This is part four of a series on how I manage my anxiety. Read the introductory post here.
I’ve been dragging my feet to write this post, because I don’t know how. It’s like the most important part.
My friends are fans of the hypothetical. I’ve been asked the following question several times, but I’ve only recently found my satisfying answer. The question is: what would you be like and what would you be doing if you weren’t a Christian?
Most people expect me to say that I would be a worldly version of myself. A Callie who cusses often, a workaholic probably; witty. Maybe one of those motivational speakers that talks about the power within. Or maybe still a high school English teacher, pushing kids past barriers, both real and imagined. But still like Callie. Just minus Jesus.
I couldn’t disagree more.
My answer? I have absolutely no idea how I would be, but I guarantee I would have very little in common with who I am. I wouldn’t even like me.
Minus Jesus doesn’t just minus clean language and work life balance. Minus Jesus is minus…everything.
I wouldn’t have the confidence to speak in front of five people, let alone classrooms full of teenagers or churches full of families. Cut off from the source of Wisdom, all of my wisdom, advice, counsel and well-placed words would evaporate. My confidence–based on what? My purpose–grounded in whom?
My point is this: a surrendered to Jesus life is not regular life with a little bit of Jesus added in. A surrendered life is all-encompassing, all-pervasive, and all-transforming.
Furthermore, minus Jesus is minus reality. You’re disconnected from what actually is.
I’ve mentioned this before, but my anxiety largely stems from wrongful thinking: e.g. harmful thought patterns and misconstrued realities. Although some anxieties stretch beyond this, I believe many include it. More people have harmful thought patterns than they realize. Ourselves included.
So, how do we maintain a reality in Christ? Practically speaking?
Saturate your mind with Scripture
Read it. Listen to it. Study it. Memorize it. Repeat it. Speak it.
We live in a reality that we know about, that we understand. We have to take time to learn about truths that everything around us and our natural inclinations deny the existence thereof. We may fool ourselves into thinking that we can figure it out naturally, it’ll just make sense to us; if that were true, Jesus would not have needed to come to show us and save us. We don’t know. We don’t get it naturally. We need our minds saturated with the truth.
Specifically, seek out stories, characters, and themes that correct what you struggle with. It’s only relevant when you make it so.
I’m currently struggling with the responsibilities of leadership and how others react to me. 1 Samuel is where it’s at.
Pray to God as to a Friend
It’s painful to type some of these things because they’re so but I know that, that I fear your eyes will gloss over. Mine often do. How can I explain your need–my need!–for distraction-less, intentional, dedicated time in prayer? How can I explain the unexplainable–how in those times of prayer, the heaviest of burdens become light because of Jesus’ strength? That there isn’t a time requirement but a heart requirement? That we probably pray so little because, if I were the devil, I’d take out the main line of attack, too?
Once we know the reality through Scripture, we go to God in prayer and ask him to open our eyes to the reality and to live its verity.
Choose to believe God
When that serpent approached that woman, his goal was to separate her from God and his tactic was distrust. Yeah, God said that, but like, will that happen though? Actually? Are you sure? Her answer, mysteriously, was no.
We can memorize the eternal words of God and go through the posture of prayer. BUT, “without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him” (Hebrews 11:6).*
What does it mean to believe God? It is “the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1). Faith is believing God and taking Him at His word even when you feel contrary to reality, even when you see things that look contrary to reality. Faith is like, nope: I trust God more than my feelings and my perceptions. I trust God is always telling the truth. Always. And He is.
When anxiety is raining thoughts of I cannot do this or I am not enough or there is no possible actual way, I vocally respond with the truth established by Christ. I can do this, because nothing is too hard for God (Jeremiah 32:27). I am not enough, but my enough-ness is established in God, so it’s okay (2 Corinthians 3:5). There actually is a way, because He makes ways that do not exist (Isaiah 43:19).
Our God is a trustworthy God. Live in the reality of Christ.
*All quoted verses from ESV.