Anxiety: The Monster Within Us

Photo by Henry Ninde

Photo by Henry Ninde

“Monsters are real and ghosts are too. They live inside us. And sometimes...they win.”

                                                                                                            -Stephen King

You’re driving down the highway headed home after work. Music is playing in the background but you can barely hear it—sounds fade to distant noise, as you slowly get lost in thought.

Suddenly you look over, and before you can stop or turn or swerve, a car is slamming into you and you go flying off the road, spinning and flipping and banging up against the concrete median. Next thing you know you’re in a hospital room. People surround you with flowers and cards and tears in their eyes. You’re not sure what’s wrong with you but the expression on their faces say it’s not good—no, it’s not good at all. You slowly realize you may be incapacitated, paralyzed, or maybe even—yes, perhaps you may be dying…

Your eyes suddenly flash to the sign on the highway that indicates your exit is coming up.

As you get over into the next lane, reality sets in. You realize you played out a fake scene and you let it run all the way through to your death, before you even acknowledged it was happening.

For many, this “Fake Scenario Syndrome” is a daily occurrence.

I realized a couple of weeks ago how often I do this, which led me to ask: “Why?”

An insightful chat with my counselor revealed the short and (not so) sweet answer:

Anxiety.

The fear of an unknown future grips us. We deeply desire to have control, so we play out scenarios how we might foresee them happening, whether good or bad. If we can see how it happens, who was there, what they said, how it turned out—then we can be prepared for how it will feel, and we can maintain a sense of control over our lives.

But before I go any further, I want to enter this necessary disclaimer:

I approach this subject of anxiety delicately, knowing how real and present it is in the lives of so many, knowing how poorly (if at all) the church has dealt with issues of mental illness, and knowing how desperately victims of anxiety wish to be freed from the chains that bind them.

But I also approach the subject boldly, knowing that anxiety and depression are not from God, knowing that it’s becoming a growing epidemic amongst young adults especially, and knowing how heavy it is on my heart to urgently pray for the freedom of its victims.

Anxiety is a monster. Its attacks are vicious and unforgiving; its effects are lasting and enslaving. As common as it has become among millennials to deal with anxiety, (some saying it’s being treated as often as the common cold), I want to firmly oppose the notion that it should be in any way normal for people to have it.

So what then, is the solution? My counselor would suggest that being mindful is an effective way to combat anxiety: taking a mental or physical note of the things around you, being present, etc. I can certainly attest that this is helpful.

However, because I’ve learned this to be true in my own life, I believe there is a solution to the root cause of the anxiety monster within us:

Trust.

More often than not, the anxiety we experience is as a result of a failure to trust God in some area of our lives. I say this carefully; realizing that for some people it’s not that simple and it can actually be a chemical imbalance. But for most, it is this: you are trying desperately to control your circumstances, your future, and your life, and as a result, anxiety “glamps” out comfortably in the backwoods of your mind.

The truth is, God did not create us to live in anxiety, worry or fear. He has called, equipped and empowered us to live higher than that (John 10:10).

Hear me clearly: I am NOT saying that if you suffer from anxiety, you just need to pray more or that you’re not really trusting the Lord. Far be it from me to make that kind of blatant assumption and judgment of anyone.

What I know is that trusting in the Lord with my whole heart has brought me not only relief from anxiety, but I believe it has squashed my anxiety at its root. I really do believe that if we would dare to trust Him with everything, He will meet us to lighten our load.

And I believe God has something to say about the anxiety epidemic striking our nation. I believe God is speaking to you. I believe He is saying:

“Trust me. Cast your cares on me. Consciously and decisively give me your worries and burdens and fears. Trust that I know and I care and I will provide. Trust that my plans and my ways are greater than yours. Believe what I say is true.”

So maybe you’ve heard it a thousand times before: “Trust God, and all will be well, blah, blah, blah.” Even so, can I encourage you, and maybe challenge you? Keep trusting him. Don’t grow weary. Don’t stop. Don’t stray. He hasn’t forgotten about you. Trust God in your weakness. Trust him in your strength. Trust him with what you can’t control. Trust him with what you can’t see. Trust him with every part of you. Trust him—to the ends of the earth, trust him.

Whether you’ve been praying for freedom for years, or you’re just now realizing that you haven’t surrendered control—I’m here to encourage you to trust him radically. Trust him when it doesn’t make sense. Trust him when it’s falling apart. Trust him in the valley. Trust him on the mountaintop. Trust his ways over yours, his plans before yours, and his ideas instead of yours. Loosen the death grip you have over your life, over yourself. Trust him with your mind, and trust him with your heart.

What does it look like to actually trust God? It looks like being at peace with the unknown; living every hour of the day as though you are stepping over the edge of a ten thousand foot cliff, yet keeping your eyes straight ahead, your head level with the ground, and your heart steady with His heartbeat. It looks like shutting down the Fake Scenario Syndrome when it tries to take over (like literally, don’t let the scene play through). It looks like taking your thoughts captive and refusing to believe the lies of the enemy that you’re all alone. 

When a situation comes up that threatens to be anxiety-inducing, can you dare to pray: “You know what, Lord? I trust you with this.” And simply let it go? Instead of opening the door to anxiety when it knocks, make your mind the home that is passed over because you took the blood of the Lamb and the truth of God’s word and boldly stamped it across the doorframe of your life.

And with that, trust becomes the proverbial water poured over the wicked monster-witch of anxiety, causing it to melt away in burning fumes of grace.

For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ, and being ready to punish all disobedience when your obedience is fulfilled. 2 Corinthians 10:3-6 (NKJV)

If we really believe that God is who he says he is, and that he has done what he said he has done—how can we not trust someone like that? If he is worthy of our praise, love, and adoration, he is evermore worthy of our trust.

And what happens next? Simply, rest. Rest in his sweet presence. Rest with his peace that passes all understanding. Rest in the knowledge of who he is. Rest in the reassurance of how he loves you. Find your rest in him, and trust that he will never, ever fail you.

“God put everything inside us that we need when he gave us Jesus Christ.”

-Pastor Willie George