Anxiety and depression, amongst other mental health related issues, are slowly gaining awareness in our society today. What was unconsciously considered a taboo or a matter to be discussed in hushed voices now seems to be receiving some much-needed attention. For sure, there is still more that could be done, but there’s equally much to be celebrated in this culture shift, more so in the throes of a raging pandemic that has left some of us feeling battered and bruised. Some have coped well, and continue to do so, others haven’t.
Let’s face it, life pre-pandemic wasn’t without its ills. In a broken world, challenges of all shapes and sizes come with the territory, and sometimes we can’t help but be anxious. So, where do anxious hearts go?
I am no medical expert, but I do know that human beings are a complex intersection of body and soul, so whilst popular tips and tricks may offer some relief, some levels of anxiety do require medical attention.
A choice to make
Peace is often thought of as the absence of chaos, which may be true. However, there is also a sense in which peace can be felt in the face of a raging storm. The latter kind of peace is within the reach of any believer who would take seriously the words of the Apostle Paul in his final exhortations to the church at Philippi:
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6&7 (NIV)
At first glance, the well-known (but incomplete) admonition “Do not be anxious about anything” seems like a command to pull oneself up by the bootstraps. Afterall, if we really could not be anxious, we wouldn’t need help in the first instance, would we?
Well, as we know, human emotions are somewhat complex and are not controlled by the instant click of a button or verbal commands, so we can be sure that we’re not merely being handed one extra item to add to our list of dos and don’ts of a happy life. Quite the contrary, the Apostle teases out a natural implication of the LORD’s nearness. He is reminding us that because the LORD is near, we are better off presenting our requests in prayer, rather than being anxious about them.
From slight everyday concerns to full blown panic attacks, wherever on the spectrum we locate our worries, the real dilemma for the Christian is a spiritual one – will I lean on God’s lavish provision of grace to swim against the tide, or will I yield to the fierce waves threatening to submerge my soul? Either by our action or inaction, we are constantly making that subtle, but important choice.
A problem shared
To be clear, anxiety clouds our vision and weighs us down. In such a state, engaging in meaningful prayer may be the last thing on our minds, and that is very understandable. However, we should not leave it there, because the enemy of our souls seeks such opportunities to exert further oppression. We must lean into the body of Christ to reap the benefits of belonging to a spiritual family who owe one other the duty and privilege of love and care, especially through difficult times. We need not suffer in silence, or walk alone. A starting point may be to seek out a trusted friend or professional to share our worries with. As the saying goes, ‘a problem shared is a problem halved’.
The catchy refrain of a hit song from the 90s offers an alternative to worrying – “Don’t worry, be happy”. If only it were that simple!
Christians are not without help or hope. Our worries – big and small – belong at the foot of the cross; let’s humbly take them there, confident of God’s provision of strength for each day, and hope for the next.
Sike Osinuga is a Christian woman learning the ropes of being a godly wife and mother, one wobbly step at a time. An erstwhile Telecoms Engineer, she enjoys reading good books and writing. Her passion is to know Christ and to make Him known. She blogs at http://www.thrivebytheword.com”