Dealing with anxiety

We live in a culture is saturated with anxiety and the more I get to know people, the more I see how much of an issue anxiety is. In a culture where individualism is an ideal that we try to achieve, we set ourselves up for disappointment and anxiousness.  We are ingrained by our culture early on to be achievers, independent, self-sufficient, successful, and happy. What’s wrong with this? It’s impossible to attain. We can’t be completely successful (we will continually make mistakes), we can’t be self-sufficient (we will always be reliant on others in some way), etc. We tend to put an impossible and unrealistic burden upon ourselves and we get anxious when we don’t live up to those expectations that we either place on ourselves or that others place on us. If you’re anything like me, you also take these individualistic ideals into your spiritual life. So how do we overcome this?

There are a few things I’ve learned I must realize in order to tackle anxiety. First, I don’t need to be perfect or have everything all together. It’s ok to not be ok; this is what makes me human. The more I mask problems and issues, the harder the fall is going to be. More than this, I grow a wide chasm between what I portray myself to be and who I really am. We all desire intimacy, yet how can we have true intimacy when we cannot accept who we are and how can others truly accept us if we don’t let them see who we really are? Bringing this into our spiritual walk, how can we experience God’s love and intimacy if we aren’t willing to be open with Him about our imperfections? The Father doesn’t ask me to have everything all together, he just asks that I go to Him.

“Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food. Incline your ear, and come to me; hear, that your soul may live; and I will make with you an everlasting covenant, my steadfast, sure love for David.” (Isaiah 55:1-3 ESV)

Secondly, I must realize that I will never measure up. What a terrifying thought, right? It’s natural for me to feel that as long as I work hard enough at something, it’ll measure up. Unfortunately, this is impossible to attain in our relationship with God. It can be very easy to slip into an anxious mentality where we feel that we aren’t good enough or that we don’t perform well enough no matter how hard we try on our own to be good for God. One of the hardest, and yet one of the most life-giving, things for me to accept is that I need to stop trying to be enough and just let God love me with His unending grace and compassion. This requires humility, something that seems to be foreign in our culture. The best thing for me to do is not to try and be enough, but recognize that I never will be enough and that He is.

And as Jesus reclined at table in the house, behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and were reclining with Jesus and his disciples. And when the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” But when he heard it, he said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. Go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Matthew 9:10-13 ESV)

Finally, I am not designed to be concerned about providing for myself, but to live righteously, doing the will of the Father. Our culture tells us that we need to be worried about providing for ourselves and it encourages us to see ourselves as a means to an end. We are told over and over that we are responsible for providing for ourselves and even for our own happiness. If this is not my purpose, then what is? It is to abide in the Jesus and live righteously. I like to hold on to the idea that I’m the one behind everything I’ve received or done in my life. It’s me who has provided for myself and earned all that I have. It comes down to me to find what I enjoy and to make myself happy. I can make myself a better person. I can’t count how many times I’ve fallen captive to these lies. When I go about my life thinking I have control over these things it is easy to become overwhelmed and burdened by the unrealistic responsibilities I place on myself. I’m gradually learning to surrender all these things to the Father, entrusting Him to give me what I need as I place my focus solely on following Him in faith, obedience, and love.

“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble. (Matthew 6:25-34 ESV)

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