Category Archives: soul care

A Biblical Approach to Anxiety

Do you want to know a secret? You know which tool is the best one to battle anxiety? The one you use! There are a lot of excellent resources on dealing with anxiety. Not any one is the answer to take it away, as only Jesus himself is the answer. What I want to share with you are some tried and true tools I use and teach to battle anxiety. It’s important to remember that it is a battle, and rarely a “one and done” deal. As you keep using the tools, learning to master them, you’ll continue to find more and more freedom from the onslaught of anxiety.

Anxiety has been part of my story since even before I was born. Most of my family members have struggled with anxiety and depression. It’s in our family with a tight grip, but through using the tools God has given us in Scripture, I’ve been able to find more and more freedom, where it doesn’t define my story. I still struggle, even last summer of 2019 I was battling suicidal thoughts. But when I choose to walk with God, I experience freedom.

The following Scriptures provide a solid baseline about dealing with anxious thoughts. I’ll share with you a tool to help make them practical.

Actions (Commands from Scripture):

Phil 4:6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.

Rom 12:2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

2 Corin 10:5 We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.

Phil 4:8 Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.

Results (Promises from Scripture):

Phil 4:7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Isa 26:3 You will keep in perfect peace
    those whose minds are steadfast,
    because they trust in you.

You may be asking, “how do I get there, to the “peace” promised in Scripture?” I’m glad you asked! It starts with changing the “what if’s” swirling in our thoughts.

As kids, did you ever make mud pies and mud mountains? Imagine when you build a large pile of mud into the biggest mountain you could muster and then poured water over the top and watched it run down. If you keep pouring water on it, it keeps going down those initial pathways, creating deeper and deeper ruts. If you want the water to go in a different direction, it’s not enough to just build a little dam in your dirt to stop it. The water will still go down that same rut and break through the dam you made.  Our “what if” thinking is like water going down a mountain of dirt. The more we think a certain way, the deeper the rut becomes. It’s not enough to just stop the thinking by building a dam. Our thoughts will build up behind it and eventually break through. We also need to redirect our thoughts. Just as we need to create a new path for the water to go down, we need a new path for our thoughts to go.  This is one way to take thoughts captive, make them obedient, and renew them. A tool that helps us do that is changing the “what if’s” to “even if, then God.”

“What if…”

“Even if ______________________, then God _______________________________ .”

To trust God on this level, with the “even ifs” requires us to first know Him.

As we begin to know God, we then love Him, then begin to trust Him, then obey Him (e.g. take thoughts captive and make them obedient to Christ) and that leads us to know Him more, love Him more, trust Him more, obey Him more, etc…

Who is God? He is Creator, Provider, With me, Steadfast, Faithful, my Rock and Security to name just a handful of characteristics.

Here are a few of the “what if’s” I’ve heard from college students in the past couple weeks.

What if I fail these two classes? Instead, even if I fail 2 of my classes, then God still has a plan for my education. Nothing I can do in success or failure can thwart his plans. He will work something else out and I can keep looking to Him instead of looking at my failures or trying to figure it out on my own. God is good, and can only be good.

What if I can’t see my family over break because of COVID? Even if I can’t see my family, then God will carry me and my family through the heartache of being separated. He is the One who comforts because He is close to the broken hearted and binds up their wounds. I will look to Him to provide another time for us to be together, even if it can’t be over break.

What if I don’t have enough energy to get everything done. Even if I don’t have the energy to get all the things done, then God will provide what I need. Maybe it’s the energy, maybe it’s extra time, maybe it’s perspective that they don’t need to be done anyway. God knows all things and He knows what I need and He will provide it, because He is my provider.

Even if my family member won’t listen to reason, then God can get a hold of her heart and create repentance because God is the Creator, and can create something out of nothing, then I can trust Him to create a repentant heart where there is none.

Even if Republicans, even if Democrats, take control of the Senate, and they pass laws I disagree with, then God will still take care of me. He will never leave me nor forsake me. My security is in Him, not in a political party.

When we think about the “what if’s” we are thinking about things that are not currently true. They are things that “could be” true, but the Bible is clear: Phil 4:8 Think about whatever is true. What would the opposite of true be? False. Or Fantasy.

 I used to frequently have bad dreams, and shortly after Aurora was born the dreams were usually about some kind of harm coming to her. I had a choice in that moment, to entertain that thought, which I had done and then it will lay me flat in my emotions and ruin my morning, even my day. Or I could declare it not true, declare the truth that right now, in that moment she was currently safe in her crib, and always safe in God’s hands and reject the thought. I’ve done enough “capturing these thoughts” that these bad dreams have more or less ceased, and if they do come, I am super quick to capture the untrue thought and choose to believe truth.

One other false or fantasy thought that causes anxiety: speculation. It’s a big trigger! When I speculate what I think a person is thinking of me, or even speculate a general “them” or “they”, I am not walking in truth or thinking truthful thoughts. Speculation gets us in trouble quick and it’s false. I do not know what a person is thinking unless they have told me.

There’s even a “noble” speculation when we worry about someone else’s situation. I’ll worry about my mom, or my friends’ heartaches, and unless I talk to them, I don’t have a clear picture of what’s going on, or what God may already be up to in their lives. Typically, when I can talk to them and find out how they are really doing, the anxiety lessens because I am focusing on what is true and rejecting the speculation. Take captive the thoughts that are untrue, even if they “could be” true, and choose not to speculate.

In Phil 4:6, Paul says to present our requests to God with thanksgiving. Thanksgiving is one of the quickest and easiest tools to use to capture thoughts and renew our minds. When I’m thankful, it brings me to the here and now. To what is true, pure, right , lovely, admirable, praiseworthy, etc… When we are thankful, it awakens us to God’s presence and begins to replace the anxiousness.

Right now, before you finish reading, I want to encourage you to take a few minutes to practice this. Grab one of the “what if’s” floating in your mind and change it to an “even if_________, then God _______________. Spend some time praying that back to Him. If you get stuck, try thanksgiving

Keep practicing this with one or two of the “what if’s” throughout this week. And you don’t have to do it alone. As useful as this “Even if” tool is, sometimes we need help knowing how to use it. We are currently buying a house, and the situation that caused us to begin this process brought me a LOT of anxiety. I was highly anxious for days, really weeks. It took me hours and days of talking and processing with God, my mentor, and people praying for me and with me until I could finally get to the even if, then God. I’m hoping this tool is simple enough to understand, but I recognize it’s not always easy to use. It takes practice to learn how to use any tool well, and lots of practice to master a tool.

Am I Okay?

righteousness2This morning after Church was one of the moments where I’m giving a girl a piece of advice, and the words of wisdom coming out of my mouth I realize are meant for me (and hopefully for her to), and something I need to process more.

So, I’m processing with you on this blog post as more of a journal entry in the hopes that my processing might be helpful for at least another person as well.

My girl was talking about the need to set the pace in confrontation; starting by leading out confessing where she has failed the girls she’s leading. But as I listened to her, it sounded like her failings were more performance issues and not sin issues. So I said something to the effect of “God isn’t concerned about your day-to-day performance and nitpicking that. He is concerned about the sin in our lives and the need to confess that.” As I spoke, it struck a chord with a thought I’ve been processing for a few weeks now.

If you were to ask me if I’m satisfied with my life, in terms of the big picture, then absolutely yes. I’m satisfied with where I’m at in my life, in my career, my marriage, my family, my walk with God, who I am, etc… However, in the small picture, day to day, I feel inadequate most days. That I’m not using my time wisely or well enough. That I fall short of where I should be every day. And as I talked with my girl, I realized that she and I are each asking the wrong question.

It isn’t about the day to day performance, it’s about the motivations behind it. If I fail to complete a task, is that a sin? It depends. I need to ask a deeper question of Why (or if you are a QBQ reader, “what caused me to not complete the task”). Maybe it’s something that didn’t need to be accomplished. But maybe I wasn’t trusting God (the true sin issue).

I get down on myself for not accomplishing my to-do list. Truthfully, I tend to put more on my to-do list than I have time or energy to accomplish. But the bigger issue, the actual sin issue, is that I look to my to-do list not as a guide, but as a measure of my “okayness”. Instead of believing in what Christ has accomplished on the Cross in order for me to be right with Him, I look to my performance, and measuring it in terms of tasks successfully completed.

I look for my value by how much I can get done instead of recognizing I already have my value in Christ. I look for my “okayness” in my use of time rather than believing I’m already accepted in Christ. I look to myself to figure out and direct my days rather than looking to Christ to direct my day. Or I push on, trying to accomplish all the things instead of trusting Christ and His invitation to rest.

I don’t need to confess my failings in my performance. I need to confess the sin behind it. Because in confessing that sin it sets me free the trap it has become, and it opens the door for a better relationship with Jesus.

It’s Spring Break and I have a mighty massive to-do list of all the things I want to do over the next 10 days. But right now, I just want to rest. I want to sit, read, think, pray, nap, play with Aurora, and hang out with Micah. Maybe energy will come later in the week to do some of the things on my list. Here’s where Faith comes in for me. I have seen God come through for me in the past. As I trust Him with my time, schedule and to-do lists, He provides energy and bends time in my favor. So, today and for the next several days, will I trust Him? Will I trust His invitation to rest? Will I trust that knowing & loving Him is the far better option than trying to get all my have-to’s and want-to’s done? I could muster through and try to get things done this week. But past experience tells me I will just exhaust myself. And past experience also tells me that choosing Christ has ALWAYS been the life-giving option.

Christ didn’t die for me so I could continue to be under the law, including the law I put onto myself of expectations. He died for me and clothed me in righteousness. I am already righteous, which is way better than just being “okay”. I am already right with Him whether or not I get my tasks accomplished or use every minute well. He didn’t die for me so I could keep trying to fulfill the law. He died to set me free! So I could live life fully! In Him! (Galatians 3).

So, for the next few days I’m letting go of my to-do list and I’m going to trust Christ and His invitation to rest and to enjoy Him. And I’ll trust Him if He wants me to get anything done on my to-do list later this week.

 

Finding Rest for Your Soul

be still my soulRecently I attended Lifeway’s Women’s Forum, a women’s ministry leadership conference down in Nashville, TN. Besides having a blast exploring the city and almost escaping the Heist at the Escape Game, I learned a wealth of information during the 2 1/2 day conference.

The concept of soul care kept coming to mind all semester, as it’s been a very busy Fall, possibly my busiest, and I held back on taking care of my soul. A few seminars I attended addressed this idea and it’s just too good not to pass on.

So, if you are looking for some ways to find some rest at the soul level, may this help you in your journey.

We each have an inner life and an outer life. Our outer life is visible, demands attention and seems to get most of our care. Our inner life is invisible and easy to neglect. It’s the place where our soul resides. We tend to spend more time getting ourselves presentable to the world instead of being still, quite possibly because the outside world is pretty demanding, while our inner world is much quieter.

How would you define “soul”? What is it? One of the speakers I heard defined soul as the “operating system” of your life. It integrates your will, your mind and your body.

When your soul is healthy, no external circumstances can change that. But when your soul is unhealthy, the same is true, no external circumstances can change it. Not a day watching Netflix, or a spa night, or an all nighter playing video games. Soul Care is not Self Care.

How do you know if your soul isn’t well?

You might feel: apathetic, disconnected, fatigued, a lack of desire for God, burned out, anxious, confused, self-absorbed, angry, driven, insecure, calloused, critical, irritable, a stronger temptation to sin, etc…

A healthy soul is opposite of all those. It’s optimistic, energetic, creative, at rest, satisfied.

“My mind may be obsessed with idols; my will may be enslaved to habits; my body may be consumed with appetites. But my soul will never find rest until it rests in God. For the soul to be well, it needs to be with God.” (John Ortberg, “Soul Keeping”).

When you are sick, food doesn’t taste good. Right now I’m coming down with a cold and this morning coffee tasted awful! When someone is dying, very little food will taste appealing. In order to keep that person alive, they need to find food that will entice them to eat, otherwise they will die.

The same applies when your soul is sick or dying. You need to find spiritual food that will entice you to eat. Maybe its not the meat and potatoes of a regular quiet time, (or maybe it is because you’ve been starving yourself and eating only junk food, i.e. Facbook, Netflix, video games). But maybe when your soul is dying it needs to be enticed to eat Spiritually.

“Enjoying time with God and finding soul rest isn’t a matter of self-discipline, of trying harder or setting your clock to wake up 15 minutes earlier. If it was a matter of simply willing yourself to DO quiet time, you would have done it. Your soul longs for something more than checking another box off a list.” (Bonnie Gray, “Finding Spiritual Whitespace – Awakening Your Soul to Rest”)

So, how do you gain a healthy soul?

Take a chill pill. Find an M&M, put it on your tongue and let it dissolve (no cheating by rolling it around on your tongue).

As the chill pill, er, I mean, M&M dissolves in your mouth, consider who is the Master of the Moment.M&M

Step 1: Remember.

Remember who God is, the Master of this Moment (M&M). Remember that God is Sovereign, He’s in control, He is loving, good, has a plan, is faithful, etc… Think upon Him and remember who He is.

Remember who you are. If you are God’s child, you are loved, cared for, guided and provided for by God.

Get God’s perspective on your situation. If ____________, then God ____________. Whenever you have an “If” there is always a “then.” So if you are thinking, “what if _________,” then finish that statement with “then God __________________.”

 

Step 2: Renounce

I don’t even know how to emphasize how important this is. Check yourself and get rid of sin by renouncing (confessing) it and turning away from it. Ask God to bring to mind any sins of thought, word, or deed.

Beth Moore shares in her “Seeking a Heart Like His” Bible study, that we must learn to allow God to halt sin in the place it begins — the thought life.  We’re wise to aggressively confess the sins of our thoughts.  The sins of our thought lives are so numerous that their familiarity tends to make them less noticeable.  Our minds may fuel jealous thoughts, sudden lusts, quick criticism, and harsh judgments or anxious thoughts without ever regarding them as sin.  Confessing wrong thoughts stops sin in the first stages, before it comes out of our mouths and then directs our actions.

Consider these verses to guide you in this process of renouncing:

Thoughts:   Psalm 139:23-24
Search me, O God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
See if there is any offensive way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting.

Words:  Psalm 19:14
May the words of my mouth
and the meditation of my heart
be pleasing in your sight,
O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.

Deeds:  Psalm 15:1-2 
Lord, who may dwell in your sacred tent?
Who may live on your holy mountain?
The one whose walk is blameless,
who does what is righteous,
who speaks the truth from their heart.

To hide anything increases the pressure on our lives. What God says is Sin is Sin. No matter how small I consider it.

Step 3: Reassurance. Be reassured that the help you need comes from God.

2 Corinthians 4: But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.

Let’s look at some of the key words in this verse.

Jars of Clay: we are easily broken, God knows that. We need Him. The outside pressures will weigh us down if our souls aren’t right with Him.

Hard Pressed: what is pressing on you and weighing you down? What are your pressures?

The good news? We aren’t crushed because we can take on Jesus’ yoke. In Matthew 11:28-30 Jesus says: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

I’ve always caught the rest part, but did you catch the learn part? He gives us rest and we LEARN from Him. He doesn’t fix the issue, he teaches us. Plus He’s gentle and humble about it. So ask Him, “what do You want to teach me in this pressure?”

Perplexed: What is not understood? What are you so confused on?

The good news? We don’t despair when life doesn’t make sense because we know the One who does know. You don’t have to understand, just believe. Psalm 119:71 “It’s good for me to be afflicted so that that I might hope in your word.” God is in control.  (Go back to step one, Remember God and put your hope in Him, not in anything else.)

Persecuted: to pursue with harassing treatment

The good news?  We are not abandoned. God walks with you.

Struck Down: dealing with blows (someone gossips about you, etc…)

The good news? We are not destroyed.

Galatians 2:20  I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

I am not destroyed because I have been crucified with Christ. I no longer stand on my feelings, or even my rights. I’ve been crucified.

I live by faith in the son of God, not faith in people liking me, or faith in getting everything accomplished.  Faith in the Son of God.

Step 4: Renewed.

  1. Be thankful
  2. Pray
  3. Be still
  4. Be in His Word
  5. Practice the Presence of God, in community and alone. In community through church, large group in your college ministry, small groups. And alone during a time of silence and solitude (unplug from electronics), or perhaps a nature walk.  This is a foreign concept to us, which is why we need to practice it!

God will refresh you! Day by Day.

Some additional thoughts and questions to ask yourself:

Are you mismanaging the pace of your lives?
Are you hurried or busy?
Are you at risk of slamming into an emotional wall at a high speed?

John Ortberg, pastor and author asked his mentor and dear friend, Dallas Willard, “What do I need to do to stay spiritually healthy?” He answered, “You must ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life. Hurry is the great enemy of spiritual life in our day.”

Busy is an outward condition : : hurried is an inward condition

Busy is a full schedule : :  hurried is preoccupied

Busy is active : :  hurried is unable to be fully present

Busy is physically demanding : : hurried is spiritually demanding

Busy reminds me that I need God : : hurried causes me to be unavailable to God

A healthy soul feeds on space and grace. Take care of your soul.

Be still and know that I am God
Be still and know
Be still
Be