Just one intrusive thought
A nagging, niggling, naughty little thought pops into my mind. Like a seed dropped into fertile soil, the thought sprouts into a series of thoughts… into a barrage of thoughts…. into a cacophony of intrusive thoughts that grow increasingly noisier and needier and demanding to be entertained. I can try to drown the thoughts out with mundane distractions. Sometimes that works. But once in a while, these thoughts become so persistent, and perhaps I’ve entertained them just a bit too much, that before I know it they have shattered the barrier that I designed specifically to keep them at bay. Once they have moved beyond the protective perimeter that I’d clearly labeled “No intrusive thoughts allowed,” they are as wild animals; roaming freely through the vast wilderness of my mind, stampeding their way toward my heart.
As a Christian, I should not allow this to happen. I recognize that I have tools in my arsenal to keep these thoughts in check. I remind myself of 2 Corinthians 10:5, wherein we are instructed to take every thought captive and make it obedient to Christ. I know this. And I know it works. But every once in a while, the thoughts come on too fast and are allowed just a little bit too much time to fester, that taking them captive would be equivalent to herding those proverbial cats who are experts at evading capture on their own, and increase their odds of escape by confounding their pursuers with the confusion of their sheer numbers.
The urgency of the thoughts increases exponentially. They put me in a state of high alert. They overwhelm me. Rather than finding a way to control and manage them, I become their captive. And they show no mercy. The anxiety consumes me, and I am reduced to wringing my trembling hands and crying hysterically.
Anxiety. Anxiety. The bane of my existence. The ever lurking, looming, sadistic tormentor of my mind.
Those who are familiar with my testimony may recall that on the night that I gave my life to the Lord, He mercifully delivered me from an epic panic attack. In fact, He made Himself known to me in the midst of that panic episode, and He lifted it off of me in an instant. I felt so free and so peaceful and I thought I might never have to deal with the demon of anxiety disorder again.
Yet, here I am… years later and I’m in the process of recovering from a 48 hour anxiety bender that was really just the culmination of a multitude of unchecked intrusive thoughts that had been allowed to fester. I neglected to take them captive and they became my captor. I entertained them too long. I let them have their way with me.
So, what the heck happened? Had the Lord abandoned me? Am I a fraud? Was my testimony of anxiety deliverance a lie?
Naturally, because I am a weak flesh blob, these were my initial questions. I became anxious about my anxiety. I was anxious about why God would allow this to happen to me. You see, when the Lord delivered me, He did so by showing me the following passage from Philippians 4: 6-7:
“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.”
These became my personal power verses. I shared them with anyone else who would express difficulty dealing with anxiety. I focused on the key words of “anxious” and “for nothing” and “peace”. But I was missing something
Here is what I have learned. On that blessed day when the Lord came to me and shared this wonderful passage, He was not guaranteeing me that I’d never face anxiety again. He knew my weaknesses and my tendencies and my personality. He knew that I was going to face anxiety again in the future and in His mercy, He had given to me a formula for overcoming it. Every time. It is a recipe. A step by step guide. And if it is followed correctly, the results are guaranteed. Once I realized that these words were not merely a mantra to be repeated, but that they were an actual anxiety relief manual, my perspective completely changed. The guide is as follows:
Be Anxious for Nothing
(A step by step guide to freedom)
- Step 1: Pray (but in everything by prayer…)
- Step 2: Supplication (and supplication…) [the action of asking or begging for something earnestly or humbly.]
- Step 3: Give thanks! (with thanksgiving…)
- Step 4: Tell Him everything. Tell Him what you need. (let your requests be made known to God…)
Directions: Earnestly and humbly and boldly bring steps 1-4 to the Lord. Repeat if necessary.
RESULT: A comfort and peace that is incomparable to any earthly thing will be granted to you through the grace and mercy of Jesus, who will guard your heart and your mind from further intrusive thoughts and icky anxiety, because you trust Him, and He loves you. (the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.)
And there you have it. It was right there in front of me all along. It was right there in front of you. For some of us, anxiety will always be lurking in the shadows. Our enemy knows exactly what to do and where to strike us. Our enemy studies us and knows where our weak spots are, and he will attack when we are vulnerable. For those of us prone to anxiety, we can sometimes leave our guard down and allow these little foxes to run wild (Song of Solomon 2:15), but we must remember that we have a Savior, a deliverer, a way out of this tangled web. Jesus Christ promises to be there for us and to comfort us and grant us peace. We need to have faith enough to know that He is there and He is waiting for us to trust Him enough to come to Him with our burdens, so that He can give us rest.