Thursday, February 9, 2017

Whenever I feel Afraid: 5 Ways to Deal With Anxiety

The bathroom is one of the scariest places for my five-year-old. I'm not sure if it is the enclosed space, the sounds that echo off the walls, or the loud flush, but she hates to go alone.

I'd love for her to get over her fears. But, I'm still learning to overcome mine.

In the middle of the night I'm awakened by what sounds like an explosion outside. My heart races. I breathe and pray. My anxiety soon lessens.

Rain patters on the window. The "explosion" was only thunder.

Underneath the bedroom door, a light shines. Someone is up.

When I open the door, my fifteen-year-old is pacing the living room.

"Are you okay?"

She stops pacing. "I can't sleep. My heart is beating so hard."

"Mine is, too."

After more prayers with my teenager, I switch off the light to her room and head to my own bedroom.

Although I'm pushing forty, fear seizes me the same way it hits my children.

It's cute when my five-year-old dances around the house singing, "Whenever I Feel Afraid" from the classic musical, The King and I. 

The words say,
While shivering in my shoes, I strike a careless pose, and whistle a happy tune, so no one ever knows I'm afraid. The result of this deception is very strange to tell, for when I fool the people I fear, I fool myself as well.
It's cute, but it's not true.

We can't just whistle our fears away or pretend they don't exist.

The problem with the mentality of convincing ourselves, even deceiving ourselves that there is nothing to fear, is not living in the reality of a fallen world.

Fear is normal.  It is a part of our varied collection of emotions. It's there to alert us that something is dangerous, so that we can be wise and be safe.

All I have to do is turn on the news or scroll down the latest tweets and it's easy to see that there are real dangers out there.

Okay, so don't watch the news and stay off twitter.

Yesterday, my children witnessed an accident outside the window of our church.

Okay, so don't leave the house.

Boxing ourselves in and trying to avoid our fears only serves to amplify them.

We would only make ourselves even less equipped to deal with the day-to-day stressors.

I've found being prepared to face my fears is a game changer.

An on-going battle plan to cope with life's hardships makes them less overwhelming.

Jesus said,
"The truth will set you free (John 8:32)."
He also said,
"I am the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6)." 
He wasn't merely talking about facing your fears, He was talking about knowing The Truth, who will set you free.

Knowing Him.

When we know him, all our fears are stripped away because we know Immanuel, The-God-Who-Is-With-Us and never lets us go. He's right beside us. Closer than the cold sweat on our brow. Closer than the tightening of our gut. Closer than the heart pounding in our chest.

He is there.

When we know Him, we can know He hears us. We can talk our fears out and ask for courage to face them. This brings me to the five ways I've discovered to deal with overwhelming fear.

1. Pray.

This is our first line of defense when facing our fears. We can't deal with them alone, and we don't have to. We have our Father in heaven, the Son who saved us, and the Holy Spirit who empowers us. Our Triune God longs to hear our prayers. He wants to help us, if we would only realize our need and ask.

2. Read God's Holy Inspired Word.

There is no other book like the Bible. It is living, active and speaks to our very soul. Giving us courage. Helping us to know what to do and when to do it. The Psalms help give voice to my fears. How many Psalms are there about deliverance? I've lost count. Proverbs helps me to know what to do. And, the rest of the books of the Bible are there to teach, exhort, and encourage me. Daily Bible reading is crucial to overcoming fear.

3. Memorize Key Verses.

Hiding God's Word in our heart, gives us the scaffolding we need to go higher than our fears. When we have the truth within, then the fears without can't crush us. The truth is stronger than our fears. When we turn to Jesus and trust in His truth, the battle is already won.

4. Journal.

Anxiety sometimes stems from being overwhelmed with too much information. Jotting down the swirling thoughts helps to organize, rationalize and prioritize the things we need to deal with. Along with journaling, listing can be helpful. After our To Do Lists, we can chart Thankfulness Lists, and Blessings Lists. These can remind us that there's more to life than the hard stuff.

5. Share.

Be with others who know Jesus. Share your fears and ask them to pray for your needs. Rely on others who have shared their stories. Read books and blogs by those who have learned how to face their fears in faith.

Fears don't have to overwhelm us because we belong to One who faced the fear of excruciating pain, the fear of being alone, and the fear of death itself, all to save us. His name is Jesus and He wants to calm the storm of our fears. When we focus on Him, our hearts can finally rest.