It was spring of 2011; I was sitting in speech class. About 20 minutes in, I started to feel my heart beat a little faster than normal. I didn’t pay much attention to it at first, but then it started to beat faster to the point where it was hard to catch my breath. I raised my hand in the middle of my professor’s lecture and said, “I can’t breathe.”
Puzzled and not knowing what to do, my professor asked if I needed to step out. So, I did. The problem was that my heart was still beating extremely fast. I went to the nurse’s office and she told me my pulse. 145 beats per minute. She panicked and called an ambulance, which then caused me to panic even more. The ambulance arrived, and I was rushed to the hospital. This was the beginning of my anxiety story.
Some of you reading have had a similar situation happen to you. Some of you have people you love who struggle with anxiety. Some of you have been present when someone you love has had a panic attack. Some of you know what it’s like to have panic attacks and be filled with fear because it feels like you are going to die.
Anxiety is an indicator of our fears, rational or not. Fear of never being loved again, fear of being left or rejected, fear of getting a life-shattering diagnosis, fear of being alone, fear that something bad is going to happen all the time, fear that no one will show up. So, what do we do? How do we combat our anxiety?
First, embrace your anxiety
If you are anything like me, I hated having anxiety. I couldn’t stand not being able to be calm in a movie theatre, a classroom, when I was at a friend’s house or home alone. I wanted to reject the fact that I had anxiety because I was ashamed of it. I didn’t like having panic attacks and wondering if I was having a heart attack.
As one person put it, “Anxiety is difficult because you don’t know if what you are thinking/feeling is true or not.” This is hard. For those of you who struggle, you understand the depths of what I’m saying.
However, hear me loud and clear: You are not bad, disgusting, or worthless because you struggle with anxiety. Your anxiety does not disqualify you or keep you out of reach. You are not your anxiety.
You are loved, worthy, valuable, and accepted just as you are. Period. You are a dignified human being who struggles with anxiety, and that’s okay. It’s okay if you need to take medication. It’s okay if you need constant reminders that you are loved. The more we are ashamed of this, the more we will believe that anxiety is who we are. It’s not.
As Genesis 1:27 states, “So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.” You are an image-bearer of God himself. Embrace your anxiety. Allow it to be your teacher. Because once you can embrace it, it loses its power over you.
Second, study your anxiety
It is helpful and vital to know you have anxiety and embrace it, but it doesn’t stop there. Anxiety affects us and our relationships in deep ways, and if we don’t deal with it, know what triggers it, and put intentional steps in place to combat it, we will always feel defeated by it.
Just like we take the time to get to know someone else, study for a test, exercise, and rest, we need to be aware of what sets off our anxiety and take the time to deal with it. One way we can study our anxiety is by reaching out to a trusted friend and sharing our struggle with them so that we have someone who is in it with us.
Another way is seeking out professional help from a therapist. Let me say that not every therapist is right for you. You get to be picky on who your therapist is and what you need from them. However, the counseling room can be a helpful tool in understanding your trauma, childhood wounds, and what triggers are affecting your anxiety or why you have it.
Also, be aware of when your anxiety is triggered. When you are feeling your anxiety come on, what’s happening? Where are you? Where do you feel it in your body? Did someone say something that reminded you of a hurtful experience? Having some awareness in the moment can help prepare you so that when something triggers your anxiety you become less reactive to it.
Sometimes we can’t physically do this on our own, and that’s why medication is often prescribed. If that is something you need, it is okay. This is why it’s important to have a trusted professional who can come alongside to help and give you the space to discern what you might need.
Dealing with your anxiety is not a one-time deal, it’s a life-time study. Be patient with yourself. For those who are in a relationship with someone who struggles, be patient with them. Do some research on how anxiety works and have a posture of grace and understanding. As Proverbs 12:25 states, “Anxiety weighs down the heart, but a kind word cheers it up.” Anxiety weighs heavily, and we need people who can come alongside us for the long haul ready to lift some of the weight.
Lastly, release your anxiety
There’s a verse in the Bible that people often use to help those who are struggling with anxiety. It’s Philippians 4:6-7, which states,
“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.”
It’s an amazing verse. However, some have used it to say to those who are anxious that you are bad or sinful just because you have anxiety. That’s not what this verse is saying. Paul is talking about release. In fact, to command someone to not be anxious presupposes that we will struggle with being anxious. Paul isn’t saying that if you are anxious you are sinning, but instead he is saying that when anxiety creeps in, remember that there is Someone who can give you peace in the midst of it.
Friends, some of us will struggle with anxiety for the rest of our lives. The beauty about being in relationship with Jesus is that He carried your anxiety and died for it; so that every time anxiety comes, He welcomes it and is ready to carry it with you and extend peace. You can release it to Him. He can handle it.
Now, this doesn’t mean that releasing it will automatically remove your struggle with anxiety, but it does mean that we can hang on with confidence to the hope that one day we will be given eternal peace. Our hearts and minds will forever be at ease. Oh, what a day that will be. The magnificent part about it is that we get to experience a taste of that peace here on earth.
“Now may the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.” (Hebrews 13:20-21)
May it be so.
GUEST AUTHOR: JEN WILKIN
How do you discipline in love?
Even when your child makes you really, really mad.
Parenting small children can feel like Groundhog Day: correcting the same behaviors over and over again, often with no discernible improvement. When children disobey a clear expectation, parental anger can surge as a response. What should we do with that anger? Is it sinful? Or is there such a thing as righteous anger over the disobedience of a child? And most importantly, how can we keep anger from corrupting an act of discipline (training and correction) into one of retribution (getting even or vengeance)?
Many parents have a disconnect when thinking about anger and discipline: We suspect that disobedience should never touch our emotions—that good parents are able to correct their kids in an almost robotic, non-emotional way. It’s important to acknowledge that we will get angry when our kids disobey, and that our anger is not sinful by definition. It turns sinful when we welcome it and use it to justify an unmeasured response. I do think it is extremely rare that we feel righteous anger of any kind, much less in moments of child disobedience. My anger in those moments was almost always related to the feeling that their disobedience was a personal offense against me or evidence that I was a failure at raising obedient children. That’s a dumb kind of anger. And it’s a dangerous kind, because it turns discipline into retribution lightning-fast.
Power Brokers and Peacekeepers
I believe the answer is not to be a robot, but rather to take time to calm down and gain control before administering discipline of any kind. We are allowed to get angry, but we are not allowed to sin in our anger (Ephesians 4:26). We are even allowed to express our anger on our faces or in our tone. However, because children are not as good at filtering those expressions as adults, I believe it’s the better part of wisdom to control our outward reactions. Most children tend toward one of two categories: power broker or peacekeeper. The power broker recognizes emotional displays on our part as a sign that they are gaining leverage. If we show our anger over a disobedient act, we can actually reinforce the behavior. The peacekeeper, on the other hand, sees a display of anger as rejection. Seeing our anger may cause the peacekeeper to cease disobeying, but it may also breed fear and secrecy.
But if we completely hide our anger from our kids in those moments (particularly older kids), we can miss another training opportunity as important as the correction at hand: modeling how to handle anger well. We can do so by taking time to calm down before disciplining, and by assuring our children (verbally and physically) that our love for them is untouched by their disobedience. We can also model repentance when our anger expresses itself rashly. We can confess it to our children and ask forgiveness, demonstrating to both the power broker and the peacekeeper the power and peacefulness of humility.
Slow It Down
Proverbs 14:29 warns, “Whoever is slow to anger has great understanding, but he who has a hasty temper exalts folly” (ESV). If ever we need to exercise great understanding, it’s in moments of disciplining our kids. By thinking through what triggers our anger, we can begin to repent of its sinful aspects, working to slow it down to a safer speed. Once the moment of conflict has passed, we can do a personal debrief, asking ourselves what was really at the root of our anger. Did we have a wrong expectation? Did we allow an age-appropriate lack of self-control to get underneath our skin? Is anger our go-to response in general when things don’t go as we had planned? How could things go better the next time?
Consider also how our own childhood influences our discipline patterns. For the parent who grew up in an angry home, the combination of disciplining and anger will feel either so normal that we forget to question it, or so inseparable that we avoid disciplining altogether. Neither of these is healthy. Sometimes agreeing to “divide and conquer” with our spouse can help. If your spouse has better control than you do, consider deferring to them as the primary disciplinarian until you can trust your own responses better. Know your triggers. If neglected chores drive you crazy, hand off discipline to your spouse. If back-talk sets off your spouse, maybe you are the better parent to discipline for that.
In every discipline moment, keep in view that our children are our neighbors, to be loved as we love ourselves. By remembering that they are people, we are more likely to correct rather than avenge. If anger arises, we will temper it with compassion and forgiveness, expressing it appropriately and disciplining out of love.
Jen Wilkin is a wife, mom to four great kids, and an advocate for women to love God with their minds through the faithful study of his Word. She writes, speaks, and teaches women the Bible. She lives in Flower Mound, Texas, and her family calls The Village Church home. You can find her at JenWilkin.blogspot.com.