Overcoming Anxiety: A Christian Approach to Excessive Fear, Stress, And Worry – Part 1

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9

We hear the encouragements from Scripture to “have no fear,” but it often feels like these words were intended for others-people more sane, people more balanced, or those who simply have easier lives.

Let’s face it: though we often didn’t realize it at the time, most of us practiced our addictions as a means of escaping a life we found stressful, unmanageable, fearsome, or hostile. Whether we gravitated toward food, alcohol, excessive exercise, or something stronger, we were relying on an outside substance or behavior pattern to get us through life’s rough spots and ease our frazzled nerves.

“Fear somehow touched about every aspect of our lives. It was an evil and corroding thread; the fabric of our existence was shot through with it. It set in motion trains of circumstances which brought us misfortune we felt we didn’t deserve. But did we not often set the ball rolling ourselves?” (Alcoholics Anonymous, 67-68)

Many addicts don’t recognize, until getting sober, how anxious, unsettled, and fearful they actually are. How could we have seen it? At the first sign of discomfort we medicated. We didn’t know what would happen, or what we faced, and we didn’t want to. It was easier to get drunk and avoid it altogether.

Suddenly we feel the world in a new way. We have never had to address and conquer our fears like grown-ups, so we are suddenly beset by them in droves. We can feel our blood pressure rising and that familiar knot tightening up in the pit of our stomachs. The pace of our breathing quickens and we start looking for an escape.

What we are experiencing is quite normal. Recovery is the safest place for us to be, but it is not always the most comfortable. For many of us it is the first time we have had to feel our feelings and come face to face with our fears. It isn’t always pretty.

For the Christian in recovery, there are several effective ways to manage anxiety and cope with the new stresses of navigating a sober life. We must approach our fears with honesty, humility, and faith. The following suggestions are not necessarily intended to magically cure you of anxiety, but rather to help you examine the root of it and the unbelief that perpetuates it.

We have to understand where anxiety comes from. The simple answer is that fear, worry, and anxiety stem from unbelief. For Christians this is often hard to hear. Many of us pray, attend worship, and strive to live a Christian life. How could we be guilty of unbelief?

When we are caught in our anxiety, we are failing to internalize that God is the Creator and Sustainer of the universe. We are acting on the belief that all results rest on us, and we are fearful of the outcome. We are relying on our own insufficient power to do the impossible. We are forgetting that with God, all things are possible.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. Psalm 23:4

Failure to see God as the all-powerful, all-loving God that He is would naturally inspire a sense of fear and unrest. This is the unbelief, or false belief, that breeds fear and anxiety. The antidote, then, is to begin to know God as He really is.

We also may not properly understand how God relates to us and who we are in Him. Many of us are beset by anxiety because we fail to believe that God really loves us and is protecting us. We fear God because we imagine Him to be an angry God just waiting for us to slip up. As God’s child, you are His beloved. Tell it to yourself several times a day. Studying God’s character as it is expressed in the Bible helps you to know God as He really is. When we are bathed in genuine love, fear slips away.

There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. 1 John 4:18

Continued in Overcoming Anxiety: A Christian Approach to Excessive Fear, Stress, And Worry – Part 2.