Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Dannah Gresh: Anxious thoughts have a tendency to pile up in our minds. Janet Mylin has learned to rely on the grace of God minute by minute.

Janet Mylin: When I’m tempted to give in to anxiety, I say, “I have enough grace and mercy for this moment, this day, this task. This is what I’m equipped for. And if this thing I imagine might happen happens tomorrow, then I will have enough grace to deal with it that day, that moment, that task.”

Dannah: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, author of Surrender, for July 16, 2020. I’m Dannah Gresh.

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: Are you ever tempted to be anxious? I don’t think any of us would be honest if we said no. Anxiety is common to the human experience. I think in recent days we’ve experienced a lot of new opportunities to choose the pathway of anxiety or the path of trusting God.

As Christians, we know God’s Word tells us not to be anxious about anything. Yet in our natural flesh, from time to time we still fall into those anxious patterns. Well, back before the pandemic, Dannah Gresh sat down with her friend Janet to talk about that. Here’s Dannah with a further introduction.

Dannah: Today on Revive Our Hearts we’re going to give you tools to overcome your battle with anxiety. If you’re struggling with anxiety or stress, you’re not alone. About 30% of people say that they’re facing some kind of a chronic battle with anxiety—maybe panic attacks, or maybe they are obsessive compulsive to some degree, or maybe they are experiencing some really lethal and painful post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms.

In the workplace people are stressed out, like 40% of people say that they have high anxiety at work. Probably most alarming was reading that 50% or more of college students go to professional counselors to seek help for their anxiety issues. And, sadly, women are twice as likely as men to struggle.

But today on Revive Our Hearts, I’m going to introduce you to a friend who’s won the battle with anxiety, and I got to have a front-row seat for that beautiful, victorious moment. When she shared her testimony in our home church, it became the most downloaded service of the year. You know why? Because everyone wanted to replicate what she’d done in her life to overcome anxiety. I thought maybe she could help you, too.

I’m so excited for you to meet Janet Mylin. She is an original member of the creative team that brought True Girl to life in 2003. She’s been a lead teacher on the True Girl Tour and authored some books for the brand, including the very popular One-Year Mother/Daughter Devos.

Today Janet is a story-brand certified guide, helping businesses and ministries clarify their messages.

Janet, welcome!

Janet: Thank you. This is exciting.

Dannah: Exciting. That is right. We were just saying before we started, “What is this deal that I am feeling anxious about talking about anxiety so women can be set free from it?” (laughter)

Janet: I know. I experienced the same thing today. I thought, I shouldn’t be uncomfortable talking about freedom from anxiety because I have freedom.

Dannah: We have freedom.

Now, here’s the thing I love about you, Janet: You have given me the gift of learning to laugh at things that make me feel anxious or awkward. (laughter) We have a history of that.

So I was thinking maybe we could start this conversation about stress and anxiety with a real-life moment when we experienced that stress and anxiety in a very funny way. And the thought that I had was when my children were maybe between the ages of ten and six. It seemed like Sunday morning was the stress zone of all stress zones. Nobody could get ready on time. Robbie could never find his left shoe. Lexie didn’t know what to wear. And Bob . . . I don’t really know where Bob was.

I remember one day standing at the front door . . . we were so late for church. I just said with the most authority that a mother can possibly say, “That’s it! Everybody needs to get to the front door! I’m going to count to 100.”

When I said it, there was this loud pause in the house . . .and suddenly. Did I get respect? Did I get admiration? Did I get obedience? No! I got children rolling on the floor in laughter! They’re, like, “Mom, you’re supposed to count to ten, not 100!” (laughter)

But I look back at that, and it’s a funny memory, and yet anxiety and stress isn’t always funny. Can you think of a time when you look back, you’re like, “Okay, that was funny”?

Janet: Well, my son Jack, when he was just little and he was learning how to wash his hands, I was watching him wash his hands (which I’ve learned, just don’t ever do that because they never do it the way you want them to). And I said, “Jack, get your wrists wet. Go up to your wrists, your wrists.”

And he was not doing it, not doing it. And anxiety for me in that moment was my kids and germs—”My kid is never going to learn to wash his hands. He’s going to be one of those gross kids.” I picked him up, and I put him in his room because I was getting so escalated in my emotions.

I just put him in his chair, and I went out, and I slammed the door and just stood there. All of a sudden the Holy Spirit just whispered into my head, “Janet, Jack doesn’t know what a wrist is.” (laughter)

I went back in, and I said, “Jack, do you know what a wrist is?” 

And he’s, like, “Nooooo!” 

And I thought, Well, that’s one for the book. (laughter)

Dannah: Oh, wow! Well, I think every woman can identify with moments like that. Actually, as I was preparing for this conversation with you, I realized that I wouldn’t be categorized as a woman with an anxiety disorder. It’s not controlling or chronic in my life. But I certainly have struggled, and your story has given me the tools to really win the battle in those moments.

I guess I’d like to start with your story because recently Nancy and I were doing a Facebook Live event, and we were just allowing women to ask questions. One of the women, maybe in her sixties, if I remember correctly, said, “I have been struggling with anxiety my whole life. How can I finally win this battle?” 

I immediately thought of your story, and I shared it right there on the Facebook Live event. So many women wrote, “Wow! That helped me so much.”

So let’s start at the beginning. When did your struggle with anxiety really become noticeable?

Janet: I remember years ago when my first daughter, Lucy, was tiny. My husband and I were trying to launch this little Christian teen kind of fashion magazine concept. That’s when I remember anxiety first being in my face and being curled up in the fetal position on the kitchen floor.

Dannah: You’re not being proverbial about that. You’re, like literally . . .

Janet: I couldn’t. I was in the fetal position on the kitchen floor because I just didn’t know what to do next.

I had a tremendous fear of success, oddly enough. In my mind, “the squeaky wheel gets the oil.” To me success equaled invisibility and not being known, so I was afraid of succeeding at what I was doing.

I was also afraid of not succeeding, and, “What if I don’t accomplish what I’m supposed to do on this earth?”

That’s when it first kind of came. Then it became bigger, which is probably what you’re referring to.

Dannah: Yes, because you really saw an escalation in the battle more recently.

Janet: Right. In 2015 we adopted our daughter Eve from China. She was nine, and she’s fabulous and adorable and all of the things. We had waited five years to be matched. It was a very long process. We knew we wanted an older child, to adopt an older child, so there was a lot of build up to it. After she came, I realized that my jet lag was lasting longer than the rest of my family’s. I had this poignant conversation with my husband on the front steps—where we solve all the problems.

I was just going into my, “Why am I so tired? Why am I so overwhelmed?” And he just looked at me and very gently—because he’s a wise man—said, “I think you need to talk to someone.”

And I said, “I am! I’m talking to you right now.” (laughter)

Dannah: Husbands love it when we say that!

Janet: Then he very cautiously said, “No. Somebody that you pay.” (Sounds of laughter.) 

And I was, like, “What?!”

Dannah: I absolutely believe that Christian counseling is an awesome tool that God gives us when we hit those walls and we need a little extra help. Bob and I have used it much. We should have stock in Christian counseling. I’m so proud of you that you talked about that as an alternative. Did you follow through on that?

Janet: I did. I just prayed for direction for the right counselor in the area. I went to my counselor, and she was very gracious to help me pinpoint what the source of my anxiety was. And the way she described it was, basically, any wounds that I had in my heart in relation to anxiety and fear of the future, I was able to kind of keep that at arm’s length because I was in a functioning marriage functioning family, a functioning community, healthy things everywhere.

When our daughter came into the picture, she had some significant wounds that happened to mirror some of my own wounds. And so our wounds were overlapping 24/7. My mind was finally, like, “Okay, we need to deal with that.”

That’s apparently why it surfaced, and since then I’ve referred many, many people to that counselor. (I feel like I should have a punch card for the many referrals.)

Dannah: Refer ten people, get a free session.

Janet: Yes.

Dannah: I know that feeling. (laughter)

Now, it did escalate last summer when, not only was that issue of watching your daughter, helping her struggle with things, her mirroring some of your struggles, but I would say, “Why, Lord? Again? Really?”

Dannah: What were some of the things that happened that escalated your anxiety last summer?

Janet: Well, to begin with, my mom and I saw each other on the 4th of July. I hadn’t seen her in a while. So we saw each other—we were reunited—and two days later she suddenly passed away.

So she passed away July 6 very unexpectedly. And that same night I contracted a vicious strain of salmonella and was very, very sick. And due to that, I couldn’t go to her funeral because it was impossible.

Then a dear friend of mine moved across the country, and that was heartbreaking. Another friend of mine moved to another state. Another friend of mine from high school committed suicide.

My dad, in the midst of all of this, had a widow-maker heart attack. He’s doing well now, but it was one thing after another. As soon as one wave left and I caught my breath, another wave came.

Dannah: And the anxiety just skyrocketed.

Janet: Anxiety and depression. I haven’t struggled with depression a whole lot, but for a couple of weeks, I was down for the count with depression. But the anxiety was very high. And in the midst of that, I did get in to see my counselor and talk it through, but things escalated for me.

And in the midst of that was when I started to understand that, while I don’t always understand the source of anxiety, it seems to be that in the midst of anxiety attacks and fears and all of that, I do have some choices I can make towards getting free from it.

Dannah: One of the choices that I love that you made is that you turned to the Word of God, and you began to ask, “What does God say about my anxiety?”

Some of the stuff you found was really groundbreaking in terms of me understanding my moments of anxiety. What did you discover in God’s Word?

Janet: Well, as I just stated a little bit, I just kept seeing in the Word things like, “Do not worry. Do not be anxious.” Philippians 4 and Luke 12 and in Matthew, there’s various places where it says, “Don’t do that. Don’t be anxious about anything.”

And that’s confusing sometimes because when you wake up in the middle of the night in a panic attack, it feels like, “How do I not do that?” So that led me to start researching into what choices I have in regard to anxiety because The Ten Commandments, “Do not murder; do not lie,” those are easier ones to say, “Okay, I can NOT do that. But ‘do not be anxious’? Um, I think I’m just going to hold on to that one because it’s impossible.” (laughter)

Dannah: Right, and we believe, “I can’t control it.”

Janet: Right. While there’s some aspects of it that appear to be out of my control, the choices I make in the midst of it help me regain control over my thoughts and my mind.

Dannah: You just said, “Do not murder”—The Ten Commandments. Like, those are commands.

Janet: Yes.

Dannah: Do you put the same weight behind those other verses—“Do not be anxious. Don’t be afraid”?

Janet: Well, that’s a good question, Dannah. For myself, I think when I am anxious, I don’t know as if I feel sinful, but I do feel responsible to make choices in regard to getting free from it.

Dannah: Fill Scripture with, I don’t know if they can be called imperative commands, but imperatives: “Don’t do this. Don’t give in to the anxiety. Don’t give in to the fear.”

Janet: Right. I’ve definitely learned that fear is there. There are some things you do in spite of your fear, and some fear can save our lives. Those are good things. 

Dannah: Yes. Right. Like running from a bear—that’s good.

Janet: (laughter) That’s good fear—run from the bear.

Dannah: Yes.

Janet: But with anxiety . . . One night I was just sitting there, and I remember so clearly I felt this overwhelming anxiety coming towards me in the midst of having just lost mom. I just realized that I was at a crossroad where I could choose to hurl into the pit or not—knowing God’s love for me would be there no matter what my choice was. But I knew in that moment I had to do hard work so I wouldn’t go into the pit again, because I was not willing to let myself do that.

So then a big part of it, for me, is when I was researching just the concept of anxiety . . . I’d just been through a tremendous season of grief, which was just loss after loss, and having to grab onto the reality of how life actually was. That’s what grieving was. “Well, my mom is gone. This is my new reality. I need to understand that and move forward. And my friend committed suicide. I have to know that and move forward.”

I realized when I was in anxiety, I was creating losses that had never happened and was forcing myself to grieve over them

Dannah: Explain that.

Janet: Well, for instance: When I found out my dad had a heart attack, I was getting ready to go on stage to lead worship at a local event. He left me a voicemail. “I had a heart attack.” It sounds comical to say it that way, but just to set the stage: He told me he’d had a heart attack and was going in for tests.

So, clearly, he was doing okay if he was able to have a conversation. But my temptation was to immediately go to, “My dad is dying.” Which there was no indication of that, but that was my temptation. So, anxiety was saying, “Your dad’s dying. You need to grieve that loss now.” But that wasn’t the truth.

So when I realized that I was trying to force myself to grieve over a loss that had not happened, I went to my friend who was beside me. She spoke truth to me. “Your dad is exactly where he needs to be. He’s doing okay. He’s getting treatment.” And I was, like, “Okay.”

Dannah: Those things are true.

Janet: Right. And that made me think about, actually, I’ll lead off manna in the Bible. I always refer to it as “Holy Bisquick” because apparently they did all kinds of things with it. They fried it. They put it into patties. I imagine they dipped into bars and deep-fried them. I don’t know—all kinds of things.

It was so clear that they were to go out and gather manna for the day. Now, with the exception of the day before the Sabbath, they gathered enough for two days and didn’t have to work on the Sabbath. And if they did gather more than they needed for that day, the manna would rot. It wasn’t like, “Um,can we eat this turkey or not?”—that kind of rot. It was, like, worms.

Dannah: Salmonella.

Janet: Yes. Really bad. So it occurred to me then. I thought about in Lamentations where it talks about, “Great is His faithfulness. His mercies are new every morning.” And it occurred to me that I have enough mercy (enough manna), enough grace for this day. There’s enough dew on the grass for this day.

Those are the things I would speak out loud over myself—and I still do sometimes. When I’m tempted to give in to anxiety, I say, “I have enough grace and mercy for this moment, this day, this task. This is what I’m equipped for. And if this thing I imagine might happen happens tomorrow, then I will have enough grace to deal with it that day, that moment, that task.”

I realized I was trying to collect manna for days that hadn’t even happened yet.

Dannah: Wow! That makes so much sense to me.

When you were explaining this in church, that was my kind of “eureka moment” when I realized, “Oh, I do struggle with anxiety.” I would not classify myself as an anxious person. I haven’t faced a battle in the same way that you have, but I think probably the reason it’s addressed so frequently in Scripture is because it is such a common struggle.

Janet: Yes.

Dannah: And isn’t that what we do when we work ourselves silly to get our kids into every extracurricular activity because we are stressed about their future academic career, or we’re hyper-vigilant about our marriage and stressing our husbands out with having to go to marriage conferences and do marriage Bible studies because we’re fearful of what could happen in the future, that we’re not living in the moment?

We’re not living here today. We’re not collecting the manna and enjoying the manna (and mercies) that God’s given us today. We’re thinking about something in the future. And, as you said, we’re imagining the worst. Because the reason we’re crazy . . . we’re sure our kids aren’t going to get into college, and we’re sure our marriage is going to fail, etc., etc. Right?

Janet: Yes. The big game changer for me was I realized that anxiety was imagining a future that is absent of God’s grace and love.

Dannah: Wow! Say that again!

Janet: Anxiety is imagining a future that is absent of God’s grace and love.

That transformed my mothering more than probably anything else because I realized when I was frantically trying to control my children—to make Eve say things the correct way or to make Jack wash his wrists . . .

Dannah: What’s a wrist?

Janet: I was imagining a future for them that was absent of God’s grace and love for them. “If I don’t teach her to do this now, God won’t be there for her in the future. Her whole life will be messed up.” And I realized that I have no business doing that. As a believer, God’s grace and love is for me always and for my children, always.

Dannah: When I heard you say that sentence, that “anxiety is imagining a future without God’s grace in it,” that has flavored the way I read Scripture.

For example, the other day I was reading Psalm 23, which can become pretty routine. It says, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil.” And I thought “He—the psalmist—is imagining God’s grace in that future.” He’s saying, “The worst thing I can possibly think of is walking through the valley of the shadow of death, but I’m not afraid because God’s grace is there for me.”

I almost can’t read the Bible now without that as a backdrop for how I look at His grace and His mercies being new every day.

Janet: It’s true. It’s transformative.

My husband and I will often look at each other, and if there’s something that arises—a problem with our child or business or whatever—we say out loud, “God’s grace will be there for us tomorrow and the next day and the next day, and He’ll be there for our kids.”

So I don’t need to frantically control everything now (which, for me is a big part of anxiety) in order to guarantee that things will be perfect later because they’re not going to be. And when they’re not, God’s love is going to show up for me, for my kids, for anyone.

Dannah: Amen.

Nancy: That’s Janet Mylin talking with Dannah Gresh. Their conversation is a part of our emphasis through the month of July where we’re listening to different guests talk about various aspects of practical wisdom.

Today Janet defined anxiety as “imagining a future that is absent of God’s grace and love.” Wow! That’s so good.

It helps us see that the opposite of being anxious would be knowing that our future is full of God’s grace and love. In other words, the opposite of anxiety is trusting God.

Dannah: And, Nancy, that makes me think of the book that you and Robert wrote, You Can Trust God to Write Your Story. Now, you wrote that book last year.

Nancy: Exactly, before we’d ever heard the word coronavirus, before there was a worldwide pandemic, before Robert’s cancer diagnosis, and before lots of upheaval taking place in our world. But we wrote it knowing that whatever comes into this broken, fallen world, there is a God who rules and who is the diving script writer for each of our lives.

So even when the story turns out different from what we expect or what we hope for, we knew then, and we know now, that we really can trust Him to be faithful and completely good and completely loving toward His children.

Dannah: That’s right, Nancy.

And I just want to say it’s been so sweet to watch you and Robert live out what you wrote in that book as you’ve walked through this cancer diagnosis together.

Maybe you’re going through something difficult, like Robert and Nancy have been, while the world is in upheaval. I’ve been calling that grief upon grief as I have had many friends walking through unique challenges as we all face the challenge of this pandemic.

Well, I’d really love for you to have a copy of You Can Trust God to Write Your Story. And today and tomorrow, when you make a donation to the ministry of Revive Our Hearts to support our mission, we’ll send you a copy of this book as our way of saying “thank you.”

Nancy: And when you give, you’ll also receive a code for a digital download of the new discussion guide that’s been designed to go with this book, You Can Trust God to Write Your Story. This guide is something you can use in your small group or Bible study or adult Sunday school class. You can do it live. You can do it on Zoom, or however you’re connecting with others these days.

Be sure to ask for the book, You Can Trust God to Write Your Story, and the downloadable discussion guide when you donate at ReviveOurHearts.com, or call us at 1–800–569–5959.

Dannah?

Dannah: We’ve covered some really cool biblical truth about anxiety, but now we need to give it some practical legs. And you have some amazing tips and steps that allowed you to apply God’s truth in a practical way to your anxious moments. I’d love to hear about those tomorrow.

Janet: Dannah, I would love to come back and share that with you.

Dannah: We will so look forward to that. Thank you, Nancy. Thank you, Janet. And thank you for listening today. I’m Dannah Gresh inviting you back tomorrow for Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth reminds you of a future full of God’s love and grace. This program is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

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