I have experienced anxiety at various points over the last few years. It’s an awful feeling that creeps up unannounced. I often have difficulty placing the emotion until weeks have gone by when I don’t feel like myself. When my friend Tammy asked if she could write a post about a new book around this subject, I was so happy to say yes. If you can identify with feelings of anxiety, I’d love to hear from you in the comment section or hop over to Tammy’s blog to connect with her personally. She’s also on Twitter. Thanks, Tammy!
Anxiety is not something Christians like to admit they struggle with. We often try to hide our battles with anxiety, afraid others will interpret us as weak – or worse, spiritually immature. I know I have worried that others would judge my concerns, and me, in this way.
About two years ago I moved across California with my husband for his medical residency program. Though I was too embarrassed to admit it at the time, the move was extremely anxiety provoking for me. When we left San Diego, I was in the middle of a doctoral program in Communication and I had a lot of questions about how I was going to continue my studies from 500 miles away. So many things that used to feel grounded seemed up in the air: my research project, my funding, even my professional goals.
All the uncertainty in my life led to worry, worry led to doubt, and doubt led to shame. How could I claim to have faith in God’s plan, yet feel so nervous and fearful? I concluded that my anxiety was a sign of spiritual and emotional failings.
But what if I had it wrong? What if anxiety isn’t about weakness, but rather the potential for supernatural strength? What freedom and hope could come from such an understanding!
Recently, my friend and former college pastor, Rhett Smith, has challenged me to look at my worries and fears in this way. Rhett, now a marriage and family therapist in Plano, Texas, has helped me to stop seeing anxiety as an indicator of an inadequate faith, and to view it instead as a tool for growth. I’m beginning to reconceptualize anxiety as something that compels us to rely on God so that He can guide us through uncertainty and into action.
Rhett recently wrote a book– The Anxious Christian: Can God Use Your Anxiety for Good – and if you have ever felt shame because of battles with anxiety, you need to hear its message.
God is all about transformation, and anxiety is just one of many things that God is making new. If you feel uneasy or fearful, God is walking with you, ready to renew your spirit and mind and to help you envision a new life in which you embrace the freedom He has given you.
Part memoir and part handbook, The Anxious Christian offers encouragement and counsel on how we can partner with God to channel our anxiety in ways that help, rather than hinder, personal and spiritual growth. Rhett explains how God can resurrect unhealthy anxiety – which leaves us frozen by worry and indecisiveness – and restore it as healthy anxiety – which forces us to confront our doubts and take action. Through this we learn that anxiety is something we should press into, not run away from.
The Anxious Christian offers theological discussion, personal reflection, and practical exercises to help us:
- Embrace the anxiety that comes with life’s transitions as a catalyst for development
- Identify and analyze negative coping patterns in order to alter emotional and behavioral ruts
- Reimagine anxiety as a way God can speak to us and to compel us into action
- Pursue God through anxiety and allow Him to shape our identity and undertakings
- Intentionally foster practices that fortify our heart, strength, mind, attitude, and prayer life
- Create healthy boundaries necessary for self-care and service
- Regulate our emotions and responses through self-soothing and relational refinement
Do you want God to transform every part of you, including your emotions and feelings, so that you can live an abundant and free life? I know I do. And thanks to Rhett, I’m beginning to understand – on a practical level – what Paul meant when he said:
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)