THERE ARE MANY things that make people (including me!) anxious and afraid.
Some things that didn’t surprise me: Heights, spiders, snakes, going to the dentist (side note: dentists are some of the nicest people I know!).
But then there were other things that make people anxious that did surprise me: Like one of the top 10 fears people have is dogs. Who knew? Also, elevators (I love elevators!). And public speaking.
I knew people didn’t like public speaking, but a few surveys revealed that public speaking was found to be a more pressing concern than death. Translation: people are more afraid of doing what I do for a living (speaking on Sundays as a pastor) than dying. That’s wild.
So, these are a few of the funny things that people are anxious and afraid of, but I also want to share some stats that aren’t so funny:
- One in four Canadians will have at least one anxiety disorder in their lifetime.
- More than 1 in 5 Americans are currently on medication for anxiety or depression.
- Almost 49% of Canadians who feel they have suffered from depression or anxiety have never seen a doctor about this problem.
- Over 25% of students between 13 and 18 struggle with an anxiety disorder of some kind.
- More than half of all college students have sought out help with issues around anxiety.
- Often connected with anxiety is suicide, and in 2017 alone 4,157 Canadians died by suicide.
Those stats are powerful, illustrating what anxiety can look like statistically, but what does anxiety actually feel like?
For me, anxiety feels like restlessness. My heart starts racing. I’ll start physically pacing around the house or room I’m in. I’ll struggle to sleep at night.
I’ll start thinking about one thing, and minutes later I’ll find myself thinking about the absolute worst-case scenario.
When I’m just a little anxious I’ll bite my nails, and when I’m struggling a lot it almost feels like I can’t breathe.
Some people get light-headed or struggle with headaches. Others just worry and worry and worry to the point of becoming physically sick. While for other people anxiety is all-consuming. It’s paralyzing. It feels like you’re on a different planet. You don’t want to leave your house. You don’t want to even leave your bed.
That’s an idea of what anxiety feels like, but an important question to ask around anxiety is what are we actually anxious about?
What is actually causing our anxiety? What is at the centre, what is the basis of our anxiety and fear?
Often when we get anxious, we feel like the world is coming to an end. But when we begin to name things it brings clarity and we can start to attack that anxiety. Again, we can be anxious about anything. We can even be anxious about being anxious! I’ve got my stuff, but what is it for you?
There are a ton of things that could make us anxious, but here are five common things that I think we can all agree have the power to take a little worry and turn it into anxiety, fast.
It’s kind of crazy to think about, but it doesn’t matter how much money you have, you still worry about it! It’s all relative, whether you have a lot of money or none — money makes us anxious.
- Will we have enough money?
- How am I gonna pay these bills?
- I don’t have a big house like my friends.
- I don’t have a nice car.
- Do people like me because I have money?
Money, it makes us anxious and afraid.
Second, we’re often anxious and afraid of failure!
- Failing as a parent. I don’t want to screw up my kids.
- Failing at a job. My worth comes from what I do.
- Failing as a follower of Jesus. I’ve just messed up so many times.
The fear of failure, it paralyzes us. Convincing us that we’re a failure. Convincing us to never try anything.
Failure, even the thought of failure, makes us anxious.
A third thing that often makes us anxious and afraid is death.
- Anxious about having a miscarriage.
- Anxious about our kids getting sick.
- Worrying about the death of a friend or our spouse.
- Worrying about our own death or the death of a parent.
So many of us right now have loved ones with cancer, and there’s just this constant fear of are they going to die?
Just being honest, I get anxious about my parents’ health all the time! When I get a call from them at a strange time, I’m always worried that one of them is in the hospital, and more than that, has one of them died?
Is anyone else anxious about death?
A huge source of our anxiety and fear is people, other people!
- Anxious of being rejected.
- Afraid of having others gossip about you.
- Anxious that you won’t be enough, good enough, cool enough, for another person to like or love you.
I’m a grown man, yet I never cease to be amazed by the crazy things that I’ll say or do just to be liked and accepted by others! Just to fit in. Just to belong.
We go through our days consumed by what others think of us and it makes us anxious and afraid.
Lastly, the fifth thing that often makes us anxious and afraid is the future.
- Afraid of what might happen.
- Of what could take place.
- Of what tomorrow might bring.
- Of next week, next month, and next year.
And isn’t that what anxiety does? It makes us focus on what might happen, and what could take place, and what if. It’s like what might happen in the future hurts our ability to live today!
So those are a few things that can cause us to be anxious, but now I want to look at what God says about anxiety.
Where anxiety says that no one is beside you, God says I am.
- Anxiety says that you’re alone.
- That no one is with you.
- You’re crazy! No one can relate.
- No one can understand you.
- No one is by your side.
To be clear: anxiety is a liar! It lies!
When I’m anxious, this is one of the biggest lies I believe: that I’m completely alone.
But thankfully for all of us, God steps in, and He says that’s not true.
- That’s a lie, I’m with you!
- I’m beside you.
- I’m near you.
- I see you.
- I’m here right now, and I still love you.
- It might feel like you’re fighting by yourself, but I’m fighting with you!
- When you have no fight left, I’m fighting for you.
Regardless of what you think and feel, the truth is, God has never left our side. He’s not up in the clouds. He’s not way out there. It’s not just a warm and fuzzy feeling, He is with us. And He carries us throughout the day.
Again, anxiety says that no one is beside you, God says I am.
But then, one step further get this: where is this true? God’s not just with us in a dark valley. He’s with us in the darkest valley.
Has anyone ever been in the darkest valley before? God says, even then, I’m here.
Thinking about money, have you ever been in the darkest valley? Maybe you’re covered in credit card debt. God says, I’m here.
Failure? Even in the darkest valley? Death? Maybe the worst did happen! Your loved one did die. Even there?
With people, someone did stab you in the back. Your spouse left. Someone did gossip about you. They spread lies.
With the future, when it feels like you have no future!
God says, even then. Not just in a dark valley, but in the darkest valley, I am beside you.
In your darkest struggle.
Your darkest anxiety.
The time you thought about killing yourself.
When you felt like you couldn’t breathe.
One more time, anxiety says that no one is beside you. God says, I am. Where? Not just in a valley, but in the darkest valley.
This week or even today, when you’re anxious, when you’re afraid, you might feel all alone, but it’s not true. In these moments hold on to what is true:
Anxiety is a liar, and God is with you.
Maybe you need to write down these two things and carry them with you.
In your darkest moments, maybe you need to read them over and over again.
Tattoo it on your arm!
Tell Satan he’s a liar!
But most of all, cling to Jesus, knowing he’s by your side.
Anxiety is a liar, God is beside you. Not just in a dark valley, but in the darkest valley!
For a few more practical resources and steps to battle anxiety and depression, go to iamembrace.com/hope