Anxiety, or “Don’t worry, be thankful”

Philippians 4:4-9 ...

4Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again-rejoice! 5Let everyone see that you are considerate in all you do. Remember, the Lord is coming soon. 6Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. 7Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus. 8And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. 9Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me—everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you.

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Today is more of a testimony than a sermon.

Here’s what happened to me about fifteen years ago. I began to have symptoms. I saw stars for a while entering my line of vision. Then that went away. Then I had a feeling like little electrical impulses on the back of my neck for weeks at different times. Then that went away. I had 2 migraines in the period of about a month. And let me tell you, anyone who lightly puts their hand to their head and says “Oh dear, I’m having a MIGRAINE!” Is not only acting but lying to themselves and everyone else. Anyway, next I had strange numbness in my right arm and hand. And it went away. One day I woke up and the whole right side of my body from the armpit down was numb. That was kind of scary. That lasted a couple of days. Then, during this period of time when practically half my body was numb, there was a snow day, my school was cancelled and I was tuned in to the “Montel Williams” show — “Montel” must’ve coincidentally aired on the best channel for catching delays and cancellations. He began to describe his symptoms of multiple sclerosis. Numbness, headaches, electrical impulses, stars ...

So I called my Mom and said “Oh my gosh mom I’m watching Montel are you watching Montel ?? You’re not? Why am I home? Because school was cancelled. Yes I know it’s not that bad outside but it’s supposed to get worse. Listen mom — Turn on Montel! Because listen Mom, I have all this numbness and electrical impulses and stars and headaches and Mom — I think I have Multiple Sclerosis!” She was like “WHAT?”  because I hadn’t mentioned ANY of this stuff to her before. In fact I hadn’t put it all together myself.

Though I’m describing it all together, it didn’t happen altogether. It happened over several months, with each symptom coming and going. Anyway, I went to Dr. Speicher with all of my ailments — and he truly looked concerned. Apparently the test for Multiple Sclerosis is easy. I didn’t have it. He sent me for all kinds of tests — my blood sugar was fine. I didn’t have multiple sclerosis. I was told perhaps dehydration. I drank gallons of water. The scariest test an MRI. I read the order (I shouldn’t have) It was an MRI to check for lesions in my brain stem and T-4 and 5 vertebrae.  So that’s it of course — I’m dying of brain cancer!

But after all the tests came back negative — I didn’t have multiple sclerosis, a brain tumor, not even a cold — Dr. Speicher suggested I may have, well, something wrong worth “exploring psychologically.”

I was diagnosed with anxiety disorder about fifteen years ago.

The therapist explained to me that there are two ways to treat anxiety — through meds or through therapy. Meds work like this — they treat the symptoms. When you take them the symptoms are treated. When you stop taking them, the symptoms return. Dr. Oz has a long list of herbal supplements that “take the edge off” of anxiety. In fact, if you have some valerian root and rhodilia hips on hand (and who doesn’t?), he says you can grind them up, mix them into some vodka, and it makes a rather effective stress reducing and tasty cocktail. Yes, I would imagine so…. Medicine, herbal and natural or not, mask symptoms. They are the world’s way.

Therapy works like this — you go see a behavioral cognitive therapist for a long time, I went for a year and a half, and you discover what makes you tick and what triggers your crazy and learn ways to think and therefore react differently. It’s called learning “coping skills.” So I chose therapy, and I remained in therapy for a year and a half. In therapy you look inside yourself.

But there’s a third way —  there’s God’s way. It’s all in the book. Here’s what it says in Philippians: Philippians 4:5: Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.

Here’s what it says in Luke 12:32: “So don’t be afraid, little flock. For it gives your Father great happiness to give you the Kingdom.”

Here’s what it says in Matthew 6:34: “So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.

The day before I was to give a Wednesday sermon (this sermon,) August 17th, I had an anxiety meltdown. I was in the throes of a good fit. I was so anxious I was paralyzed for hours. And my eyes kept leaking. That’s another way of saying I was crying. I was worried that we wouldn’t have enough. I worried that I’m not enough. I worried that all of my possessions would be lost. I worried that I’m not raising my daughters well enough. I worried that I wouldn’t have enough money to take Payton to an amusement park. I worried that if I didn’t she would be so disappointed that she would never get over it.

Side note — I didn’t have enough money to take Payton to an amusement park. We didn’t go to an amusement park that day. She was a little disappointed. In a moment she was over it. I had spent hours stressing and her disappointment lasted maybe a minute and a half. We had a splendid time together that day.

I am a natural worrier. I don’t want to be. Anxiety can be paralyzing. The fear somehow becomes like a thick gooey substance that is impossible to trudge through. It makes me tired. So tired. I just want to sleep. And cry. And feel sorry for myself.  And watch tv. And eat. The thing is that when I’m really knee-deep in the crazy, I never just stop and think –“Hey wait! It’s just anxiety! Aaahh. Let me just draw from my coping skills right now.” They need to be so learned. They need to be automatic. And the biggest thing — your thoughts need to be replaced by other thoughts.

Well how’s this for another thought — From Philippians 4:8: Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.

God has given me a lot to be thankful for. A husband who loves me and two beautiful daughters. My totally awesome parents. A home. A dog and a bunny.  Payton’s laugh. A car. Electricity and fresh water. Internet service. Air conditioning in summer. Heat in winter. Five fingers on each hand. Five toes on each foot. The ability to walk. The ability to work and earn money. The fireworks store. My church family.

I don’t know if you worry. But I worry. A lot. I went to therapy for it. For a year and a half. I battle with it. It makes me nuts. It makes me cry. It makes me sleepy. It makes me selfish. It makes me feel sorry for myself. It makes me filled with sorrow. So I looked up sorrow on bible gateway. And came up with this:

Job 9:18 — He will not let me catch my breath, but fills me instead with bitter sorrows.

Pretty good, that not being able to catch my breath part. That sums up the feeling pretty well. So who is Job talking about? Well, see, he’s talking about God. He thinks God is the one heaping on the sorrows. It’s a good book. You should read it if you haven’t. Anyway, if you have read it, then you know it is Satan who is piling on the sorrows. There’s a lot more to it. But in the interest of time, I will not digress further. I will stick to this — it was Satan piling on the sorrows.

And when I think of Satan and all of his nastiness, and all his wily ways to lead us astray, it makes me mad. In 1st Peter it says this:

1 Peter 5:8 — Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.

Makes me mad. That Satan. He exists. People don’t talk much about Satan. My therapist never mentioned him. But he exists. His goal is to turn our eyes away from God. His goal is to keep us from loving and from living. He is the father of all lies. And he’s so crafty he disguises himself, even as an “angel of light.” Well of course, I mean if he looked ugly and evil he’d be easy to spot and wouldn’t be able to get us. He disguises himself as anything he can to take our eyes off of God and keep us slaves of the world.  People don’t talk much about Satan. Anyway, the bible does. Here’s what Jesus said:

Matthew 4:10 — “Get out of here, Satan,” Jesus told him. “For the Scriptures say, ‘You must worship the LORD your God and serve only him.’”

Totally reminds me of The Wizard of Oz, when Glinda says to the Wicked witch of the West: “You have no power here! Be gone, before somebody drops a house on you!” See, Satan does not have power over God. All he can do is try to fool us into thinking he’s powerful. But then there’s this, one of my favorite power verses:

Romans 16:20 — The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. May the grace of our Lord Jesus be with you.

Anxiety doesn’t just “poof” go away. Everybody has a touch of it. Or more than a touch. Not everybody needs therapy. But everybody feels it. And more than that, everything has that thing that is Satan’s doing in their life. Something that draws you away from God’s Kingdom. Something that keeps you fettered to this world. The word fettered literally means “restrained, usually with chains or manacles.” That’s why I picked it. Satan wants us to be fettered.

Don’t let Satan rule. Don’t let Satan win. However Satan disguises himself in your life, know that The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. How cool is that?!

What an awesome God we have!!

Power verses

Philippians 4:6 — Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.

Matthew 4:10 — “Get out of here, Satan,” Jesus told him. “For the Scriptures say, ‘You must worship the LORD your God and serve only him.’”

Romans 16:20 — The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. May the grace of our Lord Jesus be with you.

Here is your fill in the blank. Whatever disguise Satan wears in your life, put it here:

The God of peace will soon crush _____________________ under your feet. May the grace of our Lord Jesus be with you.