Stress and Anxiety: A Christian Perspective – Part 2

Continued from Stress and Anxiety: A Christian Perspective – Part 1.

Anxiety is fear and disbelief that has become chronic, and over time it can cause dramatic alterations in our brain chemistry and our bodily health. Fight or flight becomes the daily response to life. In a moment of panic we feel our heart start to race, our breathing becomes shallow, and the abdomen ties itself into knots. Sometimes we can’t even identify the cause of the stress. Often it overcomes us without notice. While anxiety and panic are clearly physiological conditions, it is a perfect example of the mind-body-spirit connection. Combatting anxiety will mean looking at each leg of the stool.

This is not to say that pharmacological therapies may not be necessary in some cases. But if we fail to acknowledge the mind and spirit connection in anxiety, we may overlook important solutions to the deeper issues manifesting as anxiety.

Stress, fear, and anxiety stem from a feeling, usually perceived, that things are going to go horribly wrong, that we will lose something, or that we will not get something we think we need. We feel uncertainty as we try to look into the future because we cannot answer, from out present vantage, how the bill will be paid or the work finished or the cancer cured. We are looking at the situation with human eyes and, knowing the human capacity, we cannot see how the situation will be made right. We begin to churn in fear and anxiety.

But our human eyes are the first problem. We are looking at our lives, our health, or our seemingly precarious circumstances with limited vision and limited power. No wonder we are trembling. The fearless eyes of faith approach the situation a little differently. Those eyes humbly accept that human vision is limited—we can’t see all of the details or what God may be doing in our circumstances. The faith-filled believer recognizes that human strength and resources are limited, but God is not. In full confidence, the believer is assured of God’s love and His promise to work for good on behalf of His children. There is no need for panic; God has it all in control.

What Do We Do? Practical Steps for Increasing Faith, Decreasing Anxiety

Trust God with all your heart. The surest way to reduce anxiety is to increase faith. Faith is a gift of God; we cannot just magically infuse ourselves with more faith, but we can make a healthy discipline of developing our relationship with God and learning to trust Him. Take time daily to read and meditate upon His Word and pray that He would, in the process help you to trust.

Work the steps. The 12 steps are designed to diminish the pride in us that causes us to believe it’s all about us and that everything in our lives is dependent upon us. We welcome God back into an active role in our lives. Working the steps also brings us face to face with our fears and helps us to work through them in faith.

Repent. While we may not recognize it, often our anxiety is conscience-driven. We are afraid of God because we are not right with Him. God loves you even in your sin, but He wants more for you. Go to Him and ask forgiveness. Pray to be turned in a new direction and believe that Christ has, through his death, assumed the penalty for your sin. You may stand clean and forgiven before God. For many, understanding the true nature of repentance and forgiveness provides powerful relief from anxiety.

Recognize sources of unnecessary stress in work, ministry, personal habits and relationships. Life is stressful but many of us aren’t taking any action to decrease stress. While anxiety is connected to our spiritual condition, we have to realize that the logistics of life—many of which are within our control—are also contributing factors in our anxious condition. What is increasing your stress? How can either eliminate these stressors or reform your practices?

Set boundaries. Next to money, relationships are one of the most common sources of stress. If the people in your life are draining you or causing undue pressure, you may need to limit your interaction. Speaking with a pastor or elder can bring helpful outside perspective on how to navigate these difficult relationships in love.

Seek professional help. While anxiety is connected to our spiritual health, it does not mean we will not need professional help in dealing with the deeper issues that may be hindering our faith. There may be past trauma to examine or other physical and psychological conditions to address.

Prayer and Meditation. To trust and know God we must be connected to Him in an intimate way. Prayer and meditation allow us to be quiet before God, to listen to Him, and to feel His care. Deep relaxation and peace are the natural result.