A Letter to my Anxious Self

Our eleven part series of Pastoral Helps continues! We hope you are finding the talks and devotionals helpful. If you’ve just dropped in, you can sign up for the free Navigating Worry course here.

In this eighth post, we have found a helpful tool that helps some people struggling with anxiety, is to write a short letter to read during troubled times and difficult seasons…I hope this post helps ♡

Friend

I know you are in the middle of one of those times when the familiar is out of reach and peace is silent, I know you are scared. 

So first off, well done for even picking up this letter. You will come through this. I don’t know how long it will take, because, as ever, anxiety doesn’t respect your time, appointments, or social occasions, sleep, holidays… the list goes on. 

But let’s remember a few things! 

You are strong, courageous, and creative. 

You are loved by many, and you are beautiful kind. 

You have so much to look forward to, this time you’re in will not become who you are. 

Please, be kind to yourself by taking one step to wellness. 

Knowing you, it’d be good to acknowledge the source of your anxiety. Remember, anxiety is normal and ok and even embrace it and accept the thoughts – just don’t believe them. 

You are not going insane, you might be afraid, but you’re not losing it. 

I know your room feels safer than anywhere else, but try and engage with life and don’t isolate yourself today. 

Remember when you’re well, you always say that the moment you reached out to someone, that It changed everything? 

Remember the emoji symbol you use with your friend to let her know you’re struggling. Maybe now’s the time to send it…? 

Just a few more tips to remember that have worked for you in the past! 

Get into nature, eat healthy, whole food, drink water. Cut down on caffeine and dare I say it, alcohol – your body needs to reduce the toxins – plus you need a good night’s sleep. 

Stop googling symptoms and illnesses – you don’t have time to worry about things you don’t have. 

Remember the times that you have come through – there is light, and there is a future for you. You are stronger than your anxiety, which means you have the strength to cope with your anxiety.  

From, Your thoughtful self

Scott 

Simply knowing that I’m prone to anxiety helps me when I start to feel anxious. I used to think that I couldn’t possibly struggle with depression or anxiety because I have the Holy Spirit, but yet I would obsess about my regrets and get extremely nervous in social situations which led me to believe that my insecurities must be true and that I’m actually not acceptable to other people. Then, when a series of life events made my anxiety severe (still not knowing it was anxiety) I started to experience all kinds of physical symptoms and pains which made me all the more anxious, increasing the physical symptoms to the point where I literally couldn’t sleep or function, and I had to seek help. Some of those mild physical symptoms still come up when I start to feel anxious, but knowing that I’m feeling light-headed because of anxiety and not because of a heart condition allows me to breathe, change my thoughts, and let it pass. When I was paranoid about every twinge in my body, my counselor instructed me to ignore them for 10 minutes before I investigate the pain. I almost never thought about that twinge ever again. I had to learn that just because I thought something, it didn’t make it true. This involves turning to God for what is true because even if I do experience a twinge that turns out to be a disease, He promises peace.

Meditate and Memorise: 

‘So let us acknowledge him! Let us seek to acknowledge the LORD! He will come to our rescue as certainly as the appearance of the dawn, as certainly as the winter rain comes, as certainly as the spring rain that waters the land.’ Hosea 6:3

Listen: Steadfast, Joshua Leventhal. 

Meditation for a Healthier Mind

There is no doubt that meditation is a discipline. I found Richard Foster’s book, Celebration of Discipline, has an informative chapter on meditation. Obviously, if you research meditation today, you will find thousands of links and an abundance of information on this popular practice. Here’s how I’ve experienced Christian meditation. We live in a world of noise, hurry, and crowds – if we hope to move beyond the superficialities of our culture, we must be willing to recreate silences.

Take your day today – crowded out, voices demanding, how many times have you said or thought, ‘I’m too busy.’

The bible uses two words to convey meditation, and together they’re used many times in scripture referring to: 

Listening to God. Reflecting on God’s word. Reflecting on his works. 

Rehearsing his deeds. Ruminating on his law. 

In each case there is stress upon a changed behavior as a result of an encounter with the living God, it is a continual focus upon obedience and faithfulness. Here are just a few examples of meditation in scripture: 

  • Isaac went out to meditate in the evening. Gen 24:63
  • I think of you upon my bed and meditate upon you in the watches of the night. Psalm 63:6
  • I will meditate upon your promise. Psalm 119:148
  • Eli knew how to listen, and taught Samuel.
  • Elijah spent day and night in the wilderness learning to discern the still small voice.

The list goes on. God spoke to them, not because of special abilities but because they were willing to listen. The Hebrew word for meditate used here is hagah, meaning to speak, mutter, muse, imagine or plot.

History

The beauty of a garden created for communion – them with God, Him with them. They fell. They hid. Then, Moses learned to hear God’s voice, speaking ‘face to face as a man speaks with his friend.’ Communion restored. The Israelites were not prepared for this face to face intimacy and preferred to listen to God through Moses. So began a long line of prophets, judges. Thankfully, in the fullness of time, Jesus taught us the reality of the kingdom. Jesus sets us the ultimate example of meditation and communion, modeling for us a hearing and obeying life.

Purpose

In meditation, we are growing into an intimate friendship with Jesus. What happens in meditation is that we create the emotional and spiritual space which allows Christ to construct an inner sanctuary of the heart. He is looking for communion with us, with an inward fellowship of this kind the only outcome is transforming the of the inner person.

We can’t remain the same. All that’s in our way – will have to let go – not have to, but want to.

Misconceptions

Christian meditation and other types of meditation are worlds apart. One empties the mind, the other fills it. Christian meditation goes beyond detachment through deliverance, to rich attachment with God.

Some might say it’s too difficult, too complicated, let’s leave it to those who have time.’

Yet those who meditate would say it is as natural, and important, as breathing.

Some would say it is out of touch with modern-day thinking, out of touch with reality and suffering.

Yet rather than immunity – meditation yields insights and wisdom for everyday life. How to deal with, issues, problems, finding breakthroughs.

Preparing to meditate

We learn to meditate by… meditating. Our goal is to live in a place of meditation, the church fathers often spoke of ‘optium sanctum’ or holy leisure, a sense of balance and peace through the activities of the day. Living life in the presence, living life deliberately through the day and not sleepwalking. I think that comes in time. So, until then, try setting time aside.

Meditate upon Scripture

The primary form of meditation is on scripture, the study of scripture centres on exegesis, meditation centres on internalizing, and personalising the passage. Resisting the temptation to pass over superficially as rushing reflects our internal state, and this is what needs transforming.

Take a single event, parable, a few verses. Allow it to take root. Applying all of your senses to the task. For example, ‘My peace I give to you’ What is the reality of this verse, brood on the truth, allow the whole person awakened. Rather than dissecting the peace, we are entering into it, until we’re not choosing to act peacefully, it’s springing from within.

Meditate upon creation

Look at created order. The beauty in symmetry. Listen to birds. God reaches us profoundly when we silence ourselves to listen. Allow it to become a way of life. ‘The heavens declare the glory of God. The skies proclaim the work of His hands.’ Psalm 19:1 

Meditation is a passive discipline, characterized by reflection rather than study. Not so much an action but to be acted upon. The purpose of meditation is to hear God more clearly. It is listening, sensing, heeding, the life and light of Christ …which will ultimately transform us.

There is a Christian Meditation app, ABIDE, found here that is said to be helping 4 million users in 210 countries alleviate their depression, anxiety, and day-to-day worries. For more than a year, the fast-growing mobile app has been ranked in the Top 10 by iTunes for the search term “depression.”

Let me know about your meditative practice. 

Love, Michelle 

Kaitlynn 

In. Out. I try to breathe as I feel my body tense with anxiety. I immediately want to throw up, or run, or both. I had gotten very used to the feeling that I needed to escape from situations. Or fight through nausea that seemed to happen without warning or a tangible cause. 

There are a few things now that I do to quell anxiousness when it lurks close. I breathe. Deep long breaths in and out to help my body get the air it would deny itself in panic. I remind myself that I am limited. That there is only so much I can do, but that God is sovereign over every situation. 

I List. I list blessings. I list the lovely things. Like birch trees swaying in the wind. A bird I hear in the distance. The smell of fresh laundry. I dwell on things that are good to stop the swirls of uncertainty that vie for my attention in my own brain. I thank God that he has allowed me to experience these things.

I make plans, something to look forward to. A show to watch with a friend or Bubble tea down the street later. Anything that will bring joy and attention to something good or productive. 

I focus on the physical, the here and now. This often looks like creating rhythm by tapping fingers. I can go from Restless to rhythmic to help me focus. Or rings, I wear rings and will spin them or take them on and off. Not only for anxiousness, but this helps with quiet fidgeting. 

Prayer. Sometimes I just need to be in a quiet place with the Lord. 

We are all so beautifully different. I hope for you that there will be comfort. Maybe in one or all these things that have helped me. 

Meditate and Memorise

‘God’s lavish grace has been measured out for you according to God’s infinite wisdom, in just the right proportion and scheduled perfectly to meet your exact needs, whatever they may be.’ Matthew 6:33–34 

Listen: Lion|Lamb, Joshua Leventhal 

PS. If you haven’t already, you can sign up for our Navigating Worry course HERE

The Lord surrounds his People

‘Those who trust in the LORD are like Mount Zion, which cannot be shaken but endures forever. As the mountains surround Jerusalem, so the LORD surrounds his people both now and forevermore.’ This verse stood out to me from the fourth session of Phil’s anxiety talks on the Fill In, was verse one of Psalm 125. Link to the course here.

The Psalm desclares, ‘those who trust in the Lord are as unshakeable, as immovable as mighty Mount Zion! Just as the mountains surround Jerusalem, so the Lord’s wrap-around presence surrounds his people, protecting them now and forever.’ 

Psalm 125 is part of the collection of Psalms known as ‘a song of ascents.’ Songs sung by pilgrims as they made their way to Jerusalem during festival times. Imagine yourself as the pilgrim heading up to Jerusalem, Mount Zion ahead, the place where the temple stands. Your mind wanders to the many victories that have taken place there. Mount Zion, while the centre, it wasn’t the highest. I love this, that as the pilgrim saw the immovable, solid Zion, he also saw the surrounding mountains as God’s presence – His wrap-around presence. 

Imagine our world of thoughts as a weather system surrounding Mount Zion, dark clouds, swirling, foreboding, storming – your anxious thoughts and struggles written in the dark. 

Back to this verse, you are like the mountain. You are not the weather. Be still, and take your place on Mount Zion and see beyond the storm to the higher mountains surrounding you. You can be secure in your soul with this promise.   

I have set the Lord always before me. Because he is at my right hand, I will not be shaken. Psalm 16:8 

There’s a great story in the bible about the prophet Elisha who woke one morning and found that the enemy surrounded the city. Elisha told the servant, ‘don’t be afraid, those who are with us are more than those who are with them.’  I’m sure the servant was a little confused at Elisha’s counting. The whole army versus two does not equal victory. 

THEN. 

“Elisha prayed, ‘O LORD, open his eyes so he may see.’ Then the LORD opened the servant’s eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.” (2 Kings 6:17) The all-around in this verse is the same meaning as surrounds in Psalm 125:2. And in Psalm 34:7: “The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him, and he delivers them.” (Psalm 34:7)

I love the practice of Lectio Divina, or Holy Reading – feasting on the word. 

Let’s feast on this verse in Psalm 125 word today,  

‘Those who trust in the LORD are like Mount Zion, which cannot be shaken but endures forever. As the mountains surround Jerusalem, so the LORD surrounds his people both now and forevermore.’

  • Read the verse out loud, listen to the verse, hear God is speaking to you. 
  • Pick a word or phrase from the verse that stands out to you and meditate on it. For me, it was trust (again…) 
  • Pray about what you’ve just read, ‘why am I focusing on trust Lord, what do you want to show me?’ In my current world, where clouds threaten to shift the weather pattern away from the promise of peace. His word asks me to trust him. He has me surrounded. 
  • Ask the Lord how He wants you to respond to this verse, how will I change, how will the word transform me? How will I live differently? 

From this final response, it is useful to respond with a written prayer or write out some steps to transformation. Or, simply rest, sit still and repeat the word or phrase, for example, ‘’you surround me, Lord,’ 

Love, Michelle 

Scott 

It seems to me that prayer and scripture are essential for keeping your mind on truth, and I would frequently cry out in prayer and turn to the bible for answers in my darkest moments. But if I’m honest, it wasn’t easy. I was so sick with anxiety that opening my bible felt somewhat like walking into a hospital. I knew that I needed to be there and that there was healing to be found, but it was almost easier not to touch the wounds. My anxiety would increase just because I was addressing my anxiety. And prayer, well God definitely didn’t answer my prayers in the timing I asked Him to. I think the best thing that I did regarding prayer was to ask others to be in prayer for me. Now that my anxiety is more under control, it is my goal to be in daily devotions and to keep giving everything over to God through prayer. It’s better for my life, and it’s better for my mind.

Tamara 

Scripture tells us we can have God’s peace guard our hearts and minds. I’ve dealt with anxiety for as long as I can remember, so this idea of peace always seemed elusive to me.

I would read Scriptures like Isaiah 26:3, “You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast because they trust in you,” and I would get frustrated that I didn’t have this perfect peace.

It was when I realized that those wasn’t a passive thing, but something I had to choose, that I started to understand how to have peace guard my mind instead of anxiety. It’s about choosing to trust and keep our minds on God. In 1 Peter 5:7, we’re told to “Cast all our anxiety on Him because He cares for [us].” That says we have to do something.

When anxiety comes, I have to choose to give it to God, and then I need to declare my trust in Him. I declare the truth of what scripture says about God and who He says I am. Often I do this out loud, so I can hear it.

To do this in the moment when anxiety comes, I have to be daily in scripture, filling my mind with the truth. That is when I’m able to declare it when anxiety comes.

From a practical perspective, I’ve actually created a list in my phone of Scripture I can read when anxiety comes. It helps me to more quickly turn my mind back to God.

Mediate and Memorise

‘When I said, ‘My foot is slipping, your love, O LORD, supported me. When my anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought joy to my soul.’ Psalm 94:18-19

Listen: House on a Hill, Amanda Cook