Christianity & Mental Health: Fear & Anxiety

Vanity Fair has a series of youtube videos called “Fear Box” where celebrity guests stick their hands into a box without knowing what is inside. The items placed in the box range from living animals to toys and the guests are to guess what they are based on feel. The videos are quite entertaining as the guests nervously reach in, but they are also a perfect depiction of the realities of fear & anxiety.

In one video, Black Panther star Danai Gurira (who plays Okoye), says, “This is fear” when she first attempts to stick her hand inside the box. I don’t think she meant the box or the item inside was fear, but what she was feeling in that moment. Fear is defined as: an unpleasant emotion caused by the belief that someone or something is dangerous, likely to cause pain, or a threat. It’s a belief. Meaning, that it is a response as a result of a particular way of thinking.

It is a result of how you mentally process a situation. It is an emotion that draws you into a self-protective mode. When someone jumps out at you trying to scare you, what is a typical response? You’ll probably scream and put your hands up in front of you. Why? Because your mind perceived the situation as dangerous, causing fear, and in response you go into defense mode. Fear starts with the mind and ends with a response.

While most people view fear as a negative emotion, it has positive components. If you enter into a dangerous situation, fear tells your brain to protect yourself. Say the person jumping out at you isn’t trying to scare you, but actually trying to hurt you. The reaction to defend yourself is fear doing what it is meant to do. Fear protects you from real dangers.

Fear relates to known or understood threats, but what about the fear of unknown threats? A better term to describe that feeling would be anxiety. Although closely associated and often overlapping, fear and anxiety are slightly different. Fear deals with realities and the known, whereas anxiety, the uncertain and undefined. Fear is when someone actually jumps out at you and you react. Anxiety is when you’re worried about the possibility of someone jumping out at you. See the difference?

Every person has or will experience both fear and anxiety on some level. While there is a slight difference between fear and anxiety both are unhealthy if you are controlled by them. They impact your mind, therefore impacting your actions and life. The inability to relax, tense feelings, rapid breathing, dry mouth, increased blood pressure, jumpiness or feeling faint, excessive perspiring, feeling clammy, constant anticipation of trouble, and feeling uneasy are all effects that fear and anxiety can have on you. 

You don’t want to reach the point where your fears and anxieties are consuming you because it will keep you from living life. Not only can fear and anxiety effect you, but it can also have have implications on those around you. Anxiety is contagious. It can often spread to others, especially those you are closest. It is something that can be passed down, meaning, parents can actually model anxiety in such a way that their children pick it up as a personality trait.

For your sake and the sake of those you love, when fear and anxiety consume you, take action. You don’t want to allow it to keep you from fully following God as He directs your paths. You don’t want to let it distract you from investing and strengthening the relationships God has established in your life. You don’t want to give it the opportunity to effect your children as they look to you for direction and support.

Deal with your fear and anxiety by taking them to the cross.

Casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. – 1 Peter 5:7

Do seek professional help if needed. However, don’t forget to take it to the most important place you can – our loving God. Yes, there are cases when professional counseling is need, but for the most part, I firmly believe that fear and anxiety can be overcome if we just focused on God more and trusted Him to help us handle the situations we face.

To be focused on God, means, we have our minds fixed on Him. It’s turning our attention from our fears to His character. We are to cast our anxiety on Him, why?Because in His goodness He cares for His people. Rather than focusing on what makes you afraid and causes anxiety, focus on the goodness of God. When you focus on Him, you’ll find that He is much bigger than anything you’ll ever face.

One of the best ways to set your mind on God and dispel fear is by recalling what God has already done in your life. Start with the gospel. Colossians 1:13-14 is a beautiful reminder of what God has done for you through Jesus. He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” There are four massive implications of the gospel in your life:

  1. God rescued you from death
  2. God has brought you into His family
  3. God has freed you from the bondage of sin
  4. God has forgiven you completely

If that weren’t enough (which it is!), God has been faithful to you throughout your life. If you just stop and take a minute to think back on your time as a follower of Christ, I guarantee you’ll be able to recall some of His goodness. When you’ve strayed, He’s always been there. When you’ve doubted, He’s remained true. Think often on what God has done for you. It can be a great source of encouragement during times of fear and anxiety.

The hardest, but the best thing anyone can do when walking through fear and anxiety is to surrender control to the Father. I think it’s when we trust in our own knowledge and capabilities that we experience the greatest fear and anxiety. We know that we don’t really have control or the power to do anything about what we’re facing, but we pretend we do. We need to stop faking control and give it up to the One who is truly in control.

Proverbs 3:5-6 says, Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.” We need to trust that God is who He says He is and will do what He says He will do. He is always faithful and ever good. Trusting focuses our faith and deepens our commitment. When we trust in the Lord, it leaves no room for fear and anxiety.

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