May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. Romans 15:13
Anxiety is a universal experience for humans and has been felt since the fear of death entered Creation. Anxiety may be defined as ‘the response to some as yet un-recognised factor, either in the environment or in the self’(Ricky, 2003). Uncertainty, then seems to link with unsettling and uncomfortable feelings. Whilst it appears in the research as a contemporary phenomenon, it has been known and experienced since Ancient times. Cognitive Therapy has attempted to provide a cure for anxious thoughts in approaching counselling by re-wiring the automatic thoughts that fuel unhelpful human behaviour. Finding its roots in Stoicism, Seneca (4BC to 65AD) claimed to have the elixir for achieving 'peace’, he described it as ‘tranquil-litas’ ‘a situation where one is undisturbed and which is equivalent to what the Greeks called 'euthymia’ . Stoics believed that anxiety was caused by the fear of death which created a stumbling block for freedom, Seneca said "he who fears death will never act as becomes a living man”. Seneca used journaling as a way to track his thoughts in order to alleviate his anxious thoughts and believed that grounding oneself to the present was the key to achieving inner peace.
The last few years have been uncertain haven't they? Rapid change has been the norm for all of us. It makes sense then that our general anxiety levels have increased, this is to be expected and actually helps us respond faster in emergency situations. Now that we're no longer in a pandemic crisis our anxiety levels should naturally decrease, if they haven't yet, the impact on our body could lead to feelings of 'exhaustion' and even 'depression'. So what can we do to alleviate anxiety? Does the Bible have any wisdom for us to consider?
Jesus himself told his friends "do not be anxious about your life"(Matt.6:25), he instead urges them to focus their thoughts on the Kingdom of God, his righteousness. Thirty years later Peter encourages Christians to cast all their anxiety on him (Christ), because he cares for them. The Apostle Paul urges Christians in Philippi to not be anxious about anything but to bring it to prayer and think on things that are lovely and worthy of praise; in other words, think about Jesus (phil. 4:6-8). Clearly anxiety was something they felt and it was normal for it to be part of the Christian life. But we're also supposed to do something with these anxious thoughts...
Our thoughts matter and they shape who we are and what we are experiencing. They can cause distress but they can also bring peace as the Holy Spirit renews our mind and gives us peace as we trust in Christ. It turns out that although the ancient Philosophers hadn't found the true elixir yet, 'journalling' can help to identify our thoughts and bring them to the light so that we can see them and pray about them. Grounding or meditating on Scripture (reading and pondering on God's word), is an exercise for the body, mind and soul. It can help build inner strength and security because we're fixing our thoughts on Christ, we're also living in the present and we're feeding on the truth about God, the world and ourselves.
The temptation might be to practice these tools away from Christ. There are plenty of psychological tools to use that can offer momentary relief from distressing thoughts but we could fall into the trap of depending on our own resources to grow and change and forget about our Creator. God has given us his Word and his presence through the Holy Spirit and he longs to transform us as we enable his work to be done. This holds more than momentary benefits but is slowly shaping us into the image of Christ.
Would you like to learn more about getting those anxious thoughts under control? Head to our contact page and leave us a message. In the meantime, Alabaster & Co have created a collection of guided meditations which can help ground you to the present moment with God's word and beautiful music and imagery.