Season: 7 Episode: 092
Shanda shares her personal struggle with anxiety and how God showed her how to transform her mind. She also talks about why anxiety is more about coping and transforming your mind than it is a mental health disorder. If you struggle with anxiety and want to overcome it, this episode is a must-listen.
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Hey guys! Welcome back to another episode of Her Faith Inspires podcast. Season 7 is under way and this is the fist episode I’ve recorded since June. With all of the craziness in our country and the world, I wanted to share my story of anxiety with you today and tell you how you can overcome anxiety.
Today we are talking about overcoming anxiety. I know a lot of women in particular struggle with anxiety and depression. Mental health is the most treated illness in the US. It is prominent amongst women and men, but many people don’t know how to cope with it. And to me, it’s not only about coping, it’s about overcoming.
I want to share with you how to do that today. Before I get into the meat of the episode, I want to make clear that I am not a therapist. I am not a substitution for a doctor. I am giving you the spiritual side of this with information from the Bible about how to deal with anxiety and depression.
We are going to talk about:
- My experience with anxiety and depression
- The difference between anxiety and depression and why we learn to live with it
- How to overcome anxiety by strengthening the mind according to the word of God
My experience with anxiety and depression
I battled anxiety and depression when I was in my early 20’s. I was always a bit of an anxious kid and worried about a lot of things. Before school, I cried and worked myself up because I thought about all of the “what ifs”. Like, what if my dad died while I was at school? Or what if something bad happened?
But when I was in my early 20’s, anxiety gripped my mind. I could barely function throughout the day. I would wake up before my alarm clock and run out to the haystack and cry. My heart beat so fast, I had to run to catch up to it.
I pleaded with God to take away the anxiety. But He didn’t. And I didn’t understand why.
I couldn’t eat and I could barely sleep. I envied my cat’s life because he could lie around all day and sleep most of his life away. And that’s what I wanted. I wanted to escape my life. It was that bad.
I called in sick to work some days. Some days I mustered up the strength to go in. I would go somewhere to escape my house and when I got there I realized it didn’t make me feel better, so I’d leave and go back home.
It was a never ending cycle of misery.
As the years went by and I learned how to live with it. I wasn’t happy. I didn’t have joy. It was like I was living, but I wasn’t alive.
Then my husband came into my life. Just being around him made me feel alive again. When we started dating I felt like a bird let out of a cage. I could laugh loudly and be myself and it felt good. So I never had to deal with the anxiety because I went snapped out of it so quickly.
But when our second child was 4 months old, the anxiety came back unexpectedly. It came out of the blue.
But the wonderful thing about it is that the Lord dealt with me about 2 weeks before the anxiety hit me again. He gave me a dream that helped guide me through and overcome this battle.
Now, I don’t always believe God gives us dreams to speak to us, but the Bible is clear that God uses dreams to speak to us when He chooses. I do believe they are few and far between because I don’t have them often. But when I do, I remember them and pray about them.
The dream was simple and I didn’t understand it right away. I was standing in my living room and the enemy was standing in front of me.
As I stood there, the enemy threw weapons at me. But every time he did, I quoted Scripture. It wasn’t strategic and I was just pulling any scripture from memory. Every time the enemy’s weapon came at me and I quoted scripture, two things happened: it turned into a soft spongey material, and it never touched me. Instead, it flew out the window.
That was it. That simple. Fast forward two weeks later.
When the anxiety came back, I remembered this dream. Because at the time, it didn’t make sense.
I realized throughout this trial that the word of God was the only way to conquer this. Anxiety may go away with circumstances but if we don’t learn how to transform our thinking, it will come again and control our lives.
I knew I would have to fight the battle this time around. I couldn’t live with a weak mind and an anxious heart as a wife and mother.
And that’s what I want to share with you today. How to transform your mind with the word of God.
The difference between anxiety and depression and why we learn to live with it
When I started to really dive into the word of God, I realized God spoke about anxiety. Proverbs 12:25 says, “Anxiety in the heart of man causes depression; but a good word makes it glad.” When I read that, I was very comforted because God speaks into this issue.
The second part of that verse says, “A good word makes it glad.” What is that good word? It’s the word of God, my friend.
Anxiety has to do with an anxious mind. People get anxious over many things.
The definition of anxiety is “A state of uneasiness and apprehension, as about future uncertainties.”
The definition of depressed is “low in spirits, dejected.”
So anxiety is fear of the future. Depression is I have no future.
Everyone experiences anxiety to some degree or another. The problem is when it keeps you from living life. If we stay in a state of anxiety too long, it can turn into depression.
Symptoms of anxiety are a fast heart rate, nervous stomach, heaviness in the chest, loss of appetite, agitation, restlessness or the inability to sit still.
Anxiety is how we respond to uncertainty or danger.
But sometimes people can feel a threat where one doesn’t exist. For example, my youngest thinks every physical ailment is something deadly. A headache might be a brain tumor, a stomach ache might be an ulcer. This all began during the COVID lockdowns, so it makes sense that his young mind has a hard time processing what’s going on in the world.
But that is an irrational fear. And that’s the thing we have to realize when it comes to anxiety: is this rational or irrational? It’s important that we identify that and respond accordingly. Often times people respond in fear and that is the same as letting our emotions guide us.
The difference between fear and anxiety is that fear is immediate. It’s happening in the moment, whereas anxiety can be a lot more subjective. What makes one person anxious may not make you anxious. Again, anxiety is all about “what if”. It may not be a real threat and it’s most likely not an immediate threat. It is anticipation of what could happen.
This can be difficult in a lot of ways because fear brings up our defenses and causes us to go into defense mode. That can make it difficult to stop and evaluate whether we’re being rational or irrational. Fear is a strong emotion.
Per Psychology Today, anxiety in the young has risen over the years and much of it has to do with social media.
They also say that there is no “anxiety gene.” Anxiety isn’t something that’s passed down from parent to child, however, parents can demonstrate how to cope with anxiety and pass down those coping mechanisms, or lack thereof, to their children.
Since we have been in a time of uncertainty over the last year, it’s worth sharing that uncertainty doesn’t cause anxiety but per Psychology Today, it creates opportunities for anxiety because it ushers in worry about the future and that creates a chain reaction.
Personality traits, a persons health, are contributors to those who are more prone to anxiety as well.
One of the major differences between anxiety and depression is the lack of function in the depressed. Depression is the outlook of “I have no reason to live” whereas anxiety is “I’m afraid of what will happen as I live.” The depressed shut down.
Why do people live with it?
Let me make clear again that I am not saying you shouldn’t see a medical professional for anxiety and depression. There are Christian counselors you can see and lots of help you can get and if that’s what you need, by all means, please reach out.
But we are asking why people learn to live with anxiety and depression and a lot of that has to do with how we cope. To cope means to deal effectively with something difficult. And to be honest, we are losing our ability to cope in this world. We see people burn and destroy the property of others when they don’t agree with something. That is not coping. That’s a temper tantrum.
Per the Citizens Commission on Human Rights, the number of anti anxiety drugs taken in 2020 overall was 31,229,150. Among those 0-17, it was 1,153,351. You can see a complete age breakdown in the show notes.
The number of anti-depressants in 2020 was 45,204,771 overall. Among those 0-17 was 2,154,118.
I can tell you right now that if you go to the doctor for anxiety or depression, you are going to get handed a prescription for medication. They will not teach you how to cope. And that’s really the heart of this episode today.
Now, if you go to a therapist, they will probably teach you coping mechanisms but you will still be on medication.
Per disturbmenot.com, 53% of adult Americans said their mental health was effected in 2020. 6.8 million Americans have an anxiety disorder. 31% of US adolescents suffer with anxiety disorder.
Per a Newsweek article from April of 2020, there was a 34% increase in the usage of anti-anxiety meds in the US. That number is likely to have risen since things are more uncertain now than they were then.
But if we only treat the symptom and not the real diagnosis, we will never get better.
I want to get to the heart of the anxiety issue by honing in on the fact that it has everything to do with how we think.
And that brings me to my last point … how do we as Christians overcome anxiety?
So in the Bible, anxiety is refereed to as cares, trouble, heaviness, distress. The word anxiety is mentioned 8 times in the ESV and 7 times in the NIV, but the KJV doesn’t use the word anxiety. When Paul says in Phil 4:6 to be anxious for nothing, that can be easier said than done. What are we allowed to be anxious about? Nothing.
But how do we do it?
Romans 12:2 tells us to be transformed by the renewing of our minds. Notice that we have to renew our minds and to renew means to make new again.
Why do we have to do that?
Well, because of the fall, our minds now have a default that goes to the negative. It’s kind of like when a computer defaults to a screensaver. If you don’t keep it active, it will continually go to sleep.
The only way to create a new mind is to first give our lives to God. The Bible tells us that once we get saved, we have the mind of Christ (1 Cor 2:16).
Again, that’s hard to understand because our thoughts will constantly have to be guarded and directed until Jesus comes or we go home, but what that means is we are well on our way to renewing our mind as the first step is in giving our lives to God. Without Christ, our minds are futile. We have no hope.
So if you are a follower of Christ, know that your opportunity to renew your mind is already there.
What’s the next step?
We’re still talking about renewing your mind here.
Well, let’s go back to Proverbs 12:25 where it says, “A good word makes it glad.” The word of God is the mind of God. I’m going to say it again … the word of God is the mind of God. The only way to renew your mind is to get the word of God in your head. But that’s not enough. I know a lot of people who can quote verses but they do not know what those verses mean. Knowledge is the first step toward mind renewal but understanding must follow. If you don’t understand the word, it will not renew your mind. This is done through meditation and study in the word.
The times when the Word of God clicks the best for me is when I meditate on it. And that just means to think on it. I was justing thinking about the rich young ruler the other day and how He referred to Jesus as “good teacher”. The moral argument showed up in that verse for me and it clicked. It was fascinating to me. I’ll have to share it with you sometime soon.
My point is that meditating on the word helps bring the understanding.
And that brings me back to Phil 4:6. Paul told us the format to overcome anxiety. He said to pray. Are you taking every care to God? Are you telling him you’re scared or overwhelmed? Second, he said to be thankful. Are you dwelling on what you have? Where you are? Who you’re with?
Things are getting weird in America, but we still live in a free country. Churches have been burned down in Canada. Young girls are being pepper sprayed for not wearing masks in Australia. You’ve seen the disaster going on in Afghanistan. Do you have food, running water, good health? Be thankful and tell God thank you.
Finally, he says when we do this, God will guard our hearts and minds with peace. Now, you may have to do this in the morning and the evening. You may have to do this every 10 minutes. Take it from someone who has done it. God doesn’t mind. He doesn’t tire or weary. God is never too busy for your requests.
He also tells us where to place our thoughts
On whatever is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, if anything is excellent or praiseworthy.
Whenever my youngest battles anxiety, we measure his thoughts and worries up to this list. Is that pure? Is that true? If not, it’s not worth dwelling on.
I say this every time I talk about anxiety … it’s about training your mind. And that takes diligence and intentionality. I truly believe you burn calories doing it. But you can do it. How do I know? Because the Lord did it for me.
I realize the power of God’s word and I grew to love it. It is my life line. It is water to my soul, and nourishment to my bones. The Word is the hedge around my mind that helps keep futile thoughts out and if they creep in and they do not measure up to the word, they are taken captive.
I cannot and will not go a day without reading or studying God’s word.
I want to close this up with a few reminders for you.
Anxiety isn’t really a mental disorder. It’s a coping issue. But again, how we as christians cope is through the word of God.
Paul says in 2 Cor 10:5 to take every thought captive and make it obedient to Christ. So let me ask you a question: are you taking your thoughts captive or are they taking you captive? It’s only one or the other.
The Christian walk is not complacent and it begins with the heart and the mind. Those are our points of reference when it comes to anything and everything we do. In fact, it is the point of reference for every worldview, every belief, every action, every word. It all begins with the mind/heart.
If you want to change your life, change the way you THINK.
And I don’t want to discourage you, but I want you to know that God has given us everything we need to train our minds. He says in Isaiah 26:3 that He keeps in perfect peace the one whose mind is stayed on Him and who trusts in Him.
God will not just take our anxiety away. I mean, He can. But I please with God. I begged Him and I didn’t understand why He wouldn’t. But after the dream I had and the experience with being literally crippled with anxiety, I now realize God wanted to change my life, not just my circumstance. If He would not have taught me how to overcome, another circumstance would have brought anxiety all over again.
Get into the Word of God. Study it. Be careful what you allow into your head because it effects you. And know that you can renew your mind. If it wasn’t so, the Bible would not have verse after verse that tells us how to do it.
If you have any questions about this or anything else, email me at email@example.com for more info, bible verses, classes on how to study the Bible coming in the spring and anything else you need.
You got this! Don’t let your thoughts control you. Take control over your mind and you’ll take control over your life.
I’ll catch you on the next one!