By Simone Gregor –
They may play on your insecurities, intricately constructing scenarios that rely on past stories with less-than-ideal endings. Slowly, they draw in closer, wearing down resilience and clarity of mind until you believe what they are whispering to you about the circumstances you face.
Anxious thoughts about everyday life don’t always loudly announce their presence. Instead, they might creep in slowly and subversively. Regardless of how they materialize, at some point or another, most of us have found ourselves ensnared by these thoughts that stop us from thriving.
So often, we don’t talk about our struggle against anxious thoughts as we fear being perceived as being weak or lacking courage. Being ashamed of having anxious thoughts strikes me as being slightly counter-productive – and so does feeling the need to pretend that we’re okay – and invincible, of course.
I love how the Psalmist David had no time for that. He was real, raw and authentic with God. And ironically, in showing this vulnerability, he was courageous. He invited God to know his heart, test him and know his anxious thoughts. (Psalm 139:23 – 24) Inviting God to help you figure out the root of your anxious thoughts is a powerful thing. In understanding what our anxiety is rooted in, we may realise what it is that is holding us back from trusting in Him more. When I asked God to show me the root of my anxious thoughts, it became apparent that I sometimes have a tendency to let past disappointments erode my hope in Him.
If you’re a get-things-done kind of person, it might be tempting to try and combat anxious thoughts with busyness. Perhaps Martha was thinking along these lines when Jesus called her out for serving Him in favour of spending time with Him. (Luke 10:41 – 42) Another way I’ve avoided dealing with anxious thoughts was by inadvertently cutting ties from head to heart, and denying myself the space to process my feelings. Sometimes it seems like a distracted, numb heart is less challenging to deal with than a heart that is alive to the situation it finds itself in. God challenges us – as with so many things – to do what may initially seem counter-intuitive: be quiet, and be less busy, so that we can enter His presence. It is in this place that He will help us confront and address the things that worry our hearts, and it is in this place of quietness and rest in Him that He will give us strength. (Isaiah 30:15)
As part of God’s strategy for combatting anxious thoughts, God wants to shoulder our burdens. (1 Peter 5:7) He is more than capable and doesn’t need us to be heroes by thinking we can carry the load by ourselves. We needn’t conform to the cultural norm of self-sufficiency. Prayerfully surrendering these burdens to the One worthy of our worship promises to bring us sacred peace which renders anxious thoughts powerless. (Philippians 4:6-7)
When anxious thoughts threaten to obscure our view and block out the light, we need to look to the one who called Himself the Light of the world. (John 8:12) In the chaos and noise of life it’s easy to inadvertently switch a heavenly perspective for an earthly one. But this would be selling ourselves short. He isn’t denying that the world may cause us to be anxious. Rather, He wants us to know that He is far bigger than our anxieties and that He is capable of bearing our burdens. (Psalm 55:22)