PRAY, BUT DON’T “PRAY IT AWAY”
It’s absolutely true that God wants to meet you in your anxiety, and that prayer is a huge way that happens; however, there’s a huge difference between that and sporadically coming to God and saying “hey God make this go away okaythanksbye!”
While there’s still a lot to learn about anxiety, most research agrees it’s worsened by overstimulation and busy-ness. So rather than panic praying for relief, what we need is to lean into the style of prayer modeled by Jesus, who withdrew from everything for hours on end to talk with the Father. One of the best ways to cope with anxiety is to schedule a weekly 2-3 hours block of time where you withdraw to a silent, life-giving place and “be still and know he’s God.”
Out of these times of quiet and stillness, we can sense God’s presence with us in the busy-ness, and find peace.
JESUS LOVES ME, THIS I KNOW/FOR HE GAVE ME LEXAPRO
One of the most God-honoring acts of faith I’ve ever done is going on antidepressants. I grew up in a culture hyper-skeptical of medication designed to alter moods. I believed meds like anti-depressants numbed away people’s feelings, enabling them to repress their problems, rather than “trusting God.”
Then a week of chronic panic attacks changed my theology.
There are certainly some medications that are problematic. Anti-anxiety meds specifically can be addictive and escapist if not used correctly. Antidepressants, however, are different. They are like one of those governors on a golf cart that are designed to keep you from going over a certain speed. Similarly, antidepressants are “governors” for your emotions, keeping them from bottoming out or redlining. It took me several months to dial in my medication—I went from Lexapro to Zoloft and then through several rounds of finding the right dosage.
Today I find that while I am still anxious often (today has been a particularly rough day, actually!) that anxiety is manageable. It is a nuisance but doesn’t disrupt my life.
DON’T JUST BE A COUNSELOR, BE COUNSELED
As I alluded to before, a sizeable part of my anxiety problem is rooted in a scarring moment of sexual abuse from my past that I never recognized, and never dealt with. It wasn’t until I went to a licensed, skilled counselor who also happened to be a Christian that I discovered this. My counselor was able to help me see this moment that “was no big deal” was actually a huge source of pain and anxiety in my life.
A huge part of a pastor’s job is to be a counselor to people. We listen to their stories and prayerfully speak truth and hope into their life. Because of this, it’s easy to hide behind our role as the put-together mentor and never allow ourselves to say “I’m not doing okay and need help.” The legally confidential role of a professional, licensed counselor is a perfect place for pastors to come with the most honest version of themselves and say “help me see my life more clearly.”
Some of the most spiritually intimate moments with God I’ve ever had happened in my therapist’s office.