We all face anxiety at some point in our lives.
After all, there’s no guarantee that life will always be sunshine and rainbows. Even Princess Poppy can’t maintain her level of singing, dancing, and hugging 24/7, right? Neither Troll nor human can skate through life without at least a little bit of worry.
As Christians, we’re raised to believe that the power of prayer and scripture can lead us through these times of worry and stress. After all:
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7
And for much of the everyday worry that plagues us, that scripture helps.
But, I have something to say that you may not like to hear:
For those who struggle with anxiety, this isn’t enough.
I hear your gasps. God isn’t enough?
Don’t misread me.
For the faithful, He is certainly enough to calm the waters of worry. Many of life’s battles can be won through thanksgiving, prayer, and petition.
But, what happens when a person’s struggle is actually a disease?
Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) affects 3% of the American population. For those millions of people, a Bible verse isn’t enough. Trust me, we wish it was.
See, I’ve struggled with anxiety my entire life.
As someone who listened to non-secular music, went to church camp, and read from a teen Bible, I didn’t know I had a disease. I thought I just worried too much, like most of the adults around me. So, I wrote my favorite scriptures on my notebooks and doddled reassuring phrases in my journal.
Still, I can remember being sent home from school with crippling stomach aches. While most 16-year-olds were desperate to get behind the wheel, the thought of driving made me uneasy. I skipped social events that served as my friends’ adolescent cornerstones. Insomnia became the norm, even with the aid of sleeping pills.
It wasn’t until many years later when a doctor told me all of those signs were tied to one disease—GAD.
For me, and other GAD sufferers, anxiety is the norm.
Literally everything makes me nervous. Putting gas in my car, walking to the cafeteria for lunch, driving to new places, leaving the house, sleeping, everything… It’s a cycle, and it never ends.
So, how do you tell someone who is genetically predisposed to worrying that they should just “stop worrying because the Bible says so”?
When your anxiety is layered upon anxiety until it stacks so high you have no indication where it ends, that’s just simply not enough.
And the last thing GAD sufferers need during those times of struggle is to be told that we’re “not a good Christian,” or “need to go to church,” or “are becoming a sinner.”
What we need is help.
While some anxiety is just that—anxiety—there is a dangerously fine line between the kind of worry that good friends and neighbors should help solve with reassurance and prayer, and the kind of disease that drives people to very dark places.
Not many people know (and perhaps I should dedicate a future post to it), but I suffered extreme postpartum depression after the birth of my son. The anxiety I had always carried—layered with all of the worries of being a first-time mom—spiraled into a serious depression that I honestly didn’t think I’d ever escape.
Friends, family, and faith pulled me through. But that’s wasn’t all.
My doctor prescribed me an anti-depressant.
And folks, it literally saved my life.
I tell you this not to create waves amongst my Christian peers or to question how we have been taught to behave and minister.
Rather, I share my story because I genuinely fear we may miss the early signs of true anxiety and depression if we simply mask it with Psalms and smiles.
It’s a risky claim to make, and I don’t do so without anxiety (naturally).
Because while Godliness goes a long way, and you shouldn’t stop praying for those you love or sending devotionals when they’re feeling defeated, we must understand that some people need additional help. And chances are, they won’t ask for it.
This isn’t restricted to fellow Christians. While our role to be disciples to non-believers may invite us to share our favorite comforting verses or promise a worry-free life after baptism, if we fail to see the difference between every day anxiety and the disease that destroys our neighbors, we not only push people further away, we risk their wellbeing altogether.
There’s an old parable that goes something like this:
During a flood, a man was stuck on his rooftop for days. Eventually, a man in a rowboat paddled by and shouted: “Jump in! I can help!”
The stranded man yelled back, “No, thanks! God is going to save me.”
So, the man paddled away. Soon after, a motorboat approaches. “Jump in!” the driver yelled. To which, the stranded man replied, “No, thanks! God is going to save me.”
As the boater drove away, a helicopter flew above. “Grab this rope, and I’ll pull you up!” the pilot shouted. Again, the man replied: “No, thanks! God is going to save me.”
So, the pilot flew away. Soon, the water rose above the rooftop, drowning the man. When he arrived in Heaven and came face-to-face with God, he exclaimed: “I had faith in you, but you didn’t save me. I don’t understand!”
God replied, “I sent a rowboat, motorboat, and a helicopter. What more did you need?”
You should cast aside your anxiety and you should absolutely have faith.
But sometimes, the tools by which we find that faith have been there along.
We just need to open our eyes and see them.
If you’re struggling with anxiety or depression, you’re not alone. You’re not wrong. You’re not a failure. And, you’re not broken. Please reach out or find help today.