Do you remember the movie Monsters, Inc.? If you do, you will likely remember that this company—located in the city of Monsteropolis—had one task: scaring children to get the energy harvested from their screams. That's how we meet Sully (the big blue one) and Mike (the green guy with only one eye), two monsters who were trying to do their job. Although Monsters, Inc. is a simple and innocent children's movie, today I want to share a little of what my experience has been like with my own monster (the one that sometimes sleeps under my bed): anxiety.
For as long I can remember, I have struggled with anxiety, though there are moments when it "calms down," and others when it’s very active. In discussing this topic, I am not seeking to judge or ignore the reality that many other people suffer from severe anxiety and that I will likely fall short in trying to address the issue. What I do want is to be able to bring encouragement to those of you who perhaps, like me, have your own "Sully" under your bed. I want you to know that there is one person who understands everything that you are going through and who is no stranger to your situation: Jesus.
Over time, I realized that my anxiety was connected to fear. After meeting Christ, I began to seek comfort for my anguished soul in the Scriptures, because for years I believed that this anxiety might be a kind of punishment. So, I set out to study and learn about these two subjects: fear and anxiety.
My Despair for His Glory
One of the things that always catches my attention is how many times a word or phrase is repeated, and the phrase “don't be afraid" appears a little more than 350 times in the Bible. Some authors claim that there are 366 repetitions—that would be a "no fear" for every day of the year. Seeing this phrase in the Word of God has helped me greatly. I’ve come to realize that it’s not that there are no reasons in the world to be afraid (there are many), but these words have helped me not to allow that fear to overpower me.
I'm not going to start describing the situations that struggling with anxiety has brought into my life, but I can tell you that my "Sully" knows very well when to stick his head out to generate unpleasant emotions. In my walk with the Lord, I have met other sisters in Christ who are walking this same path, and that has helped me to see things from another perspective. In one crisis, I encountered this Truth in the Word of God, which helped me understand a little better, not the cause, but what God can do through this situation: "But he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me” (2 Cor. 12:9).
Understanding that God could use those moments of despair for His glory began to totally change my perspective, and I began to see ways in which God's power is being perfected in my life. Knowing that in His sovereignty, God has allowed these situations gives me peace. Plus, if this is what's going to keep me on my knees in front of Him, then glory to God!
Christ, My Strong Tower
Later, having been drawn the Truth of Hebrews 4:15, I understood that Christ is no stranger to this kind of emotion: “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.” He understands me! He knows what I'm going through! Have you ever thought about that truth? Christ understands you! Above all, He is the one who consoles us. There is no present, past, or future situation for which Christ has not paid on the cross. It is there that I must bring my thoughts every time they want to attack, as in 2 Cor. 10:5, “We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ.” The only way to destroy the lies that fear tells me is precisely by believing the Truth of God.
"Sully" still visits my house from time to time. I keep fighting against him, but with the understanding that God cares for me and invites me to bring my anxiety to Christ in prayer. And that is when Philippians 4:7 becomes a reality in my life: “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” And that's when I can face my "Sully." For I know where I can run to find a refuge in the midst of the storm. I will always be safe there.
Practical Tips for Managing Your “Monster”
- Identify the situations that usually trigger your anxiety or fear. This also helps you know how to pray.
- Treasure the Word; meditate on it.
- Find a mentor who can pray for you, to whom you can be accountable.
- Preach the good news of the gospel to your soul.
- Recognize Christ as the High Priest who is for me and not against me.
- Understand that you have a High Priest whom you can confidently approach at the throne of grace. Know that you are not alone and that you have somewhere to go.
I cannot offer you a three-step solution to get rid of anxiety and fear, but I can point you to the One who can calm all that anxiety can produce. It is my prayer for you that the God of all grace will fill your life with His peace that surpasses all understanding, and you will find in Him a refuge for your soul.