Did you know that I listen to country music more than any other genre of music? I hate wearing my hair up because someone years ago told me I didn’t look pretty with it up, and I know every single word to Taylor The Latte Boy by Kristen Chenoweth because, plot twist, I used to be a theater geek. I own a pair of cowboy boots, and I burn cheese nachos in the microwave.
But did you know I struggle with anxiety? There are days where social settings–large groups of people, the very thing that really excites me and fills me up– drains me and makes it hard to breathe. There are days where I’m snappy and short with the people I care about because anxiety is crawling up my neck and clawing at my cheeks for no apparent reason. There are days I doubt myself and apologize and overthink everything because anxiety is swallowing me. And when it rains for three days in a row like it has been, there are people who text me and ask how I’m holding up because they know that the gloom is crippling.
Anxiety is easy to dress up and filter out of daily conversation or posts online, but it’s still very present in the lives of people you least expect.
Today at the kitchen table, my mom said, “Last night two years ago was the first time I was hospitalized because of my anxiety when I thought it was a heart attack.” That had been the first night of a long, tiring journey of learning about the most intense levels of anxiety. When we stepped out of it at last, my mom and I had found some ways to cope with anxiety in every day life:
- Making a list of things we are thankful for.
- Praying. Talking our way through it to God or repeating the Lord’s Prayer when anxiety keeps us up at night.
It wasn’t until a few months later that I realized this was a Scripture-based routine, found in Philippians 4:4-9 //
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.
I love three things about this passage:
First, we are commanded to never be anxious. We are told to instead be thankful.
Secondly, we are told how to fight anxiety: prayer, going to the foot of the throne to make requests of God, and being thankful about things.
Lastly, Paul goes a step further and gives us a list of things to be thankful for– a “thankfulness blue print” of sorts, a “prompt.”
Now I make it a routine when I am having a tough day or when the people around me are having a tough day. When I hear others complaining, I swing my head around and shout, “QUICK!! Give me a list of three things you are thankful for today!!” My mom and Greg have now become the people in my life when they hear me complaining to swing their head around and tell me to do the same.
When your heart is overwhelmed, make your list; think of what is true, what is worth honoring, where justice has been evident, what is pure and lovely and excellent and worthy of recalling or speaking about highly.
Jesus has given us a step-by-step process on how to beat anxiety.
And what I think is even more lovely: on the days where I would just rather complain instead of make my list or remember God–when my human heart cannot fight the heaviness on its own– well just three verses after this “how-to-beat-anxiety” manual is a verse that says we can do all things through Him.
When I cannot fight, He can. When I can’t remember good, He reminds me.