Earlier this last month I spoke a little about “doing it afraid.”
It’s funny to me how just when I write about something, Jesus gives me a chance to live it out. I have to face something that I find very scary and a friend kindly sent those 3 words to me in a text. I smiled reading it because I knew it was my words. A little “practice what you preach” was most definitely coming my way.
It keeps me on my toes, I guess. (Oh, Jesus, following you certainly never leaves me with a dull moment. We’ll have to have a discussion about this someday along with the fact that I can’t seem to consume copious amounts of ice cream without getting fat. It all seems so unfair..)
As for now? Well.. practice what I preach.
“For we walk by faith not by sight..” 2 Corinthians 5:7
I love the NLT version of this scripture, “For we live by believing and not by seeing.”
Living by belief and not what we see is exactly what I meant by doing it afraid. The whole point of “doing it afraid” is to prove God’s faithfulness in our lives.
It’s easier said than done, right?
Living with anxiety tends to feel like we have a serious disadvantage in the whole walking by faith realm. It can feel like a non-stop uphill battle and an unfair one at that. When we are anxious, everything we see, feel, hear or touch screams at us because we are so overly sensitive to everything.
I was just talking with a friend the other day that is currently struggling with some severe anxiety. She was telling me that every sound puts her on edge and all I could do was nod emphatically.
Anxiety and stress cause every nerve in your body to be on high alert. Every person that has ever lived knows how it feels to be “on edge,” even if they do not struggle with anxiety on a daily basis. Living with anxiety means being over the edge every day.
When I am dealing with strong anxiety I struggle to eat or to sleep. Obviously, both are necessary to function normally. So, as you can imagine, I don’t function quite “normally” in my day to day life when this is happening.
The question remains, how to live by faith and not feelings when anxious or depressed?
It has taken me quite some time to learn how to walk by faith in seasons of anxiety or depression.
The key phrase being, “learn.”
I’ll start off by saying something you will hear me say often; it will take time. Thankfully, however, God has nothing but time. Remember to be kind and give yourself lots of grace. Putting one foot in front of the other and accepting who you are and the fact that God accepts you just as you are. He is not upset with you for being anxious.. and no, you’re not a bad Christian. (I’ll talk more about this in upcoming blog posts.)
When I truly began digging into God’s word for the answers to what I was going through, without expecting it to be a quick fix, (This will ALSO be a topic for another day) It was the smallest things that opened huge doors for change.
Reading in the book of John for probably the hundredth time in my life, I turned to chapter 14, verse 27 and began to read.
“Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you, I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”
It never stops amazing me how God uses His word in the simplest ways that make the most impactful changes in my heart. It’s especially amazing when it’s a passage I’ve read time and again.
That word “let” leapt off the page at me. I distinctly remember staring at it in amazement because it explained something I never knew that I didn’t know.
Reading that sentence over and over, I narrowed it down to the main point, “Do not let your heart be troubled and do not be afraid..”
“It’s a choice.” I whispered out loud to no one in particular. And smiled.
I had a choice.
It almost sounds silly now typing that small sentence. But it is huge.
When you truly begin to BELIEVE from the heart that you have a choice, it changes everything. This tiny portion of this verse spoke volumes to me because I was finally ready to stop being a victim.
Let me pause and explain something here. I know what it feels like to be upset at statements like the aforementioned. Because I know what it feels like to truly BELIEVE there is no way out. Please understand what I am saying, anxiety is not something we ask for, but it is something we can choose or not choose in a moment. I used to believe I was a victim to anxiety and fear, I believed I was ruled and defined by it. No, I didn’t ask to be prone towards a fearful, worrying mind and anxious body, that was not my “fault.” However, when we believe in Jesus He gives us self-control over our mind and emotions.
I am a new creation in Christ, but my body is not new yet. Therefore, here lies the tricky in-between where I must make a choice. When I read the truth of “Let not your heart be troubled,” I learned that feelings don’t rule me. Jesus does.
If you know anxiety and the feelings that come with it, then you may be sitting here thinking, “yeah, easy for you to say!” Believe me, I get it. We can not change our feelings in a moment. It’s not about changing our feelings, so much as not allowing them to be the final say. There are times my heart is pounding out of my chest and my stomach is in knots. The key is, I don’t have to let my mind follow.. because it always tries.
I absolutely have a choice.
I do not have to LET my mind race down a rabbit trail of fear.
Every moment we live is just that, a moment. We live life in snippets of time and therefore, we make a million choices within moments every day. I have to choose in that moment of anxiety or panic if I’m going to allow His peace to rule me instead of the fear. I choose to put one foot in front of the other, walking in the direction of Jesus’s peace.
The best way I have learned to describe this, is being in a boat on a stormy sea and just “riding it out.” The difference between me now and me then, is that now I believe it’s not a passive “riding it out.” When I would have anxiety or a panic attack in the past, I would sincerely believe there was nothing I could do. In my mind “it” was happening to me. Now, I believe I have a choice in the matter. It may not be pleasant but I can choose where I set my mind. I ride the waves, focusing on the horizon and the truth that my feelings don’t rule me. Jesus does.
This is a little bit of where the “doing it afraid” comes in. Your feelings are just that, feelings, they are going to mess with you and come along for the ride no matter what. So, I say, do it, believe you can, feel that fear and let Jesus prove His truth is bigger than your feelings.
I can tell you that after years of dealing with anxiety, speaking truth to my mind in the midst of a panic attack or anxious episode, always makes it go away faster.
If you are experiencing anxiety or panic attacks, remember that speaking truth to your mind is the most important thing to do. It can mean the difference between falling into a deep pit of despair and simply just having a rough day.
There are times we can’t speak lengthy scripture passages to ourselves or pray eloquent prayers, we just don’t have it in us. When you are in this place, keep it simple and speak a small truth that you know means something huge. When you do this you’re training your brain and changing your belief.
Focus on a simple truth and say it out loud if that helps. Or say a simple prayer, asking God to help you believe that you have a choice. Sometimes we don’t even feel as though we can choose in those really hard moments. Focus on the truth and keep moving forward. Remember, “it’s just a moment.” I would often tell myself, it’s just a moment, I’ve lived thousands and thousands of moments. He has brought me faithfully through all of those moments, He will bring me through this one too.
If you stick around here any length of time you will hear me say this again and again; Anxiety does not just vanish in a moment or go away over night if this is something you deal with regularly. It will, however, lessen over time as you implement tools in your daily life. Also know that your faith walk will look a little different in seasons of anxiety and/or depression. That’s ok. Remember, be kind, you’re human, you’ll have good days and bad.
My friend, struggling with controlling emotions doesn’t have to define you. You have a choice. Living by believing sounds so mystical and other worldly, but really, it’s simply speaking truth to ourselves and continuing to choose to not let our heart be troubled. Even when it feels like the hardest thing in the world to do, you will find your savior always faithful to help.
**I’m working on getting some printable’s up with simple truths that you can carry with you. Check back soon for these!**