Following Jesus Means Not Worrying Even If You Still Have Anxiety

Following Jesus Means Not Worrying Even If You Still Have Anxiety

There's a difference between mental illness and self-destructive overthinking.

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There is something about the slower, calmer pacing of the summer season that has brought me a greater understanding of how I function within my mental illnesses. Daily time devoted to prayer and reading scripture, a healthy sleep schedule, going to the gym, and making sure I drink plenty of water throughout the day has helped me recognize how much of my mental health issues are really a physiological response to the way I treat (or mistreat) my body.

But even though I have found my healthy, physical, and mental summer rhythm, and haven't been struggling with waves of depression or episodes of anxiety as often as I did throughout the school year, worrying and overthinking have still been a hurdle for me.

I've written about my struggles with overthinking in the past, and have even called it my ultimate sin. Still, this summer I have begun to crack down on this specific struggle, in a way I never thought to approach it:

I can struggle with my anxiety disorder but not be overthinking.

The simplest way to explain is this: I have found that my anxiety is often out of my control, that sometimes my mind and body react to situations and circumstances in ways that paralyze me from acting/processing what's going on around me. But when I overthink or worry, it not so much a physiological experience, and rather a very bad habit I feed.

A good example of this would be when I wrote and prepared to give my sermon during a recent gathering in my Christian community. A few days leading up to the sermon I struggled with anxiety (which can sometimes include overthinking) but sometimes can also simply be a tenseness and "fight or flight" feeling that I can't shake or avoid. (Obviously, some stress about public speaking is normal, but where I know it's my anxiety acting up is when my bodily and mental response is way beyond normal forms of tension or apprehension.)

Compare that to me re-writing and constantly deleting/restarting my sermon just because I think it's "dumb" or that it's not good enough. I would worry that I could do better, that it wasn't my best work, and before you know it I'm rewriting sections of the sermon the morning of!

Maybe some are reading this and not seeing the difference between struggling with an anxiety disorder and struggling with overthinking/worry. I think it's okay if not everyone agrees that there is a difference: that's where healthy debate and conversation surrounding these topics come into play.

However, I know myself, especially where my overthinking comes from a lack of trust in God.

I find myself worrying the most when I am not reflecting back on how God has provided for me, how He is currently moving in my life and guiding me. I remember part of the Sermon on the Mount (one of Jesus' most famous speeches), where He describes people who "store up...treasures on earth," and therefore give way to darkness and serve for the materialism of this world. From here, Jesus leads His sermon into addressing the topic of worrying, telling His disciples to "therefore...not worry about [their lives]" (Matthew 6:25, NIV).

For Jesus, there is a correlation in where your heart and desires are set and your current state of worrying. I have found that to be nothing but the truth.

I overvalue how people perceive me and wish to be loved by everyone all the time. I desire to be looked up to as smart and stylish. No wonder even when my anxiety is low my worrying is still high: my treasure is in the earth, giving my mind away to worrisome darkness.

But in this I believe there is hope for all of us, as Jesus closes this section of His great speech with this call to action: "For the pagans run after [food, drink, and clothing], and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well" (Matthew 6:32-33, NIV).

It is through pursuing God first that the darkness of worry and overthinking give way.

By prioritizing prayer, making communication with God the most valuable and integral part of my schedule, I tell myself and my worries that my overthinking doesn't control me, that I can put things on the back burner and not hold a million concerns with me all the time. I have found that naming my worries and praying to seek a relationship with God first might not automatically heal me of my anxiety disorder, but it most definitely chips away and eliminates the storm cloud of worry that, indeed, can be shaken.

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12 Bible Verses For Faith In Hard Times

Remind yourself that God is always with you.
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Lately, I have felt lost at what God wants for my life. Ever since I've come back to UWG everything has been horrible. It seems that I can't catch a break. I'm trying my best to focus on school, work, and extracurricular activities. But it's hard when I'm having issues with my apartment/roommates and knowing my family back home is struggling and needs many prayers. All, I keep thinking is maybe Carrollton isn't where I belong anymore. I've asked God if He can guide me in the right direction. Below, I have found Bible verses that have helped get me through these rough, past couple of weeks.

1. Isaiah 43:2

"When you go through deep waters, I will be with you."

2. Psalm 37:5

"Commit your way to the Lord. Trust in Him, and He will act."

3. Romans 8:18

"The pain that you've been feeling, can't compare to the joy that's coming."

4. Proverbs 31:25

"She is clothed in strength, and dignity, and she laughs without fear of the future."

5. Joshua 1:9

"Be bold. Be brave. Be courageous."

6. Ecclesiastes 3:1

"There is a time for everything and a reason for every activity under the heavens."

7. Isaiah 41:10

"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."

8. Isaiah 66:9

"I will not cause pain without allowing something new to be born, says the Lord."

9. Psalm 91:4

"He will cover you with His feathers, and under His wings, you will find refuge; His faithfulness will be your shield and rampart."

10. Psalm 62:1-2

"My soul finds rest in God alone, my salvation comes from Him, He alone is my rock and my salvation."

11. Philippians 4:13

"I can do everything through Christ who gives me strength."

12. Jeremiah 29:11

"For I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."

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Did God Have To Become Human?

How was killing the perfect man the only way to save us?

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God reveals Himself in numerous ways. I can look to nature and notice order and law. God reveals Himself in nature, but not perfectly. God used prophets and teachers, but this revelation came through imperfect men. God reveals Himself through a book, a book for which we should be grateful - but not satisfied. A book is not personal, but God is infinitely personal. A book is the Word become word, not the Word become flesh.

Selwyn Hughes, in his book "Christ Empowered Living," says, "The Word passed from controlling the universe to obedience, from independent cooperation in the equality of Deity to dependent submission to the will of God."

Every moment, the will of Jesus was under the constraint of love and completely aligned with the will of God. In Jesus, we see a picture of a will yielded to the divine will of the Father, which shows that the One who holds all power uses it for good. Until Jesus, we could only see the will of man and the destruction that it created.

We can look at nature and recognize that it still retains a glimpse of the perfection and order it originally embodied, yet we still see that it has also fallen into disaster. We can look at man, the intricacies of the human anatomy, and the characteristics that set us apart from the rest of creation and see such a purposeful and magnificent design; however, we still recognize that our thoughts and actions can be so selfish and evil.

Until Jesus, nothing perfect existed on earth. Nature was beautiful, but it could spontaneously produce a fire or storm that devastated thousands. Humans were lovable, but they could also cause much pain. There is no other way for humans to understand the loving character of God without Him coming down from His throne and proving Himself to us.

I've never heard of a king who leaves his throne to persuade the peasants of his love for them, but the Creator of the universe did this for us. Until a perfect man came to display perfect love to the world, such a love could not have been known. Jesus was necessary for God to be known as a personal, sacrificial, loving, gracious, holy, immaculate, awesome, forgiving God. Jesus was necessary for the Church. God provided a perfect picture of what it looks like when our will is in perfect submission to His.

God never used the famous parent line "Do as I say, not as I do." The King left the pure and perfect heavens, put Himself in the constraints of human flesh and weakness, was born as a helpless child, and remained sinless and lived His life in service to humanity, who had betrayed Him. He experienced exhaustion, sweated blood, survived the number of lashes said to kill a man, carried His cross, hung upon it, and sacrificed Himself so that everyone may know that the God of the universe is love and that He invites you to be loved by Him.

By looking at the life of Jesus, we can see straight into the heart of the Father. God is a Christ-like God, and I can think of nothing better and I could be content with nothing less.

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