Part Four: How Can We Help?
It is true that hope and despair often live in the same heart at the same time.1 We long for those precious days when God was close, while at the same time feeling utterly helpless to control everything that may be crumbling around us.
Encouraging someone struggling with anxiety often requires the need for one to change their inner narrative, I.e., being transformed by the renewing of the mind.2 We talk to ourselves more than anyone else, and what we say is often inaccurate. The Scriptures describe this as “reasoning in your hearts.”3 Every one of us has an inner narrative; the question is, what informs that narrative: the mind of Christ or something else? This inner narrative over time can become a firmly established habit pattern acting as a default setting that one’s mind automatically goes to when feeling a certain level of stress.4 Do you believe anxiety is a spiritual battle? Where do spiritual battles wage their warfare? The mind!5 The nature of this inner narrative is often driven by false predictions typically absent of God’s perspective. So rather than doubting what God has said is actually true, we need to learn how to doubt our fears and trust what God has said.
The goal is not trying to avoid thinking about uncertainties but learning how to think about them in the right way. What narrative will they allow their mind to video loop? Consider the “what ifs” associated with anxiety. These need to be answered with what is true, honorable, fair, pure, acceptable, commendable6 . . . not with unsubstantiated “speculations” of what might happen.
A wrong narrative that is common for those dealing with anxiety is the deep sense of feeling alone and that “no one understands”, and “God is far away.” This has often been Satan’s strategy in which the Scripture likens to that of a lion’s hunting of isolating the weaker member of the herd (1 Peter 5:8). But we have reason to hope in God, who He is and what He has promised. So if the inner narrative is one of knowing God as the Good Shepherd who cares for us and promises never to leave us, no matter how dark the course and delighting in His sovereign goodness and fatherly care, we will experience contentment and peace even in the midst of great uncertainty.7
So for those experiencing the feelings of anxiety and panic, that familiar enemy, arises from within their heart, which is most distressing of all, whether it’s real or they are not even sure why. Maybe it’s just finding out about a serious diagnosis, someone is being bullying or a myriad of uncertainties for the future. If we could emphasize one thing to always remember: No matter how isolated that experience of fear feels, the reality that should infiltrate your inner narrative is that there is someone who describes Himself as Yahweh-Shammah,8 “the Lord who is present”. He never leaves you, nor forsakes you. He is with you forever; your best friend who never betrays you. Never, ever are you alone! It’s not as though hearing that said is some kind of magic answer. However, it’s one of those things that needs to get worked into one’s inner narrative more effectively during moments when one is not feeling anxious or panicky. It is the reality on which one can build their life. God always seems to comfort His people with His presence.
We realize this is just a starting point, and there are many aspects to anxiety that we were not able to address in our series. Be sure to check the link for many more recommended resources on this very important subject of anxiety.
- Specifically Psalm 42:5
- Romans 12:2
- Luke 5:22; c.f., Romans 10:6; c.f., Proverbs 4:23
- Some may refer to this as a “trigger”.
- 2 Corinthians 10:3-5
- Philippians 4:8
- Philippians 4:7,9
- C.f., Ezekiel 48:35, Genesis 28:15, Psalm 23:4, 46:1, 139:7-12, Jeremiah 23:23-24, Hebrews 13:5
Biblical Counseling Resources on Anxiety, Fear and Worry
Schenke is a graduate of WORD OF LIFE Bible Institute and Trinity International University in Deerfield, Illinois. He holds an MA in Biblical Studies from Baptist Bible Seminary and was in the MABC Counseling program at the MASTERS College in Santa Clarita, CA. He has been serving in counseling and pastoral ministry since 1983. Joe is a certified counselor with the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors (ACBC) and currently serves as the Director of Counseling at Word of Life. He and his wife Connie have been married 36 years and have four adult children and 8 grandchildren.