The struggle is real. That’s true for a lot of things, but right now I’m talking about living in the peace God wants to give us. Anxiety steals our peace, kills our joy, and can even destroy our relationships. We know there is supposed to be a way to victory over anxiety through Jesus, but what does that actually look like? How am I supposed to stop being anxious when a large part of anxiety is feeling so out of control of myself?
I had an experience this flu season that I’d like to share with you. Then we will look at the biblical principles you can apply to your life to overcome anxiety.
This flu season has been very intense. After all the hand washing and Clorox wiping and avoiding of germs and even a negative flu test the previous week; my son suddenly sprouted a fever of 102 on a Sunday morning at church. That night I went in to check on him at 2 am when his Ibuprofen should have begun wearing off. He was burning up with a temperature of 103. Medicine, water, and 45 minutes of snuggles later his temperature was reasonable and he was asleep again (that mom life yo’).
As soon as my head hit the pillow, I had an anxiety vision. Have you ever had one of those? It’s not just an anxious thought. It’s a sudden, vivid experience where you see the event unfold, feel the attached emotions, even sometimes believe you are hearing and physically touching. Like a nightmare, but you aren’t asleep.
I heard my alarm go off in the morning, walked into my son’s room, and put my hand on his head. He was freezing. His lips were blue. He wasn’t breathing. He was gone.
I came back to reality in my bed in the dark. The physical symptoms of anxiety joined with my racing thoughts and threatened to overwhelm me. In that moment it wasn’t just a possibility or a worst-case scenario. It was certain. It might as well have already happened. Desperately I fell back to a habit I’ve been trying to cultivate for the past 3 years. “Jesus perish these anxious thoughts. Please, please put out these lies and fears. Remove these images from my mind. Jesus perish these anxious thoughts…”
As my heart and breathing slowed, I started looking for things to thank him for. “Thank you for your protection. Thank you for Ibuprofen. Thank you for alarms to wake me up to check on him. Thank you for…” Another wave of anxious thoughts and images washed over me. “Jesus perish these anxious thoughts…. Jesus thank you for your peace. Thank you for my son. Thank you for making me his mother. Thank you for his doctor who we will see tomorrow.”
Then, I remembered to rebuke the enemy and start interceding, “In the name of Jesus, I forbid Satan from coming against me through anxious thoughts or images, through panic or visions or nightmares. I forbid Satan from coming against my son through any illness or fever or cough. Lord, heal my son completely and totally and protect him from anything that would stop him from living out the life you created him for. Thank you for rescuing me from anxiety.”
Finally, slowly peace spread through my mind and body. I fell asleep intentionally imagining the morning snuggles we would have on the couch before breakfast.
Everything I did that night to overcome anxiety was based on biblical principles and powered by Jesus. It was not in my own strength. I’ve learned that trying to “white-knuckle” myself into peace is the fastest way to a full-blown panic attack. These principles can be applied to your situation in whatever order is most helpful to you. I’ve listed them below in the order that I used them.
1: Interrupt the downward spiral by asking Jesus to end the anxious thoughts, images, emotions, and physical sensations. Say it out loud, and over and over until you can move forward. This is based on, “Cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:7)
2: Thank him for whatever you can, as much as you can. (Phil. 4:4-8)
3: Forbid Satan from coming against you through anxiety, and from even trying any of the worst-case scenarios he was threatening you with. Say it out loud and in the name of Jesus. This is found in James 4:7-8a, “Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you.”
4: Ask God for what you want in this situation. Be as specific as possible. Intercede on behalf of those you care about. (Phil. 4:4-8)
5: Rejoice! Thank God for his protection and for providing peace. Thank Jesus for fighting and claiming victory for you. Thank the Holy Spirit for reminding you to reach out to Jesus in your distress and apply scripture to your anxiety. (Phil. 4:4-8)
6: Intentionally think about “whatever is true…”. Imagine God showing up in your situation in as much detail as you can. Philippians 4:4-8 says,
“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 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. Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”
You don’t have to wait until your next intense anxiety moment to start. In fact, it’s best to start when you are calm since you’re likely to forget in the heat of the moment. Ask the Holy Spirit to remind you of these principles. Write out these scriptures on a note card and keep them with you. Start a daily gratitude journal so it becomes easier to thank him. Describe yourself, to yourself and others, as a person of peace instead of anxious. The more you practice, the faster and easier it will come. I hear the Holy Spirit remind me way earlier in my anxiety cycle than I did when I started, and it’s so much easier to practice these principles before it gets really intense. This is one way God wants to transform you by renewing your mind (Rom. 12:2)!
When we recognize that anxiety is an attack by the enemy on our hearts and minds, we can resist him effectively. We can rejoice always because the Lord is near to us no matter what the situation or threat. It is possible to overcome anxiety through thanksgiving, prayer, and intercession. The peace of God, which we so desperately want and sometimes don’t believe is actually possible, can protect us from anxiety. We choose to dwell in his peace by intentionally thinking about things that are of him. I pray you experience his peace that’s beyond our understanding today!