By Kyle Blevins, Crosswalk.com
Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. – James 4:7
This verse gives us an elementary blueprint for living a life of peace. Simple yes, yet so far from easy. Hey, nothing worth having is easy though, right?
We can take comfort in knowing that is true. Wouldn’t it be grand if we could read that scripture and something triggers our brains to excitedly, undoubtedly respond with a simple “Alright!” and then move on, doing exactly what the verse commands? What is that like? Are you laughing uncomfortably right along with me now?
Anxiety is the silent leader in mental illness, our main ‘disruptor of peace’ complaints in the United States. Out of 40 million people that are affected, it is only reported that about 37% seek treatment.
This statistic is even higher in men as 1 in every 10 men report experiencing anxiety and depression, yet less than half reported seeking treatment. Men, we’re supposed to be tough, yeah? We just need to deal with stuff and move on. How in the world do we deal with something we can’t drink away, work and play away, or talk openly about? Let’s take a walk.
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1. Acknowledge Your Anxious Thoughts
I should have prefaced that our walk is not going to be a comfortable one. I was afraid you may not come if I had.
Proverbs 12:11 says “Those who work their land will have abundant food, but those who chase fantasies have no sense.” God wants us to put the work in, and see that there is a reward at the end of it. My friend, with bothersome anxious thoughts, our work is not with our bodies, it is a battle of the mind and the spirit. Getting our bodies involved may delay the inevitable, but at the end of the day when we come home, that problem you can’t figure out is still going to be there.
For this, your pride wants this to not be a thing.
It tells you to keep going, you can do this alone, that this is stupid, or embarrassing. If we read the verse right before what I opened with in James 4:6, it says, "God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”
Help comes when we acknowledge that there is an issue. Start here.
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2. Allow for the Reality That Your Anxious Thoughts Exist
There it is, it’s out there for you. You have acknowledged that there is a problem and you don’t like it. You might feel a bit frantic and vulnerable.
If this is a new place for you, welcome. It’s actually quite friendly here. You've likely heard that an addict's first step to recovery is acknowledging there is a problem. You have just done the same. There is somewhat of an addicting draw to handling things in secret. But once it’s out there, you’ll be ready to knock it down.
If you’ve had an anxious thought that just won’t seem to stop swirling, you’ll struggle reading this.
Leading anxiety minds such as that of Dr. Claire Weekes suggests that we give these intrusive, anxious thoughts more power the more we wrestle with them. As we acknowledge that they are there, we can then move on to understand that they are just thoughts.
Matthew 5:39 says, “If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also.” This scripture refers to the grace and truth of knowing whose you are. If this happened in real life, can you imagine how a person would react? They just hit you, expecting retaliation, energized by that presumed defense, yet you do nothing?
This happens in the mental realm as well. They lose their power.
Rest in that, and allow your mind the chance to see that these thoughts are not as powerful as they once felt. By allowing them, I am in no way suggesting to enjoy them.
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3. Challenge Your Anxious Thoughts
You’re doing a great job. This is tough work you are doing and you and your family are going to notice a change in you.
So far, you’ve taken the brave step of acknowledging that there is an issue and it might feel out of your control. You’ve begun to allow these thoughts to happen. Not in the sense of feeling good about them, but from a place of faith, knowing that an anxious thought means it goes against your nature.
You’re becoming closer to the you that God made you to be, and perhaps some deep roots are showing themselves. Now that you’re here, it’s time to challenge these thoughts.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a popular, drug-free treatment with psychologists. It is basically the reframing of your thoughts, because thoughts dictate behaviors. For example, if you have an anxious thought that you are not good enough for your wife, don’t stop there. Allow the thought, but gently turn your mind toward a challenging thought when one of those awful-feeling thoughts randomly hit you. Write the thought that you have, but beside it, write a challenging thought. It might look like this:
Really be honest with yourself here. Lamentations 3:40 says, “Let us test and examine our ways, and return to the Lord!” Keep in mind the gifts of the spirit in Galatians 5:22-23 and see how the honesty of your heart points you back here.
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4. Surrender Every Anxious Thought to God
Feeling better already? Good. Let’s keep it going.
At this point, you’ve come to the end of your own road. You’ve taken the responsible step of acknowledging your discomfort, you have let the reigns go a bit, and put in the hard work of challenging yourself to see what your heart is trying to tell you. Good for you! Now it’s time to let it go and let it out.
Philippians 4:6-7 is classically shared as an antidote for anxiety: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” James 4:10 reminds us to “Humble ourselves before the Lord, and He will exalt us.”
You’ve done your part, now finish your strength by engaging the Father. Remember that His strength works best in our weakness (our needs). This surrendering is consistent with Dr. Richard Ganz article on this topic.
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5. Communicate Your Anxious Thoughts
Finally, we’ve almost come full circle, my friend. It’s time to solidify this work. We’ve humbled ourselves in so many ways having now asked God to come in and be a part of every part of our lives. When we allow Him into these dark places that we seem to be so ashamed of, something beautiful happens. Not only are we strengthened by Him, but we also find that we are eager to connect deeper into our relationships. We have a sense of restoration, new hope, and vision.
You’ll be looking for your wife, your parents, your friends, maybe even your children, eager to share the experience you’ve had. James 5:16 says, “Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.”
Psalm 32:5 says, “I acknowledged my sin (my weakness) to you, and I did not cover my iniquity; I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions (my issues) to the Lord,’ and you forgave the iniquity of my sin.” This scripture sums up what you have just done. You were fighting a battle alone, one that has taken so many lives, but you stood up and said, “NO!”
As weak as you felt beginning this, I hope you have seen the beauty of this unfold right in front of you. You have seen loneliness morph into community. You have seen confusion morph into faith. And you have seen a perceived weakness morph into great strength...that led to you passing it along.
Men, everyone, we have an enemy that would love nothing more than for you to be alone. God meets us in communion, both with Him and with the people he has placed in our lives. Don’t abandon that true strength for your own failing one. You are loved.
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Kyle Blevins is a writer and speaker from Chattanooga, TN. His writing has been featured on Crosswalk and related sites, the local GoodNews magazine, Devotable, and other sites like Uplifting Content. He spends most of his life right now enjoying time with his wife, Tori, and their three sons. When he isn’t leading an operations quality team, he is being active either physically or in volunteer work. You can follow his Facebook page by searching KBlevinsredirected.