Commonsense Christianity

Commonsense Christianity

High Anxiety: Conquer Your Fear

posted by Carolyn Henderson

Relaxed, graceful, elegant, calm — like a cat — that’s what I seek to be. Girl in a Copper Dress 3, original painting by Steve Henderson; licensed open edition print at Great Big Canvas.

To depict me as High Anxiety is like describing coffee as black. Yep, it is, and yes, I am.

But the beauty of coffee is that when you add milk, sugar, flavorings, whipped cream and sprinkles, these elements mitigate the acidity, turning the product into something palpable to drink, and the same can be said for anxiety.

On this earth, you’ll never run out of things to worry about, but when you adjust the way you worry, you don’t have to scrabble through life as a quaking, quavering, trembling, shuddering, pathetic lapdog — you know, like an over hybridized Chihuahua that barks itself into a heart attack.

Through the years, I’ve picked up some coping strategies, and while I’ll probably never slow down to the speed of a turtle, I can accept being a house cat: alert, playful when I want to be, cautious, but capable of spending 2/3 of the day snoozing in the master bedroom.

Go Easy on Yourself

1) Let’s start the list by eliminating pressure to perform: don’t call worry a sin. 

“So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat? or ‘What shall we drink? or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.” (Matthew 6: 31-32)

Some people use this verse to condemn, saying, “See? Pagans worry. Christians shouldn’t.”

In the same way, however, that our heavenly Father knows that we need necessities of life, He also knows that we worry about them. Jesus is comforting us in this verse; if He’s not slapping us, then why do we do so?

First Things First

2) Pray.

We advise this to one another so much that the word becomes meaningless, but it’s only so if we don’t believe that prayer has any effect. Jesus’ response, first and foremost to anything, was to pray, and we can’t fail by following His example.

One way you know you’re hyperventilating with fear is when you keep blowing the candle flame out. Relax. Rest. Reflect. Light in the Forest, original oil painting by Steve Henderson.

“Cast all your anxiety on him (God) because he cares for you.” (1 Peter 5: 7)

You can’t solve your problems, my friend, no matter how self-sufficient you are. At some point, you will reach the end of your abilities, resources, and strengths, and if you recognize from the beginning that they are finite but your Father’s resources are not, you’ll move further, faster.

The faith you need to trust God’s love for you comes from God Himself, so when you pray, make this one of the things you ask for.

Get It out of the Way

3) Stop procrastinating.

If there’s an unpleasant job that needs to be done and it’s spiraling you into worry, get the task done and behind you. Usually, it’s not as bad as what you’re thinking it will be.

A friend told me about a financial undertaking she had been putting off: “Yesterday, I sat down and got it done, and I saw solutions that I wouldn’t have seen if I hadn’t been working on it. It was as if God told me, ‘I can’t show you answers when you won’t face the problem.'”

Some unpleasant tasks take a day to solve; others are long term — but none of them progress when we ignore them.

Find Relief

4) Escape

Don’t live your problems, all the time, and this includes praying about them. Pray for somebody else, which has the side effect of reminding us that others hurt, too.

After Jesus tells us not to worry in Matthew 6, He concludes:

“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”

Your mind is active and it has to be focused on something. When you read through the Bible, don’t just look for verses that apply to your situation; read the stories of the Gospel or the history in the Old Testament, and ruminate:

“What did it feel like, walking through the parted Red Sea?” (Exodus 13)

“What did the widow think as she poured an unending stream of oil from one container into jar after jar after jar, covering the floor of her home?” (2 Kings 4: 1-7)

“What did Stephen see, as he was dying?” (Acts 7: 59)

In reading and reflecting on what God has written, you are seeking His kingdom, even if it doesn’t feel like it, because you’re focusing your thoughts on Him. Trust Him enough to believe that you don’t have to be actively thinking on, talking about, or muddling over your concerns for God to be working on them.

The Hardest Thing to Do

5) Believe.

Either God is real, or He isn’t. Either His words are true, or they’re not. Either we can trust Him, or we can’t.

Ultimately, it comes down to this, and if we are to function as children of Our Father the King on this earth, we need to trust Him. This is a lifetime process. Rather than waste time castigating yourself that you’re not faithful enough, ask Him for faith. And rather than pursue hocus pocus techniques to force God’s hand (“Declare” “Claim” “Name” “Proclaim the Promises” — if it requires certain techniques to “work,” it won’t), ask Him for the patience, wisdom, trust, strength, and hope that you need to get through each day.

Thank You

Thank you for joining me at Commonsense Christianity. The beauty of Christianity is that it is designed for ordinary, everyday people, and you don’t have to have a degree to follow Christ. My writing is designed to encourage you — that beautiful, everyday Christian — to talk to God, read what He has to say in the Bible, marvel at the world He has created, and stop depending upon “experts” to tell you what and how to believe.

In the end, we are all ordinary, everyday people. The ones who are blessed are the ones who realize this. The sad cases are those people who sashay through life convinced that they deserve the best because they are smarter, wiser, savvier, better, and more deserving than anyone else.

Posts similar to this one are

When You’re Not as Happy as You Wish You Were

Feeling Abandoned?

Praying: How Specific Must We Be?

Worrying about the Future (at my companion blog, This Woman Writes)

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  • Carolyn Henderson

    Thank you, aLittleRandR. Isn’t it great to look back and say, “Wow. I’ve still got issues, but I’ve come a long way. It hasn’t been an easy road, but I’m glad that I’m here now, and I’d never go back.”

    In a world of short lists and bullet points, it’s difficult to realize — as Christians — that our answers look different than pop psychology.

  • Carolyn Henderson

    Karen: your words are wise and deep. Believing is so very, very difficult, and as you say, when life gets tough and what we ask for seems a long time coming, we waiver. This is part of that narrow path we talk about all the time — and it’s definitely not fun.

    And yet we persevere, because we KNOW that there is something better, deeper, greater, more wonderful than what we’ve been satisfied with for so long. As you say, it’s a lifelong lesson! — Carolyn

  • Karen

    I think your last point is the most salient. Believe! That’s often our most difficult hurdle. We believe when it’s easy, but when things are difficult we waiver in believing that God is really in control and nothing is beyond His ability to redeem. We assume that because we can’t figure things out, neither can He. A crisis of belief. God has been recently teaching me the folly of striving and the importance of resting in Him. A life long lesson for ‘strivers’ like me. Thanks for your post!


    What a great article! And great advice. I am a worrier, too. It used to really consume me day and night: “what if, what if…” – but I’ve learned to let my faith grow and mature…and some of these very things you mentioned here have helped a lot.

  • Carolyn Henderson

    Joanna: I’ve found repeatedly that, the tasks I put off and put off because they are so, well, off putting, are the ones that bring me the most joy when they are done! It just feels so good to get them out of the way, and when the thought pops into my head, “Oh, Dang — I’ve got to do such and such,” it is immediately followed by, “No, I don’t! I finished that!”

    The promise of that good feeling is enough in itself to impel me to tackle those yucky jobs. (And like you, I detest working with numbers.)

  • Carolyn Henderson

    Oladayo — Thank you for your kind words, and thank you for your prayer. It is one we all need, in a tough, cold world.

    Many times, people get the illusion that when they come to Christ, all their problems will melt away, or, if the problems are still around, that they won’t matter. When this doesn’t happen, they are told that they don’t have enough faith. Always, always, it is their fault, and the solution is for them to generate the faith and the strength.

    But strength and faith are gifts from God, gifts He doesn’t withhold until we are “worthy” enough, because if He did, no one would find Him in the first place, and there would be no Christians. Peter, in Acts when he performed to many miracles, attributed them readily and willingly to Christ and Christ alone, not as a result of Peter’s faith or strength. His humility was His strength, as it can be ours — but that’s extremely countercultural to world culture, not just individual nations.

  • Oladayo Folasire

    This is a blessing..and i encourage everybody to read. I was touched by this sentence “On this earth, you’ll never run out of things to worry about, but when you adjust the way you worry, you don’t have to scrabble through life as a quaking, quavering, trembling, shuddering, pathetic lapdog”. It is a good writeup and may Jesus Christ continue to strengthening you Carolyn.

  • Joanna Sormunen

    I’m very good at procrastinating. Even when I know better, and I know that God is besides me, it still scares me to death to face some problems. Especially the ones that have something to do with math and numbers. But it is true, if we don’t face our problems, how can God give us an answer to them.

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