Everyone experiences anxiety at some time in their lives. But anxiety can be either healthy or unhealthy.
What is Healthy Anxiety?
How did you feel before a big test, playing in the big game, or meeting someone important? Or what were your emotions surrounding a critical job interview or presentation?
You probably experienced a heightened awareness and laser-like focus. You physically had sweaty palms, a dry mouth, and a racing heart. That is healthy anxiety.
And healthy anxiety is a good thing. It enhances our performance and concentration. It also spurs our imagination and increases our creativity.
What is Unhealthy Anxiety?
Unhealthy anxiety is a sense of impending dread or danger or feeling threatened. And there is no apparent justification for these feelings.
Anxious persons often feel worried, tense, and unable to relax. Associated physical symptoms include rapid heartbeat, dry mouth, increased blood pressure. You can have excessive perspiring with a feeling of being cold and clammy.
And in more severe cases, anxiety can progress to life-altering problems. For example:
- Panic attacks
- Phobias are unnatural fears focused on innocuous objects or situations
- Obsessive-compulsive behaviors.
By the way, it is worth noting that anxiety is not the same as fear.
Fear is a response to an actual danger affecting a person’s safety, like confronting a bear on a camping trip.
I am going to provide you with the 6 C’s to understanding and conquering anxiety. They are:
- Causes of Anxiety
- Correct Godly Perspective of Anxiety
- Coming to God in Prayer
- Concentrating on Biblical Thinking: Train Analogy
- Communicating Biblically in Our Speech
- Consistent Actions Demonstrating a Christ-like Lifestyle
1. Causes of Anxiety
Satan, sin, and self-focused living can cause anxiety (Matt. 6:25–34).
Additionally, anxious persons may have had parents who were also anxious and modeled this behavior.
Also, a history of physical, emotional, or spiritual abuse or trauma may be present. Excessive fear of what others think about us can be another cause of anxiety.
Lastly, several medical conditions can cause anxiety.
2. Correct Godly Perspective of Anxiety
Your perception of life dictates your coping skills with anxiety-provoking situations.
The Apostle James tells us to: “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing (James 1:2-4)
In other words, to successfully deal with anxiety, we need a “godly perspective.”
- But the only way to develop a godly perspective is to have a mature faith
- And the only way to develop a mature faith is to undergo trials.
- Looking at the process in reverse can help. Undergoing trials produces a mature faith that leads to a godly perspective.
- In sum, a godly perspective comes from a mature faith forged in the heat of trials.
But there is an irony. Too often, the challenging life circumstances meant to mature our faith (Phil. 4:6–9) can have the opposite effect. They can lead us to become more anxious!
Why is that?
Because we make two mistakes:
- First, we have let our anxious emotions lead us rather than being in control of our thoughts
- Second, we spend too much time focused on ourselves
But if we want to defeat anxiety, we need to decide to do something wholeheartedly at the outset:
- We must choose to believe that God has a purpose for these trials
- And that purpose is to mature our faith, give us a godly perspective, and make us more like Jesus (Rom. 8:28)
Remember that the Christian faith focuses upward on God who gives us perfect peace (Isa. 26:3)
But you may ask, “That all sounds good in theory, but what practical steps can I take to overcome my anxiety?”
3. Coming to God in Prayer
The first thing you should do when you are experiencing anxiety is to pray. One way is the “ACTS” method:
- Adoration: Praise God for his care for you in any situation, no matter how unsettling (1 Cor. 10:13)
- Confess your sinful thoughts of anxiety (1 John 1:9) and inability to overcome them on your own
- Thanksgiving: Thank God that after you endure these trials (Eph. 5:20) you will be more like Jesus (Rom. 5:3–5)
- Supplication: Ask God for wisdom to change your sinful pattern of anxiety (Jas. 1:5) through the Holy Spirit’s power (2 Tim. 1:7)
4. Concentrating on Biblical Thinking: Train Analogy
Emotions control an anxious person’s behaviors. Their thoughts and actions are not in control.
To illustrate this idea, consider a train with an engine, boxcar, and caboose. For the analogy, the engine is the mind (our thoughts). And it should be leading and directing our behavior (boxcar). Coming up behind is a caboose that represents our emotions or feelings.
In sum, our mind’s thoughts (engine) drive our behavior. And our thoughts and behavior determine our emotions.
But in an anxious person, the process is backward. Our emotions (caboose) drive and control our behaviors and thinking.
So how can we put our mind (thinking) in charge of our behaviors and emotions?
The first thing to remember is the Bible never commands us to change our feelings. That is impossible.
Instead, Paul tells us to renew our minds (Rom. 12:2) by obeying Scripture (John 14:15).
To put it another way, when we choose to obey Scripture, we control our thinking.
Let’s apply that to our analogy. Our thoughts (engine) take control of our behavior or actions (boxcar). And then, our thoughts and actions will control and guide our emotions and feelings (caboose).
How to “Renew Your Mind”
“Renewing your mind” is the biblical way to regain control of our thought life (the engine). Ephesians 4:17-5:21 teaches the “putting off” and “putting on” principles.
The method begins by “putting off” old thinking patterns of sin and self-focus (1 Pet. 5:7). And instead, “putting on” a new habit of centering our thoughts on God.
This “putting on” or renewing our mind involves the Bible. Don’t just read it! Study, meditate, memorize, and obey Scripture!
Specifically, concentrate on passages that glorify God (Matt. 22:37–39) and deal with overcoming anxiety (Phil. 4:6-9)
5. Communicating Biblically in Our Speech
As anxious people, we must not let our emotions control us. Instead, we must take charge of our thinking and speech.
As a wise man in my church once said: “Sometimes God lets your lips say what your ears need to hear.”
We should speak like we can genuinely trust God with our lives regardless of our feelings.
In other words, we should frequently talk to ourselves and others about God’s glory (1 Cor. 10:31), goodness, and how he makes a difference in our life (1 Pet. 3:15).
Anxious people are often too self-focused. Instead, we can encourage other believers toward love and good deeds (Heb. 10:23–25). While at the same time, we avoid dwelling on our sorrows and defeats linked to anxiety.
As a result, our thoughts and speech take control of our emotions. And over time, we begin to trust God with our lives and overcome our emotional anxiety.
6. Consistent Actions Demonstrating a Christ-Like Lifestyle
Despite our anxiety, God commands us to live biblically (Jas. 1:22-25).
Several actions can help us live a more Christ-like life.
1. First, we genuinely commit to obeying Scripture unconditionally.
2. Second, we become less anxious as we take the focus off ourselves. And focus on serving others in biblical love and a Christlike attitude (Matt. 7:12; 20:25–28). It is true that “loving God and others” will cast out our fear (1 John 4:15–21).
- Forgive others just as God has forgiven us (Eph. 4:32) regardless of how we feel (Phil. 4:13)
- Make amends for wrongdoing and seek reconciliation with those we have offended (Matt. 5:23–24)
3. Third, minimize activities that induce anxiety. Avoid situations, places, and personal contacts that cause anxiety (1 Pet. 5:8–9).
What is Your Next Step in Overcoming Anxiety?
The temptation to anxiety is common. But by trusting God and remaining obedient to Scripture, we can all overcome anxiety.
By understanding and applying the 6 C’s, we can be free from anxiety (Rom. 8:15).
But in overcoming anxiety, be patient and keep a long-term perspective:
- Healing from anxiety takes time
- Being free from anxiety is a day-to-day process
- It may be replacing years of wrong thinking patterns with biblical responses
If You Suffer from Significant Anxiety: Seek Help
If anxiety interferes with your daily life. Or you suffer from phobias, panic attacks, or compulsive behaviors, seek professional help. Choose a trained counselor, therapist, or physician. It is best if they practice Christian principles.