***This is part 4 of an ongoing series I am doing here at Carryonmyheart.com, you can find part 1 here.
Many years and 3 kids later, I had made a reluctant agreement to do life with anxiety and fear. I also experienced postpartum and perinatal depression with all three of my boys. (This is an entire topic close to my heart that I will cover separately in a future post.)
During the time I lived daily with severe anxiety and depression, I put an unnecessary importance on the spiritual side of my battle. Through a combination of half-truths and wrong focus, I gave far too much credit to things that had already been beaten.
I was a prisoner set free—cell door wide open, sitting sadly, defeated.
How to Overcome Anxiety and Depression
Getting back to Basics
The human experience has 2 great enemies; sin and Satan. Both would see us annihilated and both have already been defeated.
I believe the majority of Christians struggle in their Christian walk because we have forgotten who we are in Jesus Christ. I learned first hand how crippling it can be to live life outside of the power I possessed.
Satan knows each of our weaknesses, he is an observer, after all, as evidenced in the scriptures. The things I experienced as a child contributed to the fear that had grown inside of me and I have no doubt my enemy played upon those circumstances.
“Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. 9 Resist him, standing firm in the faith…” 1 Peter 5:8-9 NIV
When I take my boys to the zoo, one of my favorite animals to see is the majestic lion. He sprawls himself high upon his rock and scans his surroundings with a predatory gaze. When he opens wide his toothsome mouth and thunders out the most magnificent roar, I am thankful for that sturdy layer of unbreakable glass.
Satan is referred to as a roaring lion seeking someone to devour. I often zeroed in on the devouring part and felt like a sitting duck. My battle with anxiety and depression made me feel as though I was already in his grasp.
“The truth will make you free…” John 8:32
You see, Satan is my adversary, this is true, but what I neglected to focus on was the fact that he had already been defeated.
There is the sturdiest and most protective glass between him and me;
My precious protector, Jesus.
We give the devil too much credit when we attribute all of our woes to him, just as we can often ignore the part he plays altogether. Both are his deceitful tricks—focus too much or not at all.
So, what do we do with our adversary in light of the truth?
- Be alert and sober-minded (or calm and collected.) 1 Peter 5:8-9
- Resist him. Resist= withstand, oppose, to set against. – Standing firm in our faith. *see James 4:7
- Be aware of his scheming; being aware is not fighting with him. Even Jesus Himself simply rebuked him with truth and Satan fled. *see Matthew chapter 4
When we believe the truth of his defeat, we understand how little power he truly possesses. He rejoices when we believe we can not escape because he knows what we don’t in the moment, we’re already free.
His lies are like thunder, it’s loud and uncomfortable but cannot harm you.
A roar, no matter how booming, is, after all, only noise…
The Wrong Focus
Along with overcoming an inappropriate fear of my adversary, I had another hurdle that held me back from the freedom God intended for me.
But maybe not in the way you think.
I saw in myself and other Christians an obsession with hunting down the sin in every situation. Yes, sin is ever-present because of the broken world we live in. Even so, it does not mean that every trial we go through is a direct sin issue.
In the heart of my struggles, I would periodically gain the courage to open up about what I went through but would often receive unhelpful advice from well-meaning Christians:
“Is there a sin you haven’t confessed?”
“The Bible says we’re not supposed to worry because it’s sinful.”
I was already dealing with so much guilt and confusion, that comments such as the aforementioned were extremely unhelpful. As Christians, we often end up unintentionally wounding those in pain with our words.
“How long will you torment me and crush me with words?” Job 19:2
I believe words have great power to either be instruments of hope and healing or weapons of hurt. How much more does a loving God intend for His words to be used for hope and healing?
Please do not misunderstand me, I was just as guilty as those that sat next to me on my ash pile. I battered the Bible over my own head as much, if not more than others. Every stone I had unturned elsewhere wasn’t answered, so, clearly, this must be a sin. The Bible became nothing more than a tool to “fix” me.
Why do we as Christians often use the Bible as a weapon rather than the love letter it was intended to be? I have found a tendency to slap the “sin sticker” on everything we can not understand.
Of course, this way of thinking is nothing new…
As He passed by, He saw a man blind from birth. And His disciples asked Him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he would be born blind?” Jesus answered, “It was neither that this man sinned, nor his parents; but it was so that the works of God might be displayed in him.” John 9:1-3 NASB
Maybe what you’re going through today is simply the birth of a beautiful work that God wants to display.
Our mental and emotional struggles typically have a spiritual side because we are intricately made of body, soul, and spirit, one is not separate from the other. However, it is usually not the only factor. As intellectual as we are, we are not God, and can not possibly know in what way one affects the other.
Correcting our Focus
An inordinate emphasis is put on sin when we forget we have victory over it. Are we perfect? No, not here, not yet. Do we sin when we have a wrong focus? Sure. But are we to do constant sin hunts and dwell on that? I don’t think so, because when Jesus Christ is our savior, we are new.
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” 2 Corinthians 5:17
I spent a very long time staring at the old, gazing deeply into the grave of where I had lain. Staring so long and hard, in fact, that I was missing the greatest love story ever told;
My very own redemption and transformation.
As a believer in Jesus Christ, I was given power, the same power that had healed the sick and rose Jesus Christ from the grave.
Try Something New
When I began switching out the fear of the defeated for the victory of the conqueror, I saw a change in myself. I implemented His words with the purpose He intended them for and when panic hit, I tried something new; I tried resting.
“Be still and know that I am God; I will be exalted…”Psalm 46:10
I love the NASB version of this verse, “Cease striving…” To cease means to stop. Stop fighting. (I would suggest reading this entire chapter)
In practical ways, I began to rest and stop fighting. When fearful thoughts intruded my mind and panic hit, I began to breathe deeply and speak the truth that Jesus is my savior and He will fight for me.
Was it automatically easy? Nope. But I knew I had Him on my side. There was a power behind my resting. Slowly over time, I began seeing the freedom that was mine all along.
Want more encouragement to help you to overcome anxiety and depression?
Stick with me through my personal journey of having walked through life with anxiety and depression and where I am today because of God’s grace and faithfulness!