I catch myself worrying constantly.
I know I’m not the only one. Last week, a friend of mine expressed the high level of anxiety she’s been feeling and the thoughts that have been churning in her brain related to her daughter’s situation at school. Another friend admitted that in preparation of her big move overseas, she’s been plagued by multiple worries despite her efforts to battle them by doing her best to prepare for the move.
Much of the time, I don’t even realize how plagued by anxiety I really am. The mental dogs begin to bite. The bees sting. And I catch myself making agreements with the negative, pessimistic, cynical worries rummaging through my brain. As a Christian, I believe this is a form of spiritual warfare. Each time I make an agreement with Satan, I negate what God is trying to do in me.
“You’re gaining so much weight while you’re pregnant. You will never look the same after this.”
“You’re going to be tied to the house forever after having this baby. You won’t ever get to do anything fun or adventurous again, and you will be alone doing it, because your husband will be able to go and do as he pleases while you’ll be stuck at home.”
“Don’t you think your husband is going to find some younger, prettier, skinnier, non-pregnant woman to pine after?”
On my worst days, my response to these nagging negative thoughts is, “Yes. You’re right. I am fat. My life is going to be miserable. My husband will probably find someone else.”
The minute I succumb to these thoughts and agree with their negative messages, the minute I’m forfeiting the truth that God is ultimately in charge, and only He knows what lies ahead. I’m choosing to align myself with darkness rather than light. I’m also giving up my peace of mind and making room for more anxiety in its place.
I don’t want to give up what God’s given to me. I want to be free from insomnia caused by anxiety. I don’t want to spend my time contemplating upcoming events and decisions, attempting to plan out what I have no control over. But how can I fight such a pervasive force? How can I overcome a problem that is so subtle that I often overlook its onset?
This morning, I read Philippians 4:6-7.
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, 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.”
When I read these verses, a spiritual lightbulb turned itself on inside of me (either that, or my one daily cup of coffee kicked into gear). Ah. Positive opposites.
In the anonymous 12-step recovery program I’m part of, we utilize the tool of practicing positive opposites in order to overcome our own negative tendencies or to counteract character defects. Am I feeling extremely critical of my boss? I’ll do the opposite and choose to praise her for the good things I notice instead. Do I tend to wallow in self-pity because of the difficult situation I find myself in at home? Instead of eating a gallon of ice cream, watching a sad movie, and tearing through boxes of Kleenex, I’ll do the opposite and invest my time in paying attention to the needs of others and making efforts to help them through their difficulties. I’ll volunteer with a local non-profit or pray for friends who are hurting.
It’s quite simple.
And this morning, I noticed it’s also quite Biblical. Am I anxious? Instead of letting anxiety overwhelm me, I will actively pray (repeatedly) with gratitude and thanksgiving. Instead of focusing on the what ifs, I’ll focus on what is. God Is. And He has showered me with countless beautiful blessings, some obvious and others donned in clever and humorous disguises. And thankfully, God promises me that if I combat the anxiety with grateful prayers, His peace will guard my heart and mind.
I need that.