Overcoming Anxiety

Dear World Changer,

We are starting an OVERCOMING series on the blog! We’re touching on topics such as overcoming anxiety, overcoming eating disorders, overcoming depression, overcoming low self-esteem and so on! Your leaders have SLAYED these topics and I am beyond excited to share all the wisdom with you!

Here’s the first of our series….overcoming anxiety written by our own Jenny!

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Let’s talk about that feeling. That feeling of intense fear, that latches on to our hearts and our minds. It can’t be talked away, won’t be shaken off, and is heavier than a ton of bricks. It sits on our chests, in our guts, completely psycho-analyzing any and every situation that we encounter.

I’m talking about anxiety.

I wrote the following post within the past year, on my own blog, as I reflected on my own personal struggle with anxiety. For about 8 to10 years, I was crippled by anxiety. It showed up over a variety of areas, but was mainly surrounding my future. I’m talking anywhere from days in the future, to years in the future. If I hadn’t experienced it yet, it was going to be something that daunted me. Anxiety limited my life, my boldness, to the point where I started missing out on the excitement and beauty that life had to offer.

For me, this changed completely on the first night of youth convention back in May 2016. Jesus showed up to me in a fresh new way, as the Prince of Peace, and I experienced full breaking off of my anxiousness. I want to share with you, World Changer, four things that I learned about the true character of anxiety, as well as what the Lord taught me about maintaining and thriving in a peace that passes all understanding!

Four Characteristics of Anxiety…

  1. Anxiety is IRRATIONAL

It is lacking in truth, value, and goodness, yet has an amazingly strong grip. Yes, it can be based on, or stemming from, something that has occurred in our lives, but it is an aggressive, magnified, twisted version of that truth. Another thing that I found aggravated the anxiety I faced was THE Truth. Our battle is not against any mere human in this world, but against the devil and his demons. And the devil knows that Word. Think about it. If he didn’t, how could he get us to stumble? How could he twist anything to deceive us into sinful living? How did he know the Truth when he tempted Jesus in the desert? The devil is the master of twisting truth until we are so confused we believe him. For me, this was related to fellowship. Something Jesus practiced and desires for us is fellowship. Coming together, breaking bread, sharing both time and thought. It is a beautiful thing, and something we should practice and followers of Christ. But, the devil saw something that happened in my life when I was fellowshipping, and knew that Jesus wants me to connect, and so he went after my peace when it came to fellowship. I would often become paralyzed when the opportunity for fellowship and connection arose. It got to the point, however, that I became angry at the devil for the foothold he had in my life, and I believe that anger helped get me to the point where I wanted none of the anxiety any more. And believe me, get that “Shackles” by MaryMary playing, have yourself a little “stomp on the devil” party every now and again, and you’ll feel pretty free!

  1. Anxiety is PERSONAL

If someone has encountered/ is encountering anxiety, I am able to empathize with their battle, but when it comes to the struggles they are specifically facing, I may not be able to understand/ make sense of their specific struggle. Because just like humans, anxiety is unique. I have felt, and have talked to people who also experienced, the guilt, confusion, shame, and embarrassment that comes when you don’t understand why you are anxious about something that everyone else seems cool with. Like why am I anxious about socializing with people over a meal? I shouldn’t be. I must be weird or deeply broken in some way. NO. Get out of that cycle. It is not true and it leads to destruction. Yes, people may not be anxious about something that you are anxious about, and yes, maybe your anxiety is irrational, but you shouldn’t be embarrassed about it. Speaking from personal experience, stuffing down anxiety only works for so long. After a while, you will realize you have missed out on a ton, or have fallen so deeply into letting yourself be fearful that your heart is nothing but clenched and scared at all times. Your story, your struggle, is going to help someone. I promise. Mine has, and I only consider myself to be free for a year!

  1. Anxiety is COMFORTABLE

Moral Revolution, an amazing organization pursuing purity in our generation, says it best:

“The process of getting free often seems harder than slavery, which is why so many people stay in bondage.”

-Moral Revolution

In a weird way, the iron grip that anxiety possesses in lives becomes a resting place, a source of comfort, even if your soul is weary and your heart is distressed. Relying on excuses and “the norm” is often easier than stepping into freedom and LIFE. I can tell you, thoughts would go through my head like: “What if more is expected of me?” “What if I get sick?” “What if life without anxiety is scary?” . But all those “what ifs” were simply excuses, because given the option of the known normal or the unknown freedom, I wanted nothing else but to stay in the known, even if it was slowly breaking my soul. Let me tell you, that the moment you decide to throw off the lie that the freedom waiting on the other side of your comfort zone is worse than the anxiety, your life will open up. Peace will flood in, opportunity will sprout, and joy will flourish. Not to say you won’t have moments of the old habits, because they will be hard to break, but your prison cell (let’s just call it for what it is) will become more and more distant every single day.

  1. Anxiety is NOT YOU

It is so easy, when you have been battling something for so long, to identify as your struggle. To say “I am anxious” rather than “I am struggling/battling/walking through anxiety”. Because you are not, at your core, anxiety. You are you. You are His. You are fearfully and wonderfully made. You were together by a caring Father, created with purpose, for a purpose. And to identify as your struggle is to give the devil too much credit. I saw a video recently on Facebook that talked about depression, but I equated what the person was saying to anxiety. He compared us to the sky, and [anxiety] to clouds. Even though clouds are in the sky, can at times cover the sky, and pass through the sky, the clouds are NOT the sky. In the same way, anxiety can come and go. It can stay for what seems like forever, or creep back in after a long period of clarity, but it always comes and goes. You are NOT what you face. If you allow it, what you face can refine, strengthen, and change you for the better, but it will never BE you.

 

Now, I mentioned earlier that the Lord taught me about how peace, pure and true and lasting peace, is something that needs to be maintained. If you are someone who wants to overcome your struggle with anxiety once and for all, you need to be prepared and willing to work for your peace daily. The apostle Paul, the dude who wrote some of the most epic books of the bible, says in Romans 7 that “there is another power within [us] that is at war with [our] minds”. He is acknowledging that there is a battle for the throne of our minds. Will we continually choose to place the Lord, and all the goodness He has for us, to reside there? Or will we become tired of pursuing Jesus, and allow anxiety and fear to take control once again?

Here are some ways to continually maintain an atmosphere of peace in your mind:

  1. DAILY give praise to the Lord

If you are continually, on a daily basis, choosing to praise and look to Jesus, the anxiety that is trying to eat up your focus and attention will fade. Choosing to take time to make HIM the center of your all will allow His presence to invade your heart. And that is glorious!

  1. Get His Word in your heart

You want to be able to speak against the voices and lies of your anxiety? Declare Truth! And the only way you can do that is by memorizing His Word. Whether this means memorizing a verse a week, or writing verses on sticky notes and putting them on your mirror, or setting your lock screen as a verse, simply make sure you are in the Word (reading your bible) and surrounded by the Word.

  1. Write down the big stuff

If you’ve been at IntenCity for long, you will know that journaling is highly recommended by PK, Pastor Natasha, and all of the leaders. We view journaling as a way to remind ourselves of where God has walked with us, what He has promised us, and where He said He’d take us. To have a physical record of what has actually occurred allows us to combat the lies of the devil when he tries to tell us something hasn’t actually happened. It is kind of like the modern version of creating an altar, like they used to do in the Old Testament when God would show up. Write down your “altars” (the day you were set free, the first time you do something you couldn’t while bound up in fear….) and return to them to praise the Lord and declare the Truth of who He is and what He has done in your life!

Sweet one, you were fashioned and designed with greatness in mind. We don’t call you “World Changer” for nothing! But you will never fully step into ALL that the Lord has planned for YOU unless you allow Him to fully free you from ALL your anxiety. Trust me, as a sister who has walked through the same battle you are walking through, a life of peace and freedom is SO worth it. Don’t let the devil convince you that staying comfortable in anxiety is worth it. He is a liar, a robber, and he seeks ONLY to destroy you.

World Changer, the devil desires to keep you bound because he acknowledges that if you become free, you will be unstoppable. Become unstoppable today. Walk into God’s presence with you hands open, lay your anxieties at His feet, and let Him replace them with His incredible peace.

Beautiful one, you were made to be a WARRIOR, not a WORRIER. Walk into the freedom that is yours!

And we, your sisters, are cheering you on.

Much love,

Jenny

I Am Insecure

Dear World Changer,

“I AM INSECURE!” She shouted from the mountain top. She had enough. She finally broke. Her journey up the mountain brought so much to light. She had so much time to herself to think, and boy did she think lots. It all started when she moved for the fifth time in her life. She was so ready to take on the world back then, just as she was when she was young. Nothing scared her; she had no fear. She didn’t care what others thought and she was always her own person. She figured that’s probably why people liked her so much: she was confident and spunky. But when she moved this time, things slowly changed. People still liked her, but there seemed to be more and more that didn’t, or just didn’t care to get to know her. And somehow she let that get to her. Of all the years prior, moving from city to city, country to country, being bullied in elementary school and having but 4 good friends and considered unpopular, you’d think she’d be able to take this on, just like she did then. Ignore the hurt feelings and continue being confident. After all, that is why she did so well in life. She was content, joyful, and successful. She was good at making very good friends, good at getting good grades, good at just about anything she put her mind to. So what changed?

Perhaps it was because she was living away from home for the first time. Her family was a huge support and a huge confidence builder for her. Without them she didn’t have the same encouragement.

Or perhaps it was because she didn’t have someone that she really connected with. Her best friend was miles away, and a phone call once a month just wasn’t enough.

Or perhaps it was because of the way others treated her over and over that just finally got to her.

Whatever the reason, it shouldn’t have mattered anyways. She should have just stayed strong.

She remembered how close she grew to God over the next few years through her insecurities. Perhaps even because of her insecurities. But the insecurities did not go away. She felt scared all too often; afraid to share her feelings, afraid to grow relationships. Every friend she seemed to get closer with, she would begin to doubt their motives. “What if they’re only my friend because…” And the reasons would be stupid, but she would believe them anyway. She started to believe that everyone already had friends and wouldn’t want another. She started to believe she talked too much or wasn’t cool enough or was too awkward in some situations, or just wasn’t funny enough. And the more she believed it, the truer it became. She became less funny, more awkward, less talkative, and less herself. She cried out to God in times of sadness and frustration, but she didn’t even realize it was her own insecurities causing it. She blamed it on others and the circumstances.

Stresses of life built on top of her insecurities and she continued to blame the circumstances. She pretended that she was still herself; pretended she was confident. “People like me when I’m confident” she would remember and smile. “Look confident.” On the outside, she still looked and seemed the same. She pretended she was still her own person, but on the inside her negative thoughts continued to swirl in her mind. She cared too much about what others thought and sought out their approval. It took over her own free-spirited nature and sooner than she knew, she was completely trapped in her own insecurities. She had built up a wall around herself and closed herself into a box.

Finally, she had enough. She realized she had walls around and she realized it was her own thoughts and insecurities. They had beaten her down for too long and finally she knew she had to take responsibility for it. But how to get out? There were no doors or windows. She cried out to God.

She thought back to when she would pray alone in her room for God to send a friend. And He did -a friend that prayed with her and built her up. And before long, He sent another friend –a friend that became a life-long friend. And that friend built her up too. God was there. He was giving her a way out. He had been there the whole time. It took a while for her to see, but God had answered her prayers every time.

And finally when she realized she could do it on her own no longer, she cried out to God from the stuffy cell she had built up around herself and said “I see it’s me! It’s my own insecurities! Lead me to freedom!”

That day she started on her journey up the mountain. Each step was more difficult but she got higher with each one. Never did she take a step down. Never did she take a step at the same height as her other foot. It was always the higher footing that she chose. It was hard and treacherous, but she was closer to the top because of it. With each step she admitted a fault. With each step she admitted insecurity. With each step she relied on God. She talked with Him along the way and He told her things she never heard before and showed her things she never saw before. She climbed above her circumstances, above her insecurities, and most importantly, above her own wants and desires. By the time she got to the top, she could see that nothing was about her, anyways. She looked out at the breathtaking view. The trees were like toothpicks, the ocean was but a pond, and the cityscape across the way was like little toy blocks. Everything was so miniscule and seemingly unimportant. What was important was the bigger picture! The way all the smaller parts came together made the view so much more beautiful than each smaller part on their own.

She cried out “I AM INSECURE!!” at the top of her lungs, and it felt good to let it go. She refused to hide her baggage anymore. And once the words left her mouth, she felt an indescribable peace. No longer could anything hold her down, because God had freed her and redefined her.

And so, before heading back down the mountain, she took one more deep breath of the freshest air she’d ever breathed, and, staring out over the most beautiful scene she had ever witnessed, she shouted with joy, “I AM FREEEEEE!!!””

-Miriam

BLOOM

Dear World Changer…

I wanted to be hopeful. I wanted to let joy and excitement invade my heart. But I was hesitant. I felt fear and allowed it to hinder my pursuit of hope. Because what if this was just a glimpse of what could be and not the real deal? Better to keep hope under wraps so my already vulnerable heart is protected from shattering again, right?

That was a lie I truly believed with every part of my being until one winter morning. The morning that felt like spring.

I awoke early to a dark room that made me feel tired and drained before my day had even begun. Without looking, I knew there was a pile of snow on the roof outside my window. All winter long the pile grew until it was a mountain that I couldn’t see over. I knew what to expect outside of my warm dark room so I almost didn’t pull back the curtain. But then I changed my mind and decided to open it up anyway. I was shocked to suddenly be standing in a room flooded with bright and natural sunlight. It had been so long since my space had been showered with sunshine. At some point during that cold and cloudy winter I had simply stopped opening the curtain and instead spent my mornings allowing my heart to soak up all the gloom from my light denied bedroom. But that morning as I simply stood in the brightness, I could hear the snow melting and see droplets of water falling just beyond the glass in front of me. While I reached to flip the lock on the window my logical brain was shouting, “Hey crazy girl! Why would you shatter the perfect illusion of a beautiful day by exposing yourself to a sure blast of icy cold air?!” But my vulnerable heart was completely enthralled by the bright sunlight and led me to crack the window despite the screaming in my head. I was again surprised as my expectations were shattered with the first wisp of warm air (well, warm for early March in Ottawa ha!) that gently blew through. I felt all bubbly inside as I stared out my window and thought, “Spring is coming!” But even before I could fully process that wonderful idea my mind was invaded by another thought that quickly travelled to the depths of my heart, “Don’t get too excited. There’s another snow storm expected by the end of the week.” Suddenly the bubbly feeling was gone and I no longer had the energy to go about my day. The hope had been snatched away just like I knew it would be. I sat down in defeat and wondered why I would let this happen to me again.

That’s when I heard it. This beautiful sound had been there all along, had actually been there for days, but I did not pay attention until that moment. The birds were singing outside my window. Their song came in through the opening with the sunshine and infused the space with hope again. That morning I was reminded that even if my roof took another dump of snow and my window remained locked due to more freezing weather, spring would still be coming. I knew that nothing was going to change that. Cold weather may delay the start of spring but eventually it will come. That realization sparked me back to life that morning as hope was restored and I was energized to continue on with my day. I ditched my winter parka for a lighter jacket and put on my cool girl shades. I even rolled down the car window for my dog in the back seat. I had a good day. And you know what? By the time I left work that afternoon the sun was nowhere to be found among the fog and rain that engulfed me as I walked across the parking lot. But my hope was not defeated in that seemingly gloomy moment. Because spring was still coming.

What ‘spring’ are you waiting for? Hope is fragile and flimsy if we don’t proactively protect it. The Bible says, “A hope deferred makes the heart sick” (Proverbs 13:12). Hope is beautiful and motivating but if it is not strong enough then we are susceptible to great pain. The fear of pain leads many of us to tear down the seeds of hope before they have a chance to take root and to block out any possibility of hope in the future. But our vulnerable human hearts desperately need hope. We need to tie our hope to the One who will never fail us. We need to draw from his never ending supply of courage to help us create space in our hearts for hope to bloom. Because hope is the breath of fresh air and the song of the birds that we all need during our winter season.

So, what spring season are you looking forward to? My prayer is that you don’t let the fear of disappointment and a sick heart and deferred hope hinder you from living a life of light and love. I pray that you are brave today and allow hope to bloom inside your heart so you can see the power and beauty of its radiance shining in you and through you. I pray that you shatter expectations today by making a choice to strengthen your hope instead of sheltering your heart. Delays are inevitable. I guarantee at some point in this journey you will see another snow fall before you feel the warm sunshine again. But I also guarantee you will see your victory. Do not give up today. Do not let go of victory to sit down in defeated hope. Take courage and listen for the song of the birds. Spring is still coming.

Praying for you always,

Charity xo

Behind the Smile

Dear World Changer,

You know, it’s funny how God works, His timing and all. Currently I’m finishing up my last year of bible college – AKA graduation is WEEKS away 😀 That aside, this week I was working on a paper for my Pauline Literature class and sure enough, God had something deeper than just an assignment for my grad check list. The focus of the readings and paper was on 2 Corinthians when Paul writes of a “Thorn in his flesh”. If you haven’t read Paul’s letters, well you should. They are Real. Raw. Emotion-filled and Spirit-gripping.

On the night when I tried to finish the assignment my stomach began to act up more than it had in a while. For those of you who don’t know, I’ve battled with stomach issues for over 7 years now. There have been seasons of greater health and great endurance, but on the flip side, many seasons of heart-felt, tear-filled pleas of grace – when the agony is too much to bear… with some season to the point that if I gave in to all the pain I would experience, I would’ve never left my house. Those moments, of complete downright frustration have surely given me a greater perspective on “you never know what’s going on behind the scenes in someone’s life”. I mean, anyone can put on a pretty smile or fake enthusiasm for the task at hand – can they not?

It’s the happening behind the scenes, the moments when the pain is too much to bear or fathom, these ones that most of us don’t see. The tears of hurt, the tears of pain, the tears for relief in whatever situation one faces. This week Paul reminded me of this. He may have had that “thorn,” yet he persevered and his life spoke of it. Paul may have faced hardship and yet, he learned the extent of God’s grace, the need and power of prayer, the depths of God’s love for him. Perhaps none of those would have been a reality had he given in. If he had thrown the towel in and gave up on His faith in the one who created Him.

I’m glad he didn’t.

In 2 Timothy 4:7 Paul says: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” – words I too wish to say someday. Did I fight and persevere despite my circumstances? Did I keep my faith and trust IN him even when I didn’t feel like it? Will people say that I finished the race (my life) well when the day comes that I enter eternity with Christ? I hope so. I hope it’s a yes, yes, and yes.

Whatever you face today, know that everybody has a behind the scenes. But also know that everybody has a choice. A choice to trust. A choice to persevere. A choice to choose peace over fear. Wherever you stand today, be reminded that even Paul, a man who impacted the lives of SO many, he too faced hardship. It doesn’t always make sense, but the “sense” is not for us to understand. It’s the opportunity to grasp, like Paul, the extent of God’s grace, the need and power of prayer, and the depths of God’s love for us.

Stand tall my friend. God cares about your every “behind the scenes” struggle.

JENNIFER

XOXO