Take Every Thought Captive: Dealing with Anxiety as a Christian

Maryann Stigen, MA, LMHC, CPTT-C

Your alarm goes off. You roll over and hit the snooze button, but immediately your heart starts racing. Your mind is already a jumble of all the things you need to accomplish, people you need to contact, and fears you’re facing. You close your eyes and try to still your heart and mind, but to no avail.

It’s 6 am, and your anxiety is already driving up your heart rate so that your heart thumps loudly in your chest. What will today hold for you? How will you make it through the day with all of these crazy thoughts running through your head?

Anxiety. Most people have dealt with it at one time or another. You may have experienced anxiety over a test, a job interview, a get together, or any number of other events in life. In our fast-paced, harsh, and unforgiving society, there’s plenty to be anxious about.

Anxiety has been described as a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease, typically about an imminent event or something with an uncertain outcome. It can come and go, but sometimes it comes to stay. Many people suffer from what’s called Clinical Anxiety, meaning their anxiety is so intense or happens so often that it interferes with everyday life and activities.

Anxiety issues are among the most common illnesses that affect the mind and emotions in the U.S. today. These illnesses strike 40 million adults in the United States each year – that’s 18.1% of the American population! Statistics show that people dealing with anxiety go to the doctor more often than other people and are hospitalized more often. Although treatment for anxiety is highly effective, many people plagued by this condition go untreated.

Types and Symptoms of Anxiety

There are many different types of anxiety, including Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Panic Disorder, Social Anxiety Disorder, specific phobias, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, and Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), just to name a few.

Here are ten symptoms or early signs of anxiety:

1. Fixation on the outcome of events

Many people with anxiety are constantly worried about the future or the unknown. They may not be worried about some specific event in the future but are just preoccupied with the “what ifs?” of life.

2. Restlessness and difficulty concentrating

When someone is constantly worried, their ability to concentrate at work or on daily home life can be greatly affected. They may check and recheck work or tasks, which causes their productivity to decrease.

3. Difficulty making decisions

People who suffer from anxiety find it difficult to make decisions, even small, insignificant ones. They overanalyze decisions, second guess themselves, and will even worry over a decision after it is made.

4. Worry about anxiety

In the midst of being anxious, people with anxiety even worry about worrying! They worry about the stress and difficulty life will bring and are, at some level, aware that they worry too much.

5. Physical effects of stress

Most people who suffer from anxiety will have physical symptoms as well as emotional symptoms. Some of these symptoms include fatigue, irritability, headaches, muscle tensions, and body aches and pain. Sometimes severe anxiety can even cause nausea, trembling, and twitching.

6. Sweating

Profuse sweating, unaccompanied by physical exertion or activity, is also a common symptom of anxiety, caused by a physiological change in the body’s balance.

7. Shortness of breath

Anxiety can also cause heart palpitations, lightheadedness, shortness of breath, and possibly loss of consciousness. These symptoms are common during what is called a “panic attack.”

8. Insomnia

Many people with an anxiety disorder will experience periods of insomnia, the inability to fall asleep or stay asleep. In fact, 50% of people with anxiety report problems with sleeping.

9. Irrational fears

Fear, especially fear for no good reason, can be a huge problem for people with anxiety. These fears can quickly become overwhelming.

10. Chronic indigestion

When anxiety is severe, a person’s digestion system can be affected, causing symptoms of IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrom) – diarrhea, cramping, constipation, and bloating.

Depression and Anxiety

Another issue that those trying to cope with anxiety may face is depression. Depression is a common mood disorder, causing symptoms that affect how a person feels, thinks, and acts, and it often goes hand-in-hand with anxiety.

Depression can interfere with a person’s sleep habits, their ability to work, and even their appetite. It can cause feelings of hopelessness, worthlessness, and helplessness, or even thoughts of suicide or death. These issues of anxiety and depression can be very serious and should not be ignored.

Anxiety in the Christian Life

Shame may also accompany anxiety, especially in Christians. Many people believe that true Christians should not struggle with anxiety, but that is a lie. There are many things that can cause anxiety, some even physical, that can be beyond a person’s control. However, the Bible tells us that we have the power that raised Jesus from the dead living in us (Romans 6:10).

While some people struggling with anxiety may need professional help to cope with their anxiety, much anxiety can be dealt with using this power that lives within us. Living in the freedom that Christ provided for us when He went to the cross can be possible.

Ways to Overcome Anxiety

Although coping with anxiety can certainly feel overwhelming at times, quite often it can be dealt with successfully. Many people who suffer from anxiety can live completely normal, successful lives. But you must daily make choices to pave the way for healthy emotional lives.

Here are some ways anxiety sufferers can cope with anxiety:

Stop worrying!

God’s Word is chock full of verses reminding and instructing us to stop worrying. Is it easy? Of course not! This life here on earth gives us many things to worry about, certainly. However, God does not want us to worry; rather, He wants us to trust Him enough to give Him everything – large and small – that causes us to worry.

God never intended for us to worry or be anxious over life’s problems and deal with them on our own. No, our very loving, caring, and gracious Father will solve these problems for us.

He may not do it on our timetable, He may not solve them the way we would or even let us in on how He intends to do it, but He will solve them. And His ways of doing things are always better than anything we could do on our own.

Worrying solves nothing; it doesn’t fix our problems. Rather, it causes anxiety and depression—crippling us and stopping us from living out God’s purpose and plan for our lives. So, stop worrying!

Bible Verses about Anxiety

Below are some great Scriptures that will help you stop worrying:

Worry weighs a person down; an encouraging word cheers a person up.Proverbs 12:25, NLT

Give all your worries and cares to God, for He cares about you.1 Peter 5:7, NLT

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank Him for all He has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.Philippians 4:6-7, NLT

Take every thought captive

The truth is, thoughts of worry and anxiety come to all of us. Jesus tells us that trouble will come to all of us, and with trouble comes the temptation to feel anxious and worried. As believers, we can fight those thoughts of using the Word of God. One great verse to remind ourselves to fight the urge to worry and feel anxious is 2 Corinthians 10:5:

We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.

Every thought. We have the ability to decide which thoughts are obedient to Christ, which thoughts are positive, life-giving, and follow God’s Word, and which do not. We are told in this verse to take those negative thoughts captive, to bind them up and not let them take root in our hearts or spirits. For the seeds of anxiety begin in our hearts and spirits.

You can beat anxiety! Seattle Christian Counseling is here to help you do it. For more information on anxiety or help in your fight against anxiety, please browse our counselor directory or contact our office to schedule an appointment.

Photos:
“Who is it?”, Courtesy of Talles Alves, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Open Bible”, Courtesy of Aaron Burden, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Considering the Cross”, Courtesy of Keem Ibarra, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Wild Bird”, Courtesy of Daniel Mingook Kim, Unsplash.com, CC0 License

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