Green grass, roaming sheep, and misty mountains. I had dreamed of visiting Ireland for many years. As I arrived in May of 2018, the beauty and the feeling of a new adventure coupled with anxiety and unfamiliarity. After many years of wanting to visit, here I was: struggling to shake the nerves away.
What you may not know about me is that I have been dealing with anxiety my whole life. I never knew what it was…I just assumed this is how everyone felt. When I realized it wasn’t, I knew I couldn’t stay locked up and fearful. I started counseling early in 2018 to find healthy ways to cope so I could live my healthiest life. Of course, I had already booked our trip to Ireland before counseling sessions were on the calendar. I knew that traveling was going to fill me with anxiety and all I could do was pray I could enjoy it and hope that it would be an opportunity to practice what I was learning.
So here I was—overseas—trying to breathe, monitor my thoughts, not feel queasy, and pray for peace in the midst of turbulent waves of anxiety. One of the days we spent in Connemara, Jonathan and I went to Kylemore Abbey. It was originally a castle that became home to the Benedictine nuns after their abbey was destroyed in the early days of WWI and it is still their home today. We strolled to the neo-Gothic church near the abbey and went inside.
In this quiet place, I found a prayer that spoke to me.
“O Holy Spirit, replace the tension within me with Holy relaxation. Replace the turbulence within me with a sacred calm. Replace the anxiety within me with quiet confidence. Replace the fear within me with a strong faith. Replace the bitterness within me with the sweetness of your grace. Replace the darkness within me with a gentle light. Replace the coldness within me with a gentle warmth.”
A smile spread across my face and I prayed that prayer in my heart as we continued on our adventure. This moment of peaceful stillness stole my heart and quieted my soul in a loud, busy world. God knew it was exactly what I needed.
I wish I could say, “And after that, my anxiety was gone.” But let’s be real, that’s not my story. I still deal with anxiety on a daily basis and I’m sure there are many of you reading this right now who also face moments of drowning in turbulent waves of anxiety. I just want you to know, living with anxiety doesn’t have to be miserable. I’m reminded each time that I face anxiety-inducing situations that it’s an opportunity to glorify God, to grow closer to Him, and to rest in His Truth.
Anxiety runs in my family and I believe some of it is hereditary. Sometimes it can be managed simply by what I eat, how much I exercise, and if I am getting enough sleep. However, there are moments, when even if I’ve made positive choices for my body, I still have anxiety.
I don’t know what causes you to feel anxious. For me, it ranges anywhere from inconsistencies in my routine and daily stressors to fear of the unknown and crazy circumstances I can’t control. Usually what it comes down to is me struggling to let go and let God handle whatever lies ahead. Our God is big enough to handle it all. All throughout the Bible are verses that speak into anxiety, fear, and trust.
Psalm 94:19 “When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought me joy.”
Philippians 4:6-7 “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.”
Psalm 56:3-4 “When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. In God, whose word I praise—in God I trust and am not afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?”
1 Peter 5:7 “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.”
Joshua 1:9 “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”
Psalm 55:22 “Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous be shaken.”
Matthew 11:28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”
Proverbs 3:5-6 “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.”
Psalm 62:8 “Trust in him at all times, you people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge.”
But, what do I do?
Pray, pray, pray! Stop what you are doing and run to Him when you feel anxiety draw near. God is there and He isn’t going anywhere.
Memorize Scripture so these truths are etched on your heart. Recite them to yourself in those difficult moments.
Learn what triggers your anxiety. Knowledge is power. The more you understand about yourself and your body, the more you can be prepared to deal with those anxious situations better in the future.
Breathe and find time to rest. Deep breathing can help to ease that feeling of panic that couples with anxiety. When you breathe deeply, you send signals to your brain that everything is okay—this helps that panicky feeling to slip away.
Loosen your grip on what you can’t control. God is in control of everything. He’s got the whole world in His hands and we don’t. This means we can let go and trust He’s got us.
Find people who encourage and pray for you regularly. Find your people. Find the ones that are rooting for you and praying for you. Reach out to them in those rough moments and know that God didn’t create us to live this life alone.
Christian counseling is always a healthy option. If you want to dig in and better understand what you face, there are wonderful Christian counselors in our area that would love to walk with you and guide you.
God didn’t create us to be shackled to anxious thoughts, fear, or stress. He created us to be free and the only way to find that freedom is in Him. The closer we draw to Him, the further we are from being ruled by our anxiousness.