By Christopher Schwinger

Anxiety can be a good thing. It warns us of danger and keeps us alert. But over 18 percent of American adults suffer from excessive anxiety that they can't control. Four percent of adults have severe anxiety. It is the costliest mental health condition, and estimates indicate over 40 percent of employees and over 50 percent of college students suffer from it. Although 30 percent of adults have some sort of anxiety, only 10 percent receive proper help. (Source) Symptoms of anxiety can be similar to depression, and the two often appear together, but where depression leads to hopelessness, listlessness, and negative thoughts, anxiety causes intense worry. (Source)

The thing I find lacking in most Christian counseling material is an understanding of how spiritual victory with mental health issues requires more than an attitudinal choice. The attitude is foundational, but I prayed and prayed for help and worked on my attitude and on Scripture memory endlessly without getting past my intense anxiety. There are stressful situations in which negative emotions can't be avoided, but getting to the point where we don't define ourselves by that pain is very hard.

The New Testament principle which has helped me is displayed in how Jesus understands His relationship with the Father. Especially in the Gospel of John, there are sections which illuminate Jesus' understanding of the "will" of God. He knows He's doing the right thing, and that God the Father doesn't want Him to suffer, but because of the important work He is going to do, He must not blame God but keep His eyes on the greater goal and believe God will use His sacrifice for greater good

What I've taken from reading the red-letter text in parts of the Gospel of John is that I can know God's will by my own "gut feeling," but only if my philosophy and priorities are already Biblically based. If there's a particular stressor in my life which requires a decision on my part, I make sure to pray, but because I have never felt supernaturally guided to make a decision, I have to make my decision based on what feels right — after ensuring that I have the right morality and priorities. In order to have the right morality and priorities, I have to feed my soul with the fellowship of other Christians, a self-motivated study of the Bible, and other Christian literature, taking time to slow down and pray, and thinking regularly about the needs of others and not just my own. These are the basics of the Christian life. If I have good foundations for my morality and healthy priorities, then there's no further need to worry about whether I've "convinced" God to help me by praying fervently enough.

The Old Testament principle that's helped me is the motif (reoccurring theme) of the psalms: God gives hope to the psalmists' souls as they express their struggles to Him and pursue a life of virtue (synonymous with righteousness and holiness). There are many psalms which don't have a lot of spiritual value for anxiety because they are so political, equating the king's war with God's will, but there are many other psalms which speak about universal issues of justice and how God cares about those who are suffering without cause. Everyone is the recipient of unjust suffering through no fault of their own. Our sin natures are not our own fault, either, but we are born with them. To get past the anger over who's to blame, we have to see a more powerful positive vision of what we could actually be. The psalms provide powerful testimonies of how the psalmists' own feelings get transformed through prayer.

Understanding this has made me understand that God is there for me. I realize that my own determination to keep going, when I'm doing the right thing, is a gift God gives to me. I can't keep rising above all the pain without His help, and so even though I don't know how the future will go, I have confidence that my hope is grounded in something real, because it's strength beyond what I naturally have. Romans 5:3-5 says:
And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.
Please tell me whether this answer is helpful to you. I hope so.

Image Credit: Alessandra; "panic anxiety 036"; Creative Commons

TagsBiblical-Truth  | Christian-Life  | Depression  | God-Father  | Hardships  | Personal-Life

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Published on 11-7-16