I’ve wanted to share my thoughts on treating anxiety with worship for a long time. I started writing this blog post over seven months ago. My first draft was written one day in late June of last year and I revised it countless times after that. Sometimes I start writing about a topic that, for one reason or another, I just can’t complete at that time.
In this case, it was because this is a hard topic, in so many ways. It’s largely misunderstood and highly mistreated. Honestly, I don’t have as many facts as I do opinions about this topic. I have some personal experience but not the kind of long-term experience a lot people have. I don’t worry about speaking the hard truth in love, but I do worry that I don’t know the whole truth. Even though this is my website and I can write what I want, my opinions and feelings are not always right. It scares me to share about anything, but especially a topic that is so important, with little more than my emotion fueled bias. Still, I feel like even the professionals are operating on quite a few theories and opinions themselves, otherwise we wouldn’t still be experiencing such a rise in suicides and diagnosed mental illnesses.
Does God take away our anxiety?
With that said, I want start this out with a disclaimer: This is not a blog post to tell you to pray that God will take away your anxiety. I’m not going to say you just need to pray more, you must not be spiritual enough, or anything crazy like that. Do I think God can take it away? Absolutely. Do I think you should pray for that. Yes! Do I think he will? I really have no idea. He might, but he might not.
God doesn’t answer all of our prayers, (no matter how spiritual or holy we are) the way we believe he should or wish he would. He isn’t our “yes man.” But we should still take our worries, pain, and frustration to him. And believe me, I know how frustrating it can be when you are desperate for an answer and you have been praying and nothing is happening. Please keep reading.
You’re not the only one
If you find yourself weighed down by worry or feeling like you’re under attack with anxiety on a regular basis, you’re not alone. We’re told that anxiety disorders are increasing every day. That as it stands now, one in every three people will suffer from an anxiety disorder in their lifetime. But anxiety isn’t anything new. You can find the topics of anxiety and worry in the bible so many times.
The word anxiety is defined by intense, excessive, and persistent worry and fear. Anxiety can effect our lives on different levels, but for some it is an issue that interferes with daily life. It can build up so strongly that it causes debilitating depression.
My anxiety story
I already mentioned that I don’t suffer with serious or debilitating anxiety on a regular basis. But I did experience it first hand after the traumatic way I lost my mom. For those of you who don’t know me, my mom died by suicide in April of 2017. Looking back now, I see how God carried me through that entirely. I can’t help but cry as I write this because, wow. My world turned upside down instantly when I got that call from my dad. I would never be the same. I could feel the brutal truth of that and it felt like complete chaos.
The anxiety didn’t start immediately, but when it did it was intense and unexpected. Suddenly I was like a duck in water. So calm on the surface but paddling frantically underneath. I worried about all kinds of things but I didn’t want anyone to know. It started with being worried about my dad and sisters and how they were coping. How would this change things for them, in ways that they would never express to anyone. I worried about what they were hiding from the world because I knew what I was hiding. It wasn’t a normal, expected kind of worry. It was an overwhelming, nauseating, all consuming worry.
Then there was my husband, Chad, who has struggled so much with anxiety and depression. I became completely convinced that his fate would mirror my mothers. I could see so many similarities in their struggles and I was freaking out. This went on for months. It got to the point that I was worrying about him so much that I was angry with him. I just thought, he has to get better, we have to fix this. I was uncontrollably obsessed because I was scared. He reassured me all the time, but it didn’t change much. I felt like I had zero control over the way I felt.
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. Philippians 4:6
The bible says not to be anxious. But how do we do that? Who else gets even more anxious knowing that the bible says not to do it? Knowing that made my anxiety feel even more intense. I wanted to stop worrying but I couldn’t. I felt like I had to figure out how to make it happen. Again, there’s the focus on what I was going through and what I could or couldn’t do.
The very next line in this verse says we need to pray – with thanksgiving. I’ve been teaching my training clients for years, quit focusing on what you need to quit. I’m sure you’ve heard the saying, “What you focus on is magnified.” It’s another cliche saying but it’s true. It’s true in every area of our lives. Mostly, and most importantly, with God. Anxiety and worry are nothing more than fear – typically of hypothetical situations. A tool the enemy uses to destroy peace. And it might feel like we need to focus on that anxiety in order to rid ourselves of it. How can we possibly focus on anything else, anyway!? It feels like we need to work at it. How else will we finally overcome it?
Give it less room, give it no room if you can. Stop magnifying it. At least that’s what worked for me.
How I used worship for my anxiety
I’m not implying that any of this is easy. Looking back now I realize that I was so mentally debilitated by my anxiety during that season of my life that I literally couldn’t do anything but surrender. Now that’s where my choice came in. I could surrender to the anxiety and let it consume me or I could surrender to God and his sovereignty.
I did not know how to get rid of my anxiety, but I did know and strongly and clearly believe two things. God is good, no matter what, and glorifying God in every circumstance in my life is part of my purpose here on this earth. I could remain afraid or I could immerse myself in those truths. No matter how bad I still felt. No matter how tired I was. So I made a decision. What you focus on is magnified. So I magnified God.
It was complete surrender. It was messy and it wasn’t cute. I raised my hands as high as I could and cried and cried and I sang his praises. My prayers were a constant flow of thanksgiving for who he is. When I couldn’t say anything else, which was quite often, I just repeated to him, “I believe you.” I believed he was with me, I believed he would see me through it, I believed he is good. Most importantly, I believed he would be glorified by my response to this terrible thing. That my belief would help someone else to see and believe those things too. That something good could come out of this unspeakable tragedy for his glory.
I honestly don’t know when it ended. I just know I looked up one day and I was on the other side of that storm of anxiety. So many of you have been in that storm for such a long time and I know you’re tried, maybe even angry. I hope you will keep going. I don’t have all the answers, but I believe you will be carried through it too if you fix your focus on God.
Treating your anxiety with worship
Truthfully, I think there’s a little bit of a caveat here. Do you believe (I mean really believe) that God is good and that he keeps his promises? You have to actually believe it, you have to actually be in awe of who he is. You have to completely surrender to him and trust him. I’m not saying you can’t have doubts. We all have doubts. So many questions we have are and will remain unanswered. There were times when the thought that a truly good God should not allow such terrible things to happen. That my mom should have been rescued. But the truth of who God is carried me through. Immerse yourself in that truth. If you don’t know who God is, get in his Word and get to know him.
I’m telling you, if you feel anxiety for any reason you cannot immerse yourself in that truth enough. Make every single second of your life about it if you have to. Literally nothing is more important. Everything else can wait.
What worship looks like
Worship is a peaceful state of mind, a direct path pointed toward God. It’s not only a praise and worship song and lifted hands. It’s an attitude of awe and exaltation of Christ. We worship God with our lives overall — through prayer, praise and thanksgiving, giving, serving, spending time in the Word, and anything that magnifies him.
Worship looks like anything that fixes your focus on God and who he is. Anything that takes the focus off of what your going through in that temporary season of your life and puts the focus on the eternal, everlasting love of God. For me, singing a song of praise to him was the most relieving and comforting thing I could do. But it might look different for you.
In closing I want to say that, overall, worship of God should be our default mode, not just a response to trouble. When we have anxiety we can lean into God even more. But if we stay close to him our fears will be easier to dismiss. We worship the Lord with our lives, not just moments or seasons and not just for solutions to problems. What we focus on is magnified, to ourselves and to others. That is our purpose here on this earth. To know God and make God known. Have you experienced the healing power of worship? I would love to hear about your experiences in the comments.