There is a disparity between the names of two very different problems- all lumped into one word- anxiety.
Anxiety is when you are overwhelmed due to fear and worry.
Is it wrong for Christians to struggle with anxiety? After all, the Bible does tell us…
Be anxious for nothing.
He supplies all our needs.
Cast all your anxieties on Him.
The birds and flowers don’t worry about food and clothing. How much more does your Heavenly Father care for you?
We often hear testimonies of how God has healed others of their “depression and anxiety”. And He does!
Anxieties, fear, worry, unforgiveness, anger and the like are all things that all humans struggle with. And we do serve an amazing Daddy in heaven who loves to reveal Himself to us. He reveals His strength and power. His vast love for us. His greatness. And as we draw closer and closer to Him, we have less and less of a need to worry and fear. All those things disappear in His amazing grace and love. He heals our hurting hearts and we are able to let go of unforgiveness and anger.
But there is a different kind of anxiety that is not connected to fear and worry! It causes all kinds of nasty symptoms. For me, it was hard to put a finger on. I just didn’t feel right. I was chronically snappy and edgy. I am not a doctor, so I cannot tell anyone else what is happening in their bodies, but I do want to tell my story.
We had just moved from South Korea to Florida. Much of our household goods were still in boxes. I couldn’t find something I was looking for. I felt the tension in my body mounting, even as I tried to breathe and relax. I began furiously sifting through boxes as the tension continued to mount and push, threatening to overwhelm me… I saw myself throw my favorite glass mixing bowl and it crashed into a thousand pieces. I erupted into tears, sobbing and heaving into exhaustion. My logical brain said that I was being ridiculous and my actions were completely unnecessary. But the overwhelm, well, it overwhelmed me! What brought me to this point? Moving from overseas back to America is a huge ordeal. From beginning to end, it takes several weeks. Homeschooling, caring for a two year old, packing things before the movers arrive, choosing which things to send in the first shipment, living with borrowed furniture and bare bones necessities for a couple months, living in the hotel for a couple weeks, flying all that way, living in a hotel while we wait to get into a house, moving in, unpacking…. it took a toll for sure.
This is just one example of many times over many years when overwhelm caused me to act like an unruly child.
What I didn’t understand for eight more years was that I was dealing with a physical issue in my body that was not getting attention. For years I experienced symptoms that in the ‘olden days’ would have been referred to as ‘nerves’. Extreme irritability, intolerance to noise, having a ‘short fuse’, easily given to high levels of frustration and ‘impatience’. Over the years it worsened. Chest pain was the most prevalent physical symptom. I had other unexplained, strange pains in my body. I looked up my symptoms and found….. Anxiety! There is a very long list of anxiety symptoms, and different types of anxiety disorders. But I am not talking about fear/worry. Symptoms worsened until, at its peak, a 45 min car ride was enough to make me feel miserable! The only way I could describe it to my doctor was, ‘I feel like there are jumping beans inside my whole body.’ For a couple years I managed it with a drug called xanax, but it really didn’t make it go away, and it didn’t manage it as well as I would have liked. I told my new, functional medicine doctor what was going on. I told him I wanted to get off the xanax. He prescribed me a lab-produced supplement. Over the years I have taken oodles of supplements from the health food stores with some results, but I was shocked at how well this supplement changed my body. My cortisol levels had been way too high.
Cortisol is produced by the adrenal glands in the body as a response to stress. High levels of cortisol over a long period of time can wreak havoc on the body in a variety of ways. For me, it lead to mental health/behavioral problems, aka ‘anxiety’. (www.cortisolmatters.com has a lot of great information about high levels of cortisol and how it affects the body.) After two years of taking this supplement every night, I quit clenching my teeth in my sleep! Before I came to Costa Rica, I took two tabs every night to keep my cortisol levels at a more normal level. It made such a huge difference!
Disclaimer: I am NOT a doctor. I am in no way communicating that anxiety is always elevated cortisol levels in the body. I am merely telling my story.
My conclusion is simple. Anxiety is a generalized term that can mean many different things. If you are a Christian, please don’t judge anyone, thinking that they aren’t ‘trusting enough’ or that they aren’t ‘right with God.’ If you struggle with anxiety, and you don’t feel like worry and fear is your problem, get help! Something in your body could need your attention.