?
As Isaiah 41:10 mentions, we don’t need to be afraid or discouraged by things out of our control. Instead, we can let them fuel us, knowing that it’s when we’re at our weakest that God’s strength works the most powerfully through us (2 Corinthians 12:9-10). So, as we step into the things in our lives that bring about the most anxiety, we’re allowing God’s power to be living and active within us!
It’s not easy, though. Even taking baby steps toward fighting anxiety can sound overwhelming. But as I lean on God’s character and trust who He says He is, I’ve found the hope I’ve needed to start taking those steps forward.
For me, a lot of this progress has come with professional Christian counseling. It’s where I’ve learned the most about God’s character, and it’s why I’m able to apply God’s character to situations that overwhelm me. I’m able to process things with my counselor that I wasn’t able to process before because she’s able to point me back to God’s character when I lose sight of it.
Scripture is another helpful tool that has allowed me to fight back when anxiety hits, and it’s the single place you can go to find the character of God in action. Here’s one of the many verses that has guided me over the years:
We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. 2 Corinthians 10:5 NIV
This verse gives us a much-needed starting point. It reminds us that we can control our thoughts, and we do have the ability to pull our mind into shape if we want to put in the work, whether on our own or with professional help. It also reminds us of God’s perfect character.
So, you’ve heard what my battle with anxiety taught me about God’s character. Now, what can you do today to fight off your anxiety with your personal knowledge of God’s character?
Here are three tools that I use every day to steady my mind and center my heart on who God is instead of the circumstances around me.
1. Continually preach to yourself. We must continually remind ourselves of God’s never-ending grace. Every piece of our identity is linked to what we know about God and His Word. Throughout each and every day, we must be active and intentional about reminding ourselves what we know about God. Some of my favorite Scriptures to start with are: 1 John 3:1, James 1:17, 1 John 1:9, and Psalm 33:13-15.
2. Allow others to love you. There’s a difference between giving a gift and receiving a gift, right? Every day there are people in our lives who are striving to show us love and support. To keep combatting anxiety, you must receive the love that others want to shower upon you. You can allow others to love you despite your messiness. We’re all just as messy, remember? See Romans 3:23, Mark 2:17, and 1 Corinthians 12:14-26.
3. Be kind to yourself. We must choose to receive the grace that God and others offer us every day. If we’re unable to love ourselves, we’ll be unable to shake off anxiety when it cripples us. Do you know how incredibly valuable you are to the Lord and to the people in your life? If you need a few reminders, read: Zephaniah 3:17, Galatians 4:5-7, Luke 4:18, and John 15:1-11.
By choosing to focus on God’s character, I’m forcing my mind to stop worrying about what I can’t control and remembering that I know the One who is in control. So, what step will you try today to fight anxiety and find out who God is?