The “What-if” Trap: How I Broke Free from Anxiety

Anxiety does not empty tomorrow of its sorrows, but only empties today of its strength.

Charles Spurgeon

I remember that time during my life, when anxiety was my “normal” state and I couldn’t remember what it felt like to just not worry. About anything. At that point I remember worrying about things that really didn’t matter; what people thought of me, if I was doing enough as a Christian, if I would ever make it in life or be successful. You may think those things matter but honestly, while I was worrying about them they were falling together without any help on my part in the background. My worrying was getting in the way of promises coming to pass.

But I worried still. One thing that really stuck out during that time of testing in my life was I continuously had to go to God. What felt like the darkest, most trying time of my life also was one of the times of my life I felt closest to My Father. I had to learn during that time complete reliance on His strength for my everyday. Honestly during that time there were days I would not have made it one my own; but God.

One thing that God taught me during that time was that had He just delivered me from anxiety, I would have never known how to fight anxiety when it tried to come back. You see, anxiety will rear it’s ugly head to everybody whenever it gets the chance. Some have learned to turn it away, others embrace it. During that time God had to teach me to stop embracing every anxious thought and instead cast it down and cling to His Word. So that three years later when an anxious thought tries to come back, I have the tools to tell it where to go.

One thing I realized as I tested every thought during that period was that most often, every anxiety attack began with two words: what if. What if I don’t get that job? What if I never get in that relationship? What if I get sick? What if that person I love walks away from me? What if I get hurt again? What if I’m not good enough? What if I am rejected again… what if… what if… what if….

It was a prison. A cage. A trap. Every time a thought began with “what if” I knew what would follow. A thought that led me down the path of fear into the storm of anxiety. I knew what I was thinking wasn’t true… I knew that it was fear and anxiety attacking me… but I didn’t know how to not embrace the thought.

One day as I was praying to God and crying out, I just began to be at my wits end. “How do you expect me to break free of it if you do not tell me what to do?!? ‘Fear not’ is easy enough to say, it’s the doing that’s hard!” In my frustration, He quieted my soul. “I have told you what to do. Read My Word.”

Begrudgingly I went to the Word and turned to one of the many verses on anxiety I had memorized at this point. I’m going to post it below because I believe if you’re reading this post, then you need to read this scripture:

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God, and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy – meditate on these things.

Philippians 4:6-8 AMP

As many of you know and some may not, my undergraduate and graduate studies were in psychology and counseling. As I read this scripture, immediately I thought of psychology and counseling concepts for people with anxiety, trauma, and depression. The thought behind many of the techniques used for people with those struggles is to locate maladaptive thoughts and replace those thoughts with the truth and positive thinking. While I contemplated what this scripture meant, I realized our Counselor, the Holy Spirit, can help us do the same thing.

He essentially told me right then how to deal with anxious thoughts and cast them down. The above scripture is a formula for anxiety.

1. Take what is making you anxious and pray to God about it. Give specific requests (supplications) and thank God for His blessing and hand on your life; knowing that whatever may happen He has you.

2. Filter your thoughts through the list above. Is what you are ruminating on just, true, pure, lovely, of good report, praiseworthy, virtuous? Or is it anxious, fearful, angry, bitter, lustful, dread-giving, prideful? You will essentially live out your thought life. So a way to combat an anxious life? Stop anxious thinking.

You may be thinking, “That’s easier said than done.” And you would be correct. It was very hard work to be free of anxiety. For two years I filtered every thought I had; it was the most emotionally draining thing I have ever done. But it is not impossible to be free of anxiety. You are not doomed to it forever just because you struggle with your mind. The issue is to retrain your thinking. If you struggle with anxiety and depression I do recommend reading a book by Dr. Carolyn Leaf who is a Christian Neuroscientist. She helps explain your thought life and the physical and spiritual aspects of it. This book really helped me live free of anxiety and depression. I will post a link of it below!

Who Switched Off My Brain? Controlling Toxic Thoughts and Emotions by Dr. Caroline Leaf (2007-05-03)

So after I read this scripture I asked God, “What does that look like practically? Replacing my thoughts?” And He simply told me what began my walk to freedom. “Instead of thinking what if something bad happens, simply turn it around and think what if something good happens.”

So when a “What if I never get married,” thought came around, I turned it around and said, “What if my God has my husband waiting around the corner?”

“What if I am never free from this bondage?” instead “what if my deliverance is tomorrow?”

“What if they don’t like me?” “What if God has anointed relationships and friendships waiting on me?”

“What if they reject me?” “What if rejection by them is what will put me on the path to the right relationships?”

You see it’s all about outlook. Anxious thinking is truly thinking without God in mind. But when you remember who you are and Whose you are, you remember to add Him into the equation. Then we remember that whatever the enemy means for our evil, God can turn around for our good (Genesis 50:20). Even if those bad things do happen that you are anxious about (which they most likely never do), then you have a God Who restores, replenishes, and redeems.

The what if trap steals your hope for the future, wraps you in anxiety, and chains you in fear. But if you begin to filter your thinking and align it with the Word, you can and will be set free. Freedom is not unavailable to you. If you have been trapped in fear and anxiety for 2, 5, or even 20 years, you can still be free. My mom lived in anxiety for over 40 years. And she walks free of it today. Don’t let the enemy lie to you and tell you that this is your forever. Begin surrendering your thought life to God and see His freedom today!

I will be sharing more of what I learned on my two-year journey with anxiety. Be encouraged and please let hope spark in you again. Happy peaceful homemaking!

The Anxiety Train and How to be Free

Picture yourself, standing at a train station. It’s crowded, loud, busy, and yet it’s a lonely place. Although many are surrounding you, loneliness still encapsulates you. The train stops and it looks familiar. Although you have taken this train too many times, and dread the course, you still get on, because it’s familiar territory. On the train you go, taking your same old seat, next to the same old people. One’s name is Fear, the other Worry. Across the aisle from you is Doubt, and Doubt’s friend Defeat. You lift your chin to see who is in front of you, and once again Anxiety is dressed in the brightest, most deafening of attire. Depression sits next to him, sulking in the shadows. You turn and look out the window, ready for the trip. Knowing it leads into a darkening spiral that seems to never end. During your trip, your fellow passengers ask you the same questions, “How can you go on living like this,” “Who do you think you are,” and the all covering question, “What if…..”.

 Fear asks you, “What if you die from this? What if you will never be free of this trip?” He looks at Worry who asks, “What if you cannot afford your bills when you get off? I have heard you aren’t quite making enough these days. Not to mention, what if you never lose the baby weight? Surely you are worried if your husband will still find you attractive?” Doubt walks over, interested in the conversation, and asks, “Yeah, what if God never answers your prayer for healing, and what if God does not even hear your prayers? Surely if He heard your prayers you would be off of this ride. What if God does not even love you?” You take a deep breath, ready because Anxiety and Depression walk up. Anxiety says, “What if you always take this trip? What if you never get off this ride? What if you never achieve anything in life?” And Depression adds in, “What if life is not worth the hassle? What if you never find hope for joy again? What if… what if… what if…. “

This ride seems to take a lifetime, and your reserves are emptying. Exhaustion, weakness, loneliness, isolation, hopelessness, darkness. You feel as though there is no end in sight, yet at the same time the end is all you hope for. I have been in that place. I have taken that train ride way too many times. The train stops, and relieved, you get off, hoping to be delivered from the heavy presence of Fear, Worry, Doubt, Anxiety, and Depression. You take a step off the train watching your feet so that you do not stumble and look up. It is the same station you left from. Busy, crowded, lonely. The train leaves and you walk around seeing steps ahead that you aren’t sure where they lead. Behind you arrives the next train, that takes the same route, to the same destination. Will you get on again?

Above is an excerpt from a book I am writing. You see fear and anxiety controlled my life for a very long time. I had automatic returns to fear. When something happened, fear was my companion. When there was unknown, anxiety was my answer. I was so smothered with the never-ending cycle. Until I became free.

You see I read all kinds of stories about people dealing with fear and anxiety. And my heart breaks because there never seems to be any hope present in them. When I was going through it, I couldn’t find anyone to tell me, “I made it through.” And that is what I craved!

I promised that when I made it through, I would tell the world so that they could have hope! It was a slow process, but God freed me from fear and anxiety. It took everyday renewal of my mind; every day taking captive every single thought that came against the knowledge of Christ. Every day making sure I didn’t let a single negative thought go through my mind without telling it to go away and answering it with the truth.

It was a lot of hard work. I wish there had been an easy way out. But it took understanding the roots of my fears, the fruits of my fears, and the answer to my fears. There are 3 things I would tell you to do today if you want to begin freedom towards peace.

1. Understand the Roots

Fear and anxiety are not overnight processes, they are thought patterns and behaviors that take years to form! So it won’t be an overnight process to be free from that way of thinking either. Anxiety is not a character trait; it is a thought process.

So first you have to understand what it is that is causing you anxiety. At first I believed there wasn’t a clear reason, I just felt anxious. But as I continuously listened to triggering thoughts I realized my root of fear was a wrong view of God; I was so afraid to fail Him and that He would punish me if I messed up, that I was afraid to take any steps in life. It wasn’t until I understood this root, that I was able to start my healing process.

2. Understand the Fruits

Roots always grow fruit. Anxiety, depression, and fear are all fruits of something. Whether it’s wrong thinking, believing, trauma, you name it, there is something that has led to your mind believing that anxiety, fear, and depression are it’s answer.

I was in my undergraduate studies, studying abnormal psychology at the height of my anxiety. I was so terrified I was mentally unstable; that because I was dealing with anxiety I was somehow a bad Christian and something was wrong with me. I thought I was broken.

I was not broken but my thinking was broken. Joyce Meyer calls it “Stinking Thinking”. Our brains filter our experiences; what we think, we do and feel. Understanding that my anxiety was a fruit of wrong thinking helped me to know how to fix it.

3. Know the Truth, and You Can be Free

John 8:31-32 says, “If you abide in my Word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” Even though I have my degree in psychology and counseling, I actually didn’t go to one counseling session during this time. Not that it is wrong to, it just wasn’t on my path to freedom.

I truly became free through the Word of God. Even when physically looking at the Word gave me fear and anxiety, I still read it. Because I knew that it held Truth and that Truth was my answer.

The day it all clicked was the day I read 1 John 4:18: “There is no fear in love [dread does not exist]. But perfect (complete, full-grown) love drives out fear, because fear involves [the expectation of divine] punishment, so the one who is afraid [of God’s judgement] is not perfected in love [has not grown into a sufficient understanding of God’s love].”

You see, my fear came from expecting punishment from God and not being perfected in His love. When I realized how much He loved me, that He had good plans for me and not plans of destruction, I realized there was nothing to fear. Sounds real easy right? I still battled anxiety after initially reading this scripture, but it gave me my answer. I sought God’s love and Truth, and renewed my mind daily.

If What if showed up with a negative present, I answered it with a positive what if. What if you never get married, it said. I answered with, What if my husband is waiting on me tomorrow. What if you are never free of anxiety? What if my God delivers me and uses my story to heal others!

Your mind is a battlefield so don’t allow it to flippantly think and feel whatever without realizing that it is going to affect you.

So I hope that this testimony brings you hope. That it lets you know freedom is available to you!