Dealing with anxiety can be an up-and-down journey. The hills and valleys come when you least except them. We would love to just take the short cut to avoid them, or the straight path that will cut right through them, but it is not always that easy. Believe me, I know.
Anxiety is a frequent feeling that I have dealt with, but by the grace of God, I am able to find victory often. I have learned that to deal with anxious feelings, I must get ahead of it. If I only try to react to the anxiety when it appears, sooner or later it will win. If you prayerfully and intentionally discipline yourself to change your thinking and behavior we don’t have to let anxiety have victory.
I’ve written these forty-eight actions items like biblical counseling homework for myself. If they help you, then by all means, please try them. A constant diet of Scripture will renew our minds and bring that much needed cut-through the hills of anxiety (Rom. 12:1-2). I hope this is helpful for you.
Forty-Eight Ways to Find The End of Anxiety:
Act: Make a list of ten to twenty things you think God may be developing in you through this season of anxiety. Carry the list with you for the next week, reflecting on it and why a good, all-powerful God would allow you to go through this season. Then share your list with a friend.
Pray: Spend some undistracted time in prayer asking God to show you what true joy looks like in your current circumstances.
Memorize: Philippians 4:4: “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.”
Reflect: Keep a journal of when you feel fearful. Write down the date, time, circumstance, and what you were thinking and saying to yourself at that time. Evaluate what needs to be renewed in your thinking to avoid fear in the future (Romans 12:1-2).
Read: Psalm 56:3-4 in three different translations and ask God to make this passage a reality in your life.
Discuss: Find a trusted person in your life with whom you can talk about your fears and ask them to help you believe what is true and what may be mostly in your imagination.
Act: Make a list of what you “Believe” and what you “Know” about God. Post these on social media and pray them to God, affirming that what you cling to about His character is the very thing that gives Him the right to “overthrow” your situation and emotions.
Reflect: Where are you dealing with anger or disappointment with God the most? Honestly confess your resentment toward Him and prayerfully ask Him to help you change your attitude and perspective.
Read: Isaiah 40 and see how God comforts His people and encourages us to trust Him.
Act: Is there someone you need to go confess your sin to, owning where you went off course and caused them pain? Take time to make that call, meet with them, or write that letter, acknowledging your own wrongdoing and asking for their forgiveness.
Memorize: 1 John 1:9–10
Repent: Repentance is when the Holy Spirit enables a supernatural change of our motive, thoughts, and behavior. What areas need to change in your life? Ask God to help you recognize and repent.
Reflect: Read Romans 5:3–4 again, and for each mention of the words “perseverance” “character,” or “hope,” write down at least three corresponding ways you see God developing you in these areas.
Discuss: Meet with a friend and discuss what sin of doubt may “so easily entangle” you, and what you could do to stand strong the next time you face those doubts.
Read: Get a copy of Elyse Fitzpatrick’s devotional Doubt: Trusting God’s Promises. Start this thirty-one-day journey to learn how to battle doubts.
Act: Write down your anxiety, fear, or worry on a card and then give it over to God. In the end, destroy the card, knowing that God will stay true to take care of what you entrust to Him.
Reflect: The reason we can have joy and peace is because of the reality of His future reign and the closeness of Christ. How and where do you sense the closeness of Christ in your life right now?
Pray: Send a message to a few friends asking how you can pray for them. Spend time taking your eyes and prayers off of yourself by interceding for others.
Act: Is there someone you need to reach out to and support right now? Pick up your phone and call or text someone to let them know you are here for them. The timing of your message may be exactly what they need right now.
Reflect: Where are you trying to do things on your own and not letting others help you? Who could you choose to trust and let in a little bit more, letting them know what you are facing and how you need their help?
Act: Find a way to do three acts of selflessness by serving someone else and showing random kindness to another person. Pay attention to how helping someone else affects your emotions. Now be open to letting someone else do the same thing for you.
Act: Create your own stack of three-by-five cards as described in this chapter. Start replacing the lies you believe with the truths of Scripture and what you know about God and His perspective on your situation.
Reflect: Are you living in a constant state of “hypervigilance” and living in fear more than at peace?
Memorize: Romans 12:2 and remember that you can renew your mind by the power of Christ working in you.
Reflect: Where are you experiencing “awe amnesia” and forgetting the goodness of God in your life? Reflect on where God has shown you who He is and what you know to be true of Him. Now, evaluate your current fears in light of what you already know about God and His goodness.
Act: Write down which name of God you identify with the most from Isaiah 9:6—Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace—and why.
Memorize: 2 Timothy 1:7, “For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.”
Reflect: Identify what fears you may be exaggerating in your mind and ask a friend to help you see the reality of your situation.
Read: James 4:13-17. Write a paragraph of what this passage means for your life today. Where are you boasting in your own plans? Where are you worrying about the future that you can’t control?
Discuss: Ask a friend to listen to your anxious thoughts and ask them to help you see where God is working positively, despite your negative thoughts. Evaluate with a friend where your fears are reasonable and where they are unreasonable and need to be corrected in light of trusting God.
Reflect: Address lifestyle rhythms that may be influencing or intensifying your anxiety. Choose one or two areas of your daily life, such as your diet, sleep, work schedule, recreational time, or exercise, and make a manageable goal to change that area. For example, “I will work out after work for forty-five minutes three times this week,” or “I will try to get at least seven hours of sleep a night.” Pruning can involve God changing your daily rhythms.
Act: Write out your life purpose in one sentence or less. Don’t overthink it. What is the unique reason God has placed you on this earth to fulfill? Is your purpose compelling you to serve Christ and others in the future rather than worrying about failures of the past?
Mediate: In Christ, God is for us (cf. Romans 8:31–34). List twelve ways you know this is true in your life now.
Read: the whole book of Philippians at least one time through. Take note of how we are to have joy in all circumstances.
Memorize: Job 13:15, “Though he slay me, I will hope in him; yet I will argue my ways to his face.”
Act: Make a “think and do” list of profitable things you can think and do when you are feeling down to lift your heart and redirect your focus back on God. (Hint: keep the list with you for quick reference).
Act: Seek forgiveness from someone you sinned against by confessing your sin to them and asking forgiveness. Also, identify where you have chosen to stay in unforgiveness and bitterness and ask God to help you forgive.
Read: Unpacking Forgiveness by Christ Braun to better understand biblical forgiveness and find answers to many related misconceptions.
Memorize: Ephesians 4:32, remembering you have been forgiven much so you can forgive much.
Connect: Ask a friend to pray with you and help you see God’s goodness through the Gospel of Jesus Christ in your life.
Reflect: Take a prayer walk and thank God for what the Gospel reveals to you about His nature and character. List them out and be specific. For example, “God, you are merciful because …” or “God, your power is real to me because …”
Read: Romans 1–4 and keep track of four essential elements, marking them or highlighting with different colors: God’s role, sin’s role, Christ’s role, and our necessary response. Be reminded of the true power of God through Christ that will save you.
Act: List your objections toward God’s call to action in your life and humbly ask Him to change your perspective.
Reflect: Does your anxiety come from a deep desire to get what you want or to not lose what you already have? Does it consume you? Do you obsess about it? Do you sin to get it or keep it? Ask God to help put your desire in its rightful place. Better yet, ask God to help you ensure He has His rightful place in your life as Lord and supreme over all other desires.
Memorize: Hebrews 4:15-16. Write down how your confidence can be strengthened by knowing that Christ empathizes with your weaknesses.
Pray: Ask for God to break any disillusionment that may be blocking you from seeing God’s faithfulness in your life. Affirm to Him that you are willing to wait on His best plan for your life.
Reflect: Remember what you are waiting for—God’s way to win in your life. What promises from God are most helpful to you in your waiting? How have you seen the Lord’s presence and activity as you wait?
Act: Next time you are feeling anxious, worried, or fearful, commit to acting and thinking biblically before fear takes over. Think about the last time you experienced worry, fear, or panic; where was your focus? What could you have done prior to the spike in anxiety that would have allowed you to handle those circumstances better? Commit to actions such as going for a prayer walk, writing in a prayer journal, or listening to a worshipful song.