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!

#Momfail: They All Fall Down

Can I just be honest and vulnerable here? This week has felt like a non-stop strand of mom fails. Non-stop.

Have you ever just messed up so many times you just feel like stopping? Or running away? Or just crying? Or maybe all of the above? That’s been me this week.

So John has been accelerating in movement. I’m talking crawling, pulling up on furniture, moving from item to item, trying to LITERALLY JUMP OFF OF STUFF. I’m pretty persuaded he wants to injure himself.

It’s one thing if babies hurt themselves when you’re not watching, but to have them hurt themself everyday when you’re just two steps away is pretty frustrating.

Let me let you in on this week. He fell off the bed, he hit his eye on the dresser knob (don’t ask me how), he’s fallen from holding on to the table about 15 times, slipped in the bathtub and got water in his face, and the list goes on and on.

It has really made me question my ability as a mother this week. I am sucking it up real bad at the moming. I know all babies fall down, especially when learning to move their little bodies, but at the same time you can’t help but blame yourself when it happens and you can’t stop it!

In all honesty its just been a really hard week for me in general. As a mother and wife I’ve been going and growing through some things. I have felt like no matter how hard I try, I end up failing. I’ve been studying the fruits of the Spirit and ironically feel like I’ve done nothing but walked in the flesh this week. Impatience, anger, frustration. Just falling on my face, over and over.

And as I write this, maybe that’s the whole lesson for me this week? Maybe God is wanting me to realize, like babies, we all fall down. But scripture says the righteous man falls seven times but gets back up.

So, if you’re a mama who has failed this week? Get back up. If you’re a wife who has been naggy a little too much, get back up. If you’ve complained instead of being thankful, cursed instead of blessing, or have really done a bad job at portraying Christ, my answer is this: get back up.

Keep pursuing holiness and not perfection. Keep pursuing His strength and not your own. Keep leaning all of yourself on Him completely.

Paul says that he boasts in his weakness, because where we are weak, God is strong! (2 Corinthians 12:9)

God’s grace is sufficient for you AND your clumsy little baby.

I love you guys! Happy homemaking!

Eat when you’re hungry, not when you’re starving.

Jesus answered, ‘It is written: Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.”

Matthew 4:4

What I am sharing is a personal revelation God gave me today but I believe it may help someone. I’ll start from the beginning.

Lately I have been feeling extremely frustrated. Everything has gotten on my nerves; my husband’s breathing, my baby constantly crying when I’m trying to put eye ointment on him.. even my own self has been frustrating (I broke a favorite ornament last night because my hands were shaky).

I just have felt at my limit. With everything. Like a car hanging on the edge of a cliff, and with one leaf it will crash to the bottom with a loud BANG.

This morning was no different. We woke up, had coffee, I was irritated. Trying to feed John who enjoyed 15 spoonfulls of oatmeal and then the 16th one he acted like it was disgusting, spitting it out so it went everywhere. My breakfast getting cold as usual; my hot coffee being enjoyed lukewarm, as usual. I stood up, yelled at him, yelled at my husband, stormed out of the room.

My husband followed me, and it irritated me of course. I yelled, “Why are you following me???” He calmly takes the baby, and says, “Go pray.” Everything in my flesh wanted to smack him. I don’t want to pray. I don’t want to change. I want to be irritated! “Go pray.” He said again.

I reluctantly stomped upstairs to my office and knelt down. As soon as I hit the floor I began to weep. Weariness, frustration, weakness… all came down and hit like a big wave. But the last thing that hit was STARVATION.

My husband and I have been watching a new TV series we found called “Alone”. Professional survivalists compete to see who can survive the longest in hard terrain. We were watching one of the men and you could clearly see that he had let himself starve almost to death. What was astounding was he was sitting on a mound of food! He had been saving fish for the season when he knew the fish would be lacking, but while saving for a season of lack, he was letting himself starve! He got so hungry he decided to try and shoot an animal with his bow. But he had starved himself so long, he couldn’t even pull back the bow and have a weapon. So he crawled back in his shelter, and STILL didn’t eat.

God spoke so clearly to me as I called out to Him, asking, “Why am I so frustrated? Why do I feel so weak?” He said, “You’re starving.”

I realized I hadn’t read my Word or spent some sweet time with Him all week (excuses of busy schedule entailed). And He brought to my memory the man on the show. I was the man. Starving, weak, without a weapon.

I have the Word at my fingertips every single day. Food for my spirit. But sometimes we treat that food as the man treated the fish. We save it for a rainy day; when we are struggling, sad, fearful. But instead of eating when we are simply hungry, we wait until we are starving! And we risk damage to our spirits!

The man had to leave the show because his body was at risk for organ failure. And he cried to the cameraman, “But I have food…” tears running down his face, “I have so much food”. And I cried back, “But you’re starving! You can have food all day, but if you don’t eat it, it doesn’t help!”

I cried as I knelt on the floor in my office. I have food, but I haven’t eaten, and now I am starving.

I am tired of letting my spirit go so long without food, that I end up in starvation mode. Angry, weak, frustrated; yelling at my loved ones, yelling at myself, thinking my life isn’t good, or blessed. When we let ourselves starve spiritually, our flesh grows stronger. It’s opposite of starvation in reality. As our spirits weaken, our flesh strengthens, and we become a puppet to a nature we are free from.

This man had so much fish; and was skipping meals in order to save it for later. If he would have eaten when he was hungry, he would have never been starving.

Let us eat, everyday, as we do with food. Knowing it’s time to eat, we eat. We don’t wait until our bones cry out in starvation, we eat because we know we need it! Why don’t we do the same with our spirits? We know we need His Word to strengthen us, cleanse us, guide us, uplift us, yet we wait until we are starving to go to it!

So as I sit convicted today, by a gracious God Who softly pointed out my weak spots, I am realizing that I have been starving myself, and sitting on a stock pile of food. It’s time we go to our Words, feed ourselves, so we can feed others.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.”

matthew 5:6