I felt frozen in fear as the red truck stopped in front of me, the driver silently daring me to get out and engage in confrontation. I honestly hadn’t seen the vehicle when I pulled out of a side street, but the driver took my mistake personally. This was not the first time I had had problems driving.
Only moments before, I had sat in a mental health provider’s office, talking about how I made mistakes while driving and wondered if there was something wrong with my brain. She suggested that it was anxiety, creating a vicious cycle. I’d never thought of that before, but as I finally left the red truck behind, I started to wonder if she was right.
Were my driving problems anxiety-related? And if so, what could I do about it? Should I stop driving? Or was there something else I could do?
Understanding My Anxiety
I’d struggled with anxiety since childhood, worrying about projects to the point of being unable to do them, and often jumping to the worst-case scenario as an adult. Often, I find myself unable to relax and enjoy activities or hobbies because of my anxiety. On top of this, as a teen, I ran into the idea, in my reading, that anxiety is a sin. I can understand that idea, and I don’t want to mess with anybody’s theology, but the problem with trying not to be anxious is you tend to worry about worrying. And that only makes it worse.
So, back to the idea of what to do about my anxiety, I tried a lot of things, including deep breathing and certain types of exercise, but I soon realized that, as a Christian, I needed to understand what the Bible says about anxiety.
Three Things I Discovered about Anxiety
I did a word study about what the Bible has to say about anxiety through BibleGateway.com. I found several interesting things:
- The word anxiety appears twice in the Bible
- The word anxious 10 times
- The word worry 3 times
I also found that:
1. Anxiety can be a positive thing.
Many of the Psalms express anxiety as a response to sin. Distress can be a natural response to something unwanted, such as guilt. This can be good when those anxious thoughts lead to repentance.
Before I became a Christian, I was very anxious, and although my anxiety did not completely disappear when I accepted Christ, I did have more peace afterward. I have found that my anxiety draws me closer to God. Now, when I am driving my car, I whisper prayers or meditate on scripture. It helps keep me calm and focus better, and it turns my anxiety around for the good because it is a constant reminder of my relationship with God.
2. God helps us overcome negative anxiety.
Jeremiah 17:8 says that the child of God will be nourished by Him and will not be anxious when trouble comes. Inward calm is an outgrowth of being close to God. I find myself in the process of overcoming anxiety, but with God’s closeness, it gets easier.
3. We can trust God.
Matthew 6:25-28 says not to be anxious about material needs, because there are things that are more important. In this passage, Jesus goes on to encourage his listeners to consider the lily and the sparrow and how they are cared for. How much more important are His children, He reasons. They can trust Him!
Recently, I had some financial worries. I prayed about them, and a day later, the issue was resolved. Things don’t always work out this well, but it is a reminder that He cares for me.
Three Things That Give Me Hope
First, with God's help, it is possible to rise above anxiety. Trust me, I know this is easier said than done. You may, like me, need professional help. It is important to find a good counselor if need be. But knowing the one who calms the sea and clothes the lilies goes a long way.
Second, this rising above comes as an outgrowth of knowing God and walking with Him. As we do so, He helps us find peace and overcome the tendency to worry.
The third thing (and this is my favorite) is that while He does command us not to worry, He knows that worrying about worry makes us worry more. This is why He gives us other, more positive things to think about: just think about the lily. Think about the sparrow.
How I Overcame
My driving is much better now. I am able to stay mostly calm and focused, even on days of heavy traffic or searching for houses in the middle of nowhere. Of course, there are anxiety battles in other areas of life as well, like when I find it hard to enjoy things like my nephew’s ball games because I’m worried about him doing well. It helps to know, though, that there is a power inside of me to calm and give clarity.
In Good Company
Obviously, I’m not the only one who suffers from anxiety. Anxiety affects about 40 million adults. But there is hope.
God’s overcoming power applies to everyone. We’re not alone in this tussle with anxiety. We’re not left to be condemned with no hope of breaking free, or stuck behind that red truck with sweaty palms and a racing heart. His power is strong in our weakness and enables us to get past those “red trucks.” His love and His grace are setting us
So, if you’re struggling with anxiety know that:
- You’re not alone. The great kings of the Bible were anxious too.
- God doesn’t condemn you, and can help you grow into peace.
- There is hope. Just think about the lily. Think about the Sparrow. And watch that “red truck” fade into the distance behind you.
Jessica Seale wants to encourage others through her blog Beautifully Broken. It is a place where she shares what she's learned about brokenness, and inspires others to look at it differently.
Think you may be struggling with an anxiety disorder, like Jessica, but are afraid to see a professional counselor? Read this blog. You are not alone.