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Today we are kicking off a brand-new blog series called, The United States of Anxiety. 

It doesn’t matter who you are, we can all agree that anxiety is at an all-time high. I firmly believe that we all have had our bouts of worry, stress, and anxiety. It is time to know how to stop worrying and start living. 

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, nearly everyone feels anxious from time to time. A large number of people have an actual anxiety-related condition. After having my own experiences and finding ways to cope, I thought I would share how to stop worrying and start living. 

What is Anxiety?

On average, 20% of American adults—one-fifth of the adult population—are affected by anxiety or an anxiety-related disorder such as obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) every year. 

Thank God that anxiety disorders are highly treatable. BUT only 40% of people with a disorder actually receive treatment. 

Symptoms range from life-altering phobias such as fear of driving and going outside to everyday occurrences such as headaches and fatigue. If I included an interactive quiz on here, I guarantee 90% of you would say you get headaches or fatigue. 

The study also said that there is a range of anxiety diagnoses that The American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders classified as follows: 

  • Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD)
  • Panic disorder (PA)
  • Social anxiety disorder (SAD)

With all that said, I will do my best to share my own experience with anxiety and what God’s word says about anxiety, and how you can combat it. 

My Dealings With Anxiety

This first blog is about how to stop worrying and start living. That is something close to my heart because, for a long time, I wasn’t living.  

If you are battling with anxiety and feel like you are missing out on life, this series is for you!

  • Maybe you have a health issue. 
  • You might have someone in your life who is struggling.
  • Some of you may be dealing with aging parents. 
  • Maybe you are struggling financially.
  • Perhaps you are worried about the decisions your child is making. 
  • You might be anxious about the future of our country. 

Whatever it is, this series is for all of you who are worried about living in fear. 

Let’s start this message series with Philippians 4:4:7. 

The Apostle Paul wanted to go to Rome and preach the gospel there. But instead, he found himself as a prisoner, chained up to a Roman guard. 

He certainly was in a mess. He could have possibly been more anxious than anyone else I know right now. The fear of not knowing his outcome: how long he would be there, and whether he would live or not. 

Under the inspiration and strength of the Holy Spirit, the Apostle Paul wrote these words…

  • “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.” (Philippians 4:4-5)

I want you to read that last line again, “The Lord is near.”

  • “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.” (Philippians 4:6-7)

In 2002, I was under a lot of stress. I was in college. I became a dad. I was self-employed.

Every month I would be worried about making ends meet while still living with my parents. 

I borrowed money for gas, food, and child support. Many months would go by without paying them back. On top of everything, not being able to pay them back added even more stress. 

This went on for approximately 2-3 years…

  • Working 6-7 days per week non-stop
  • Having high stress
  • Battling anxiety
  • Having no rest
  • Borrowing money 

Finally, in February 2002, I had a massive anxiety attack. My world came to an immediate halt! 

For 3 years, the signs of a major breakdown peeked around the corner… But I would ignore the signs. For example…

  • I had sleepless nights worrying about the bills. 
  • I felt overwhelmed when I woke up in the morning, and the fatigue would last through the day. (So I would drink coffee, lots of it.) 
  • I was confused. My mind wasn’t as sharp, and I was unable to read. 
  • I began to lack confidence in myself, which negatively impacted my business. 
  • I began to live in fear. 

So this series, unlike some of the past ones, I will be teaching out of a place of darkness. This was a very unusual, very scary season of my life.

Paul said, “Be anxious for nothing.”

I guarantee if you’re anything like me, you’re asking yourself, “Is that even humanly possible?”

How To Stop Worrying and Start Living

Some of you might be in that place right now, “God, I can’t take this anymore.”

  • “Lord, I’ve done everything possible to make my marriage work.”
  • “Lord, I am working two jobs.”
  • “Lord, I can’t take on more hours if another bill shows up. I’m going to lose it. I’m going to file for bankruptcy.”

When we have anxiety, we all have thoughts like this. Time and time again, we make the same 4 mistakes. The key is to do the opposite of these mistakes. That is how to stop worrying and start living. It won’t be a permanent fix. You must be patient with yourself. 

Mistake 1. We run ourselves into the ground. 

Last year was rough for everyone, no doubt about that. It certainly was a cause for a lot of anxiety. 

I know that we had a tough year…

  • We lost family, and other family members got sick with COVID. 
  • At any moment, we were afraid something terrible was about to happen. 

During all of this, I could feel my body telling me something was up.

  • I would have bouts where I could not think straight. 
  • I could not read a complete sentence. 
  • I began obsessing over worst-case scenarios.
  • I worried that I would get COVID and die.
  • I worried that Jenna would get COVID and die. 

Then came the physical symptoms:

  • Loss of sleep
  • Heart palpitations
  • Muscle spasms/pain in my lower back and neck. 

Naturally, I went to the doctor, but all tests came back negative. So she asked me what I did for a living. 

I told her. 

And she says to me, “You’ve been going way too hard for way too long.”

Some of you need to hear that. You’ve been going way too hard for way too long. 

A woman surrounded by her demons.

Mistake 2. We shut people out. 

When you’re dealing with anxiety, you tend to isolate yourself. You think that no one can be burdened with your problems. You start to think that maybe you’re just weak. 

It’s not true, now is the time to connect with family and friends for support. Even if it’s via digital, you should keep in touch with those that care about you. 

Mistake 3. We focus on the negative. 

Isn’t that the thing that we often do? 

We fall into the pit of pity. 

  • My life is just too hard. I’ll never amount to anything. 
  • I hate my job and/or the people I work with. 
  • No one understands me. 
  • I’m always going to be this way.
  • I’m always going to be broke. 
  • I’m never going to amount to anything.  

And, to be completely transparent with you all… I had a pity party. There were 2-3 months where I didn’t think we were going to make it. 

Mistake 4.  We forget about God. 

This is the biggest mistake of all. 

God is present. God is faithful. God’s power is visible. God’s provision is real. We face our problems while forgetting God! 

You see, God has been faithful to me for the past 19 years. Since I accepted Jesus as my Lord and Savior, I faced my fears, worries, and anxiety while forgetting about God. 

Here’s something I tell myself when I feel the anxiety creep in…

  • My God is my breath.
  • My God is my source.
  • My God is my sustainer.
  • My God is my strength.

The Lord is in the whisper. 

Hear me out. Don’t miss this… Sometimes God isn’t found in the remarkable. He is found in the ordinary. 

Sometimes when we’re hurting, when we are in pain, when we are broken, stressed out, or worried and anxious… God doesn’t speak to us with a booming voice. He whispers. 

Remember that. 

Why? Because he is near.  

And he whispers to us to draw us closer to him. 

The enemy (Satan) yells at us and says things such as, “You’ll never be enough. You’ll never amount to anything. Nobody loves you.” But God draws near to us and whispers… 

  • “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” 
  • “I am always with you, even until the ends of the age.” 
  • “There is nothing that can separate you from my love. Nothing.”

Neither height, nor depth, nor darkness, nothing can separate you from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus. 

Why? Because the Lord is near. He whispers because He is close.

Conclusion

Here’s what we should know about anxiety. 

It hits everybody differently, and it is very complex. 

  • For some of us, we might need to get counseling. That’s ok. 
  • For others, it may require a change in diet. You might need to see a dietician. That’s ok.
  • For others, it may be a chemical imbalance. So you may need to see a doctor who can prescribe medication. And that’s ok. 

Again, why does God whisper? Because God is close to us. 

And sometimes, we might just have to remind ourselves that God is close. 

The vast majority of what we worry about is never going to happen. 

Sometimes what we worry about happens. And we go through it, and it isn’t as bad as we thought it was going to be. Right?

And sometimes, what we fear does happen, and it is bad. It’s worse than we have ever imagined. BUT God’s goodness, his faithfulness, his mercy always carries us through. 

Jesus is our strength, our source, our sustainer, and our healer! 

And that’s how the Apostle Paul, chained up to a Roman soldier, could put pen to paper and write this letter that tells us…

REJOICE IN THE LORD ALWAYS!