That’s a big title. Hear me out on this one guys, I think this is a very large misconception in the community of mental health and faith. It might be better than you think.
Okay, before any of you come on here to bash my faith or throw the “The bible says not to be anxious and pray about it” in my face let me start by saying this.
I am a Christian. I am not perfect and I sin every day. I believe that Jesus died on the cross for me, and I trust him as my Savior. Don’t get all “judgy-wudgy” as my friend Wendy would say.
My guess is you probably clicked on this post for one of two reasons:
1). You disagreed with the title of this post and so you came here to see why you think I am wrong or the crazy reasoning I have for this.
2). You were really curious because you’ve prayed 237,000 times for anxiety (or depression) to go away and it, in fact, hasn’t gone away.
3.) Okay, bonus reason. You follow my Blog/Instagram and really like what I write and keep up with me. If that’s your reason, THANK YOU!
For a long time, I thought I could just pray a prayer and my anxiety would go away and never come back. Why? Well, frankly because the Bible tells me not to be anxious. Then, when it never went away I would get horribly frustrated, mad, and even more anxious.
1 Peter 5:7 NIV “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.”
Philippians 4:6 NIV “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”
Do you know how many times I have read those verses, over and over and over again? Or how many times I have prayed, crying out to the Lord to take away my anxiety? Too many times to count.
Here is something that probably some of you (may) have never realized before. There is a difference between having anxiety and having an Anxiety Disorder. If you struggle with the stress of life or maybe get anxious for a big exam, meeting, deadline, or job interview, those are normal anxious tendencies. Those are things that you can prepare for, pray about, and “cast your anxiety on him”.
An anxiety disorder is different. Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) is described like this (taken from dictionary.com):
“An anxiety disorder characterized by consistent feelings of anxiety for a period of at least six months and accompanied by symptoms such as fatigue, restlessness, irritability and sleep disturbance.”
Having GAD is not just “oh I’m a little worried about how my new job will go next week.” GAD is when it interferes with your everyday life, keeping you from going to work, leaving the house, eating, exercising, and more. From my personal experience of GAD its: waking up with my heart racing, having heart palpitations, being sweaty but also cold, throwing up, having diarrhea, not being able to eat, extremely low energy, being tired but not being able to sleep, fearing the next day, having catastrophic thoughts, my body shaking, my mid section feeling cold before a panic attack, not being able to breathe, being anxious about anything and EVERYTHING, multiple panic attacks. And a whole lot more.
So no, I am not just “a little anxious”. I feel like I am downright going crazy, or something horrible will happen to me and I’ll end up in the hospital or dead. And if you want a little more science behind it here you go. The panic attack or “rush” of anxiety is essentially Adrenaline, the stress hormone. We do need a little bit of this to keep us alert, but not so much that it disturbs our everyday activities.
Normal Anxiety Example: You are nervous or stressed for a presentation at work. The day of the presentation the adrenaline builds in your body and your heart races. You go to work, do the presentation, and its over. The adrenaline essentially has a “release” and is not built up anymore. You are not anxious anymore.
GAD Example: You start to feel anxious when you’re watching TV. The build-up of adrenaline in your body (like above) starts. There is no presentation, no competition, no test, no big thing to be anxious about. Your body does weird things like have heart palpitations, shakes, throws up, sweats, and many other things. You have a hard time falling asleep, then wake up and it happens again. And then you find yourself in this pit hardly able to do normal activities. The Adrenaline doesn’t have a “release” signal and anxiety doesn’t leave.
“Don’t be anxious!”
“Don’t worry about it”
“It’ll be fine, you’ll have fun!”
“You’re just nervous.”
“Just go eat something, you’re fine.”
“Why are you anxious??”
“The bible says not to be anxious.”
“Have you read scripture?”
“Have you prayed about it?”
These are all phrases people have said to me in the past, and honestly some of them are hurtful. PLEASE, do not ever say to someone, or me, “Don’t be so anxious” or “don’t worry about it”. Those comments aren’t validating to the anxious person, and really it just feels like a backhanded slap. I mean come on, that’s like saying to someone who tore their ACL or broke a bone “Just take some aspirin. You’ll be fine.” Actually, no they won’t be fine until they get some professional medical attention.
If you’ve said those things to someone before, (we know that deep down you mean well) please refrain from saying them from now on. Try something else like “Hey, it’s okay that you’re anxious right now. Do you need anything? Water, food, a walk, some space?” Or even saying “i’m sorry you’re going through that. I know I can’t exactly help but let me know if I can”.
And actually, there isn’t anything that you can say to make it better. Sorry to the Enneagram 2’s of the world. You just need to let them know you are there, supporting them and not judging them.
Here is another thing to think about. As a Christian, I am not automatically guaranteed to not have troubles in this life. We live in a broken world. Part of being a Christian means that when we are going through troubled times we have the hope of Jesus to turn to during those times.
So when I make the assumption that I can “pray my anxiety away” and just expect it to be gone… that’s essentially asking for a trouble-free life. Which isn’t possible. (Read John 16:33).
A few months back I wrestled with the fact that my anxiety will never go away. It will present itself at different times for basically the rest of my life. I didn’t want to accept it.
After learning a little more about GAD and finding new coping skills, I have now come to accept the fact that it actually will never go away.
However, (this sounds contradictory) I do believe that it will go away one day.
Okay, wait what? Yep. Here is what I mean.
I believe that one day I will not be under the influence of anxiety every minute of every day. I will eventually stop my daily medication for it, anxiety won’t make me physically ill, I won’t need to go to therapy, and I will wake up not thinking about if anxiety will be present during my day or not. Anxiety won’t be a driving force.
What that DOESN’T mean is that it will be gone forever. There WILL be times (even if for a week or five minutes) that anxious thoughts will be present. Will I be nervous about some big event, or maybe having babies, or moving again? Yep, I will be.
However, during those times of anxiety-filled moments I can pray.
I can pray that the moments of any anxiety, panic, or stress, that the Lord would be with me and remind me of His strength. That I would have the mental strength, grit if you will, to know that this is fear talking and I will be able to make it through that moment. I can pray that He will carry me through any hard thing with grace and come out on the other side more thankful. Thankful that he carried me through and that I am still here, alive, and well.
And remember, just because I am praying about this doesn’t mean it will go away.
The words written above are the reason as to why I can’t just pray my anxiety away. It’s asking for a trouble free life. But don’t confuse that with me not trusting in the Lord. Because the truth of it is, it will actually never go away. And not to mention the fact that we are born with it in our DNA and it helps keep us alive.
So no, I will not just pray my anxiety away. What I WILL pray for is strength to make it through those moments that feel impossible. And to trust in Jesus.
I hope those of you who read this are a little more aware that anxiety is more than just being “nervous” or “worried”. Maybe now, you know how to offer help to someone who is in the thick of anxiety. All you need to do is say “Okay, I support you. Tell me what or if you need anything.”
If you are currently going through a deep pit of it right now, I 100% understand and it is okay. It really will be over with, you just can’t see it right now. And it’s also okay to ask for some help.
One last thought. This article and statement applies to anyone who has dealt with, or is dealing with, mental health struggles. Depression, panic attacks, OCD, social anxiety, PTSD, and GAD.
Thanks for reading,
~Erin, The Short Wife