Anxiety Disorders affect roughly 40 million Americans according to the National Institute of Mental Health and women are 60% more likely to experience an anxiety disorder in their lifetime than men. This means that anxiety disorders (Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Panic Disorder, Social Anxiety Disorders, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, Phobias, and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) affect roughly one out of every five adults!
Statistics indicate that you or someone you know will experience an anxiety disorder at some point in life.
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In my last post, I wrote that anxiety is often rooted in the false belief that we can/should be able to do everything on our own- but the realization that we cannot possibly control every circumstance, nor can we have complete confidence in our own strength, abilities, efforts, or relationships— creates tension. This tension may motivate us toward greater effort and discipline, but also may produce fear and anxiety we cannot manage properly.
You lay in bed, trying to sleep, but you can’t. The minutes fly by and soon the hours, but you can’t stop thinking– your brain is going a million miles a minute playing out scenarios, ideas, replaying past events, wondering where you went wrong. You ask why this is happening to you and what you will do about it. You see no answers or easy path forward. You are dealing with anxiety.
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Anxiety is worry, impatience, restlessness, unease, or eagerness to see things happen— and if left unchecked can have disastrous effects on our health, relationships, even our faith!
To root out this issue, we have to dig deep.
Most of us believe anxiety is driven by our circumstances – financial instability, conflict in relationships, uncertainty about the future, feeling a loss of control, etc…but those are just circumstances. They are still part of the surface. What is the root problem when I am experiencing the financial instability, a broken relationship, or uncertainty about the future?
We all enjoy stories of hope, success, overcoming the odds, and victory over our struggles. Most of us do not see ourselves in those stories, however. They are usually other people’s stories- at least in our minds they are. We rarely see our own life story as one of overarching hope, victory, and blessing.
But that doesn’t have to be the case- it mustn’t be the case– because God’s wisdom gives us everything WE need to accomplish those goals and experience transformation. Wisdom guides us in our relationships, in management of finances, our parenting, taking control of harmful habits and destructive thought patterns, and much much more!
But most of us don’t know where to begin. Most people do not know the foundational elements to a life of wisdom and sadly, they miss the countless rewards that come from it!
A dear friend of mine was expressing exasperation at her constant influx of defeating and destructive thoughts. In fact, as I speak with many women, it is shocking to hear the negative, accusatory, and hopeless thoughts that plague their minds. I must admit, I struggle with this to some degree also, but depending on one’s past, or even their present situation, the enemy often uses that as evidence that we don’t deserve better anyway.
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Is it any wonder that many women, Christian women, are overwhelmed and incapacitated, like being a prisoner trapped in our own minds?
It is critical that we do something immediately to turn this around! Our future hope depends on it!
The critical action– we must take our thoughts captive.
“We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” 2 Corinthians 10:5
My dear friend knows this verse, as do I, and probably you too. But knowing what we should do and how to do it are two different things.
I want to quickly share just a few steps in HOW to take our thoughts captive and make them obedient to Christ, essentially freeing ourself from the prison of our own thoughts.
Life is often referred to as a journey. The paths we take and the decisions we make determine where we end up, but it is often difficult to find the “right” path or even know what it looks or feels like.
“Do I pursue a relationship with this person? Should I take this job transfer? How do I lead my teenager through this issue? Where do I go to further my education? Should I quit my job and start my own business?”
Wisdom offers clarity on recognizing the best course so we do not stumble or end up in the wrong place.
Roughly twelve years ago, my husband and I desperately needed help finding our way forward as it had been clouded by loss, confusion, and painful circumstances.
Laslett John Pott [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
We all need advice from time to time. We need people in our lives that can speak into dilemmas or challenges we must confront to give us insight, a different perspective, or direction. Proverbs talks a lot about the importance of having advisors and asserts:
“Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisors they succeed” (Prov 19:20).
In Managing Oneself, Peter F. Drucker states that some people need advisors to force themselves to think, “then they can make decisions and act on them with speed, self-confidence, and courage (pg 20). That’s me. I often need someone who knows the right questions to ask to help me order my thoughts and priorities without necessarily trying to give me “the answer.”
But how do we know who to listen to? How do we recognize someone who we can trust to give us wise counsel?
I have many friends with stories of pursuing their dream of business ownership. Many of those stories portray success and accomplishment, inspiring onlookers to follow their own dreams and entrepreneurial spirits. Others, however, are stories of loss, betrayal, and bitter disappointment. Some have lost their business, been thrust into uncontrollable debt, or found themselves in prison for illegal activities their partners conducted unbeknownst to them. These stories can be terrifying and make us ask, “Is there any wisdom for choosing a partner that will protect my investment and ensure the greatest opportunity for success?”
Of course, there is risk. Starting a business takes risk– everyone knows that the risk-takers are usually the rain-makers, but some risks may not be worth taking in the long run– like choosing a poor fit to partner with in your new venture. Another term for this kind of partnership is yoking.
Who will you “yoke” yourself to when attempting a big venture?
If you have been around the church for a while, you have probably heard the New Testament caution, “Do not be yoked with an unbeliever” (2 Cor 6:14), which is most often applied in the context of dating and marriage. That is HUGE and I cannot underscore enough the importance of this in the context of personal relationships, but I believe this has a much broader application than most Christians know or practice.
Do you ever feel like no matter what you say, it’s going to come out wrong, or worse, not at all? Like when introducing your friend and editor of your very first book to a gathering of women at YOUR church and you forget her name in front of God and everyone?!? Nothing says “I love and appreciate you for your tireless effort of cleaning up my writing and rambling” more than, “Oh my gosh, what is your name!!!” Talk about wanting to run screaming from the room….
Even our best intentions at encouragement, comfort, or reassurance often take flight only to drop with a nearly audible thud right in front of us. Like when you’re at the funeral of say, a former pastor that you love and respect, who is grieving the loss of his wife, and say something like, “She is finally well again, at peace with loved ones…waiting for you!”
A few nights ago, I had trouble getting to sleep…I mean TROUBLE! Everything was wrong…the room was too warm, my pillow too hard, the covers too heavy, and my mind- I just couldn’t shut it down. It was speeding into overdrive imagining every possible thing that could go wrong. Yes, that old frenemy “fear” had come to visit.
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I’m not sure why I was so anxious that night- it had been a great day— but as I was winding down, I started to feel uneasy. “It’s too much….” The day was too much, my commitments were too much, the news was DEFINITELY too much…and before you know it, I was laying in bed tossing and turning to the sound of complete chaos in my mind while watching precious minutes speed by.
I tried praying– that’s what most Christians do (understandably) when we start to panic, but I couldn’t!! There was so much noise in my head that I could not organize a single, coherent sentence!!
Do you question what it takes to grow in wisdom? Do you find yourself doubting that YOUR life could reflect and amplify godly wisdom or wonder if you can experience the peace and blessings of being on the right path?
Moses sought a “heart of wisdom” in (Ps 90:12) and Job’s friend Elihu believed that God shows a “regard for all the wise in heart” (Job 37:24.)
So what does our heart have to do with wisdom?
Most of us think of wisdom as being associated with intelligence, experience, or discernment, not something that goes deeper, to the very heart of a person.