On Edge | Freedom From Anxiety

Day 1: Lost and overwhelmed.

Lamentations 3:2-5
He has led me into darkness, shutting out all light. He has turned his hand against me again and again, all day long. He has made my skin and flesh grow old. He has broken my bones. He has besieged and surrounded me with anguish and distress.

Lamentations 3:17-18
Peace has been stripped away, and I have forgotten what prosperity is. I cry out, “My splendor is gone! Everything I had hoped for from the Lord is lost!”

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Within society and the church, there is often a stigma attached to mental illness. Many believe it is a punishment from God, caused by some sin or lack of faith. However, mental illness is a struggle some people face, like a physical illness. In fact, many personalities in the Bible—some giants of the faith—experienced mental illness, often in the forms of anxiety and depression.

Jeremiah the prophet struggled with anxiety and depression, often despairing of his life. He gave into the negative self-talk, or “ruminating” over negative things, that most of us do at some point, causing him to feel lost and overwhelmed, even abandoned by God. Yet, his experiences and struggles didn’t disqualify him from serving God!

Ask God to show you in what ways you may judge others or yourself for experiencing anxiety, depression, or other forms of mental illness. Ask him to help you recognize his love for you as you struggle with anxiety and depression and to know he will use your life for his purposes.

Day 2: Will this end?

Lamentations 3:21-24
Yet I still dare to hope when I remember this: The faithful love of the Lord never ends! His mercies never cease. Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning. I say to myself, “The Lord is my inheritance; therefore, I will hope in him!”

Philippians 4:8
And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.

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It’s a tragedy when a person struggling with anxiety or depression believes the negative self-talk that he or she will never experience relief and decides to act upon thoughts of suicide. The pressures of life are great – stress, isolation, sleep-deprivation, and frenzied lifestyles all take their toll – but suicide is a permanent, irreversible attempt to solve a temporary problem.

Negative self-talk can’t always be trusted because your mind and emotions will often change. For the prophet Jeremiah, his feelings of despair subsided (Lamentations 3:21-24). As his thinking cleared, he regained hope.

As difficult as it may be in the middle of deep darkness, ask God to remind you that anxiety and depression are tunnels to walk through, not pits where you’ll be trapped forever. Ask God to help you sense his presence with you as you walk through your struggle, and to give you the right thoughts to dwell on as you seek to heal.

Day 3: Get up, and eat.

1 Kings 19:3-7
Elijah was afraid and fled for his life. He went to Beersheba, a town in Judah, and he left his servant there. Then he went on alone into the wilderness, traveling all day. He sat down under a solitary broom tree and prayed that he might die. “I have had enough, Lord,” he said. “Take my life, for I am no better than my ancestors who have already died.”

Then he lay down and slept under the broom tree. But as he was sleeping, an angel touched him and told him, “Get up and eat!” He looked around and there beside his head was some bread baked on hot stones and a jar of water! So he ate and drank and lay down again.

Then the angel of the Lord came again and touched him and said, “Get up and eat some more, or the journey ahead will be too much for you.”

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The prophet Elijah, another Biblical hero, experienced anxiety and depression. One powerful episode of despair came upon him after a great victory against false prophets. Because of this, he received threats against his life, so he ran away into the desert alone. Feeling abandoned by God and others, Elijah wanted to die. He was so depressed he stopped eating and drinking until the Lord sent an angel to care for him.

Can you relate to Elijah? Have you ever been so caught up in anxiety and depression that you stopped sleeping and caring for your body with proper nutrition and exercise? Although attending to these things is not a cure-all, and medication may be necessary, properly caring for the body can help alleviate anxiety and depression.

Today, ask God to reveal to you ways you’ve neglected care for your physical body that may be contributing to an increased sense of anxiety and depression in your life. Ask God to give you the strength to “get up and eat” as a step to caring for your mental health.

Day 4: Addressing isolation.

1 Kings 19:5-7
Then he lay down and slept under the broom tree. But as he was sleeping, an angel touched him and told him, “Get up and eat!” He looked around and there beside his head was some bread baked on hot stones and a jar of water! So he ate and drank and lay down again.

Then the angel of the Lord came again and touched him and said, “Get up and eat some more, or the journey ahead will be too much for you.”

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After his life was threatened, Elijah ran into the desert by himself and emotionally drained. He sank into a state of depression, partially due to physical depletion, but also due to his isolation and loneliness. In fact, he was so isolated God sent an angel to revive him.

We often experience the same feeling of isolation, whether physically alone or emotionally isolated from meaningful relationships. We were never meant to live life on our own, and certainly not to struggle alone. Each of us needs help in various forms – trusted friends, a group to belong to, mentors, counselors, therapists, and psychiatrists. Trusted people like these can encourage you during times of anxiety and depression.

Ask God to reveal ways you can develop and strengthen your emotional and spiritual support system. Ask him to give you courage to reach out to the right people to help you face your struggles with greater strength and encouragement.

Day 5: Making a transfer.

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

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In our struggle with anxiety and depression, we can be encouraged that God uses people no matter what they will deal with throughout life. Many of the great characters in the Bible fought against anxiety and depression – Jeremiah and Elijah – and sometimes even they were overwhelmed by their struggle.

We must not give in to the lies of negative self-talk, and instead ask God to help us dwell on truth. It is important to take care of our physical bodies, as well as receive support and encouragement from trusted people. But there is no magic formula to speed up the process for improved mental health. More often than not, we need to have patience with ourselves through the process. As wonderful as it would be to “just let go” or pray away our challenges, this is often not how it works. However, we can transfer our anxieties over to God, knowing that he cares for us and is with us through the whole process.

Today, ask God to help you have patience with yourself as you deal with anxiety and depression. Ask him to show you how much he cares for you, so you can trust him with each of your cares day by day.

On edge | Protected by Peace

Day 1: Present your requests.

Philippians 4:6-7
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.

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At first glance, it might seem like Paul is telling us to stuff our feelings or to simply quit feeling anxious. However, he’s actually instructing us on the best way to experience God’s peace: going to God with every situation we face before anyone or anything else.

The order in which we try to solve our problems says a lot about where our trust lies. Although there is nothing wrong with seeking wise counsel, using medicine to heal, or researching solutions to problems, God should be the one we place our ultimate trust in, because he alone can give us lasting peace.

Today, ask God to show you what people or things you go to before him when you begin feeling anxious, then ask him to help you develop the habit of going to him with all your concerns first.

Day 2: Shared history with God.

Philippians 4:6
Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.

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If the order in which we try to solve our problems says a lot about where our trust lies, and if God is not naturally the first one we go to for help, we may need to focus upon developing a relationship of trust with God.

The more positive experiences we have with someone, the more our trust in that person grows. The same applies to our relationship with God. The more we go to him with our concerns, the more we develop a shared history with God, and this will cause our relationship with him to grow. He will increasingly become the one we go to with our needs before anyone or anything else.

Today, ask God to help you desire to grow your relationship of trust with him. Ask him to help you recognize and rely upon his presence in your daily life.

Day 3: Why do I feel this way?

John 8:44
(Satan) was a murderer from the beginning. He has always hated the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, it is consistent with his character; for he is a liar and the father of lies.

Psalm 38:4
My guilt overwhelms me—it is a burden too heavy to bear.

Psalm 51:17
The sacrifice you desire is a broken spirit. You will not reject a broken and repentant heart, O God.

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Because negative circumstances are guaranteed to come, all of us will experience anxiety and depression to some degree in our lifetime. And because each of the situations we face will be different, we need to take them to God every time.

It’s likely God wants to teach us something new through our circumstances to grow us up in our faith, to “dig our spiritual well deeper,” so we should always ask “Why do I feel this way” when dealing with anxiety. Oftentimes, God will reveal to us that we are being convinced of some lie from our culture, the media, a family member or friend, or even from Satan. We must reject these lies for God’s truth. Other times, we might be experiencing anxiety or depression because we are being convicted by truth, and we need to repent. Finally, it is possible we are being confronted by a difficult reality over which we have no control.

Like a good doctor, God wants us to come to him with our concerns so he can provide us with accurate instructions for how to address our anxieties. This is not an easy process, but it is the way to experience his peace that passes understanding.

Ask God to remind you to ask yourself the question “Why do I feel this way?” when anxieties come into your life. Ask him to give you ears to hear and a heart to respond to what he says.

Day 4: Out of control.

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8
For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven. A time to be born and a time to die. A time to plant and a time to harvest. A time to kill and a time to heal. A time to tear down and a time to build up. A time to cry and a time to laugh. A time to grieve and a time to dance. A time to scatter stones and a time to gather stones. A time to embrace and a time to turn away. A time to search and a time to quit searching. A time to keep and a time to throw away. A time to tear and a time to mend. A time to be quiet and a time to speak. A time to love and a time to hate. A time for war and a time for peace.

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One of the most difficult realities to accept is a situation we must endure, but over which we have no control. These situations take a toll on our mental health, exhaust us physically, and can cause of a lot of pain in our hearts.

When we are confronted by the reality of a situation we can’t control, we have to remember God’s promises. Jesus is the one who gives us rest when we are exhausted (Matthew 11:28-29). God will supply all our needs when our resources are limited (Philippians 4:19). When it seems like the tears will never end, God promises to wipe every tear away (Revelation 21:4). And when we are completely discouraged, God promises that he can see our beginning and end and will work it out for our good (Romans 8:28).

In the middle of circumstances we cannot control, God will never leave us or forsake us. He walks through the tunnel of anxiety and depression with us.

This week, consider memorizing a scripture about one of God’s promises to believers. Ask God to remind you of his promises when you begin to feel anxious.

Day 5: The right answers.

Philippians 4:7
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.

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As you bring each of your anxieties to God, ask him to show you why you are feeling the way you are, and remind yourself of his promises in the face of frustrating circumstances. Over time, he will teach you how to respond to your particular circumstances. Remember, he is like a good doctor who provides you with accurate instructions for how to address your particular needs. He knows what the root cause of your anxiety is – whether biological, belief in a lie, physical exhaustion, or a need for repentance. He will not misdiagnose you or apply the wrong solution to your circumstances.

This is not an easy process—it requires patience—but it is the way to experience his peace that passes understanding.

Today, ask God to give you the patience to apply this process to each anxiety you experience, as well as to trust that he cares for you personally.