Anxiety and depression: Common wounds in Christians and non-Christians alike. In this post, originally published on reviveourhearts.com, you can read about my struggle and the steps I take to protect myself. This is surely not the last word I will write on this issue, but it was a beginning point.
Much has been said in this space and elsewhere regarding the battle for the mind of the believer. A woman doesn’t have to be a Christian for long to realize that her thought life has quickly become the front line in this daily war we fight against the enemy. So we plan. We prepare. We arm ourselves with the Word of God, bolster our defenses with prayer, and strategically plan for the battle we will face tomorrow. Assured of our preparation, we slumber in our tents, hoping for just enough rest to carry us through the next day’s trials.
Then, suddenly—ambush! Terror has entered the camp tonight.
Last evening, I sat in a circle of dear Christian sisters for our monthly book/Bible study. We’re currently working through Attitudes of a Transformed Heart by Martha Peace, and we discussed Mrs. Peace’s statement that “When you think a thought it is either pleasing to God or it is not. It is either righteous or it is not.”
She goes on to describe how our thinking is habitual, and that just as we can train ourselves to perform a variety of mundane tasks out of habit (i.e. getting dressed, brushing our teeth, making our bed), we also think habitually, training ourselves to “default” to thoughts that are either pleasing to God or are sinful. Preparing for the battle we would wake up to today, my study sisters and I planned. We prayed. We armed ourselves as best we could for what we would face when a new day dawned. But last night, I was ambushed.
Our Need for Him
Most of us have some sort of a trigger—you know, that one area of your life that the Lord uses, in His infinite wisdom, to remind you of your desperate need for Him. For you, that may look like financial trouble, job insecurity, worries about your children, or any number of things. In my life, the thing that will bring me to my knees time after time is anxiety regarding my health—the fear that this breath might be my last.
Lying in my bed last night, dozing off after reading, basking in a warm, blessed, post-Bible study glow, I was unprepared for the fear that would overtake me when finally I closed my eyes. I occasionally suffer from bouts of what is probably sleep apnea, and last night I had one so terrifying that when I awoke, my heart’s pounding beat was wilder, faster, harder than anything I’ve experienced before. I lurched upright and then got out of bed, desperate for any change of position that would ease my panicked pulse. But the relief took minutes to arrive. I seriously thought I was dying. I switched to “default” and default was “afraid.”
After those first few troublesome moments, my body’s tempo gradually slowed, and I began the lengthy process of taking prisoner every thought and guiding each of my captives through the “check-in” process—questioning whether the thought aligns with the truth of God’s Word, stripping it bare of any falsehood, and eventually, release. Honestly, the post-ambush battle lasted well into the night, and even after a couple of hours of fitful rest, continued through most of today. I feel like a failure. I feel as though I’ve lost.
The Battle Is His
But what does Scripture say? Did I measure up to the Captain’s standards when I was met with war? Consider Psalm 121:
I lift up my eyes to the hills.
From where does my help come?
My help comes from the LORD,
who made heaven and earth.
He will not let your foot be moved;
he who keeps you will not slumber.
Behold, he who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.
The LORD is your keeper;
the LORD is your shade on your right hand.
The sun shall not strike you by day,
nor the moon by night.
The LORD will keep you from all evil;
he will keep your life.
The LORD will keep your going out and your coming in
from this time forth and forevermore.
Did I lose the battle? If fighting in my own strength, yes! But for the believer, the battle belongs to the Captain. John MacArthur’s study notes on Psalm 121 help to break down the Lord’s role in that battle that each of us face. In verses one and two, we learn that God is our Helper. In three and four, He serves as our Keeper. In five and six, we find our Protector, and in seven and eight, we meet our Preserver.
If it was up to me alone, the battle would be lost. But we have a great Savior, who won the battle at Calvary. We have an unbeatable Captain.
The Soldier’s Responsibility
So what about the soldier? Don’t I bear some responsibility in the battle for my thoughts? Should I be dismayed that I have to engage in this same fight again and again? The answer, simply, is yes. Where sin is found, repentance is necessary. Clearly, more training (time in the Word) is needed so that in the heat of the moment, my “default” setting is trust and not fear.
Are you like me—a war-weary soldier, wondering if you’re gaining any territory in your battle with worry? Are you wondering if it’s even possible to make progress, or how to tell if you’re still in the fight? Take heart in wisdom from Charles Spurgeon who penned,
Many professed Christians are always doubting and fearing, and they forlornly think that this is the necessary state of believers. This is a mistake, for “all things are possible to him that believeth” [Mark 9:23]; and it is possible for us to mount into a state in which a doubt or a fear shall be but as a bird of passage flitting across the soul, but never lingering there.
It is the grace of God, that looking back upon this lifelong war of mine, I can, indeed, see progress. Those times where I default to fear are growing shorter and more infrequent. But, oh, how I long for the day when the scale is tipped and the measure of my anxiety regarding the unknowns of death is outweighed by my fervent desire to meet my certain Savior, face to face. It is a hard-fought war, but not lonely, because my Captain leads the way.
So be not discouraged, weary soldier. Whether we win this battle in the flesh or not, one glorious day we will lay down our weapons. And on that day, we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed (1 Cor. 15:51).
What are the “triggers” God uses to remind you of your need for Him? How has He helped you to trust Him rather than be afraid during stressful situations?