It’s 3am and my heart is restless with anxieties that grow and multiply in the dark like dustbunnies under my bed.
I suspect that most of us who wage war with anxiety know from painful and personal experience that dustbunnies of, well, dust are easier to manage than dustbunnies of anxiety. The dusty kind are cute (at least in name), but the anxious kind…? They’re not so cute.
So what’s a girl to do when she lives in a world that provokes anxiety?
Don’t try to deal with your anxiety on your own. I know it’s hard to admit your anxiety and feel that you’re confessing your lack of faith too. I also know that it’s when I share my anxiety that it ceases to be my enemy. Sometimes I put my fears into words and watch them shrink from huge, leering giants to fluffy, fuzzy dustbunnies in the corner of my heart. Even if my worries are as real as they feel, sharing them enables others to help, by praying with and for me and by preaching the truth to my heart when I’ve forgotten how. I recommend being honest and asking for perspective and prayer from parents, pastors or godly older women.
Speaking of preaching the truth to your heart, this is what you need to do, every day (and sometimes every night too). Don’t listen to your heart wondering (and worrying) what is going to happen next in your life. Tell your heart that God has good plans for your life and He will provide and He’ll never leave you alone. That’s easier said than done. I know. Preach the truth to your heart anyway: He knew you before you were born, He’ll be with you in your old age, His plans are for you to have a hope and a future.
Remember, the truth will set you free. You can only preach the truth to your heart if you know the truth. So read the Bible. Learn the Bible by heart. And repeat the Bible back to yourself when those dustbunnies of anxiety start growing and multiplying. I start with Proverbs 3:5-6:
Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.
That’s a promise — and He is faithful to keep His promises!
Avoid anxiety-inducing “food” for your heart. What are you feeding your heart? None of us can hide from the broken, hurting world in which we’re pilgrims and sojourners and to which we have a ministry of reconciliation with God. I find that I have grace to handle the hard, scary things that I have to listen to and respond to at work. I’m called to minister in that place and to those people, so there is grace. I don’t usually have the grace to handle the hard, scary things that are reported every night on the news or woven into the plots of mature novels.
I believe we’re called to care about the needy around the world and I’m not suggesting that we should close our hearts to their cries. I don’t think we’re called to hear and process the gory details of every latest scandal or murder. If those things make you fearful and worried, don’t make them “food” for your heart.
And you may find that your heart is stronger and less vulnerable to anxiety if you keep your body and mind healthy too. It’s hard in a world where we’re all compulsively busy and constantly tired. Eating and resting wisely, however, increases my ability to deal with those dustbunnies of anxiety.
Read the testimonies of godly men and women who’ve gone before and been faithful. Some of my favourites are Charles and Susannah Spurgeon and Corrie ten Boom. They faced great sorrows and struggles and yet they trusted God. They inspire me to do the same.
Sing church hymns. Sing gospel songs. Sing praise choruses. Whatever praises God and lifts the eyes of your soul from your anxiety to His love, His faithfulness, His grace: learn the words and the tunes. And then sing out loud. When I don’t have words to express my faith, I can use the words of others. Personally, for example, I love 10,000 Reasons!)
Trust in God. Trust Him for yourself and for those you love. He’s not just faithful to you, but to your parents and your siblings, to your husband and your children. Sometimes it’s harder to trust God for their safety and well-being than for our own. I know that. I also know that He who called me and is faithful is He who called them and is faithful. I’m still learning to trust Him to be and to work in the lives of others without my constant worrying to remind Him. I can pray. And then I can let Him be God in their lives.
And at 3am or any other time when those dustbunnies of anxiety are overwhelming, I follow this advice, from my friend Natasha:
Open your Bible, start reading, and don’t stop. He’s there. His voice. His heartache. His unending, unrelenting, overwhelming love. No matter what lies are holding you captive, keep reading and keep fighting. He’ll find you. I promise.