Revive Our Hearts Podcast

Dannah Gresh: Often our fears can be helped by a change in perspective . . . so says Janet Mylin.

Janet Mylin: When I am wrapped up in anxiety, it is all about me, but when I’m able to turn my focus on the truth of God’s Word and the truth of His character, that helps me get my mind off of myself and on to the bigger picture and onto the fact that I’m never alone! The future is full of God’s grace is enough for me!

Dannah: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, co-author of You Can Trust God to Write Your Story, for July 17, 2020. I’m Dannah Gresh. 

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: If you’re a part of the human race, you struggle from time to time with anxiety. We all do, right? But have you ever noticed how many times in the Scripture the Lord exhorts us, “Don’t be afraid,” “Do not fear,” “Fear not,” “ Don’t fret,” “Don’t be anxious,” over and over and over again! (see Ps. 37:1, 7; Pro. 3:25–26; 24:19; Isa. 41:10; John 14:27, Phil. 4:6) 

Sometimes it feels like we’re winning against fear and anxiety, but at other times we find ourselves overwhelmed with worry. I sometimes call those “rogue emotions.” It’s as if our anxious thoughts rebel against us and say, “No! I’m in charge! You’re going to do what I say!” It really can feel like a war where we’re sometimes losing more battles than we’re winning. 

Our guest today will help us with some practical tips for how to fight those battles well. Not long before the pandemic hit our world, Janet Mylin came into the studio to talk with Dannah Gresh about anxiety, and I think you’ll agree this conversation is even more relevant and helpful today than it was back then! Let’s listen.

Dannah: Are you feeling anxious, stressed, or depressed? Maybe you should try . . . painting. I know that sounds crazy and not very practical advice, but that’s part of what our guest today on Revive Our Hearts did to win her battle with anxiety and depression.

I’m talking, of course, of my dear friend Janet Mylin. She’s an author, a consultant, for the True Girl brand and ministry. She’s also an artist. Learning to paint was part of an intentional effort to overcome anxiety . . . and it worked!

We’re going to learn more about that today, and a few of her practical tips in winning the war against anxiety. Welcome back, Janet.

Janet: It’s so good to be back, Dannah. Thank you for having me. 

Dannah: Let’s go back to when you described yesterday on the program, just how big the battle with anxiety really was . . . and that it surfaced when you brought another child into your home, an adopted child with some issues that looked a little bit familiar. 

They were mirroring some of your pain. Can you take us to a moment when you brought her home that really seemed like the pit, in terms of struggling with this problem of anxiety?

Janet: I can remember getting to a point where I was feeling so hopeless as a mom, as an adoptive mom, as a woman, as a human that I started to have lots of rage build up inside. I think a lot of it was anger against myself: “Why can’t I get my act together? Why can’t I do this? Why can’t I just buckle down and make this into the storybook I want it to be?”

But I have a lot of rage. I know maybe it sounds odd to connect anger to anxiety, but there was so much self: “Why can’t I just do this? Why can’t I get over it!?”

Dannah: I’m identifying with you incredibly, Janet, because as you know, Bob and I also adopted an older daughter. She was thirteen when we got her. I really had this expectation that I was going to be able to rescue her heart. 

Janet: Yes.

Dannah: When reality hit the hot pavement of life, and it was far more complicated than I’d imagined, I started to become anxious, and imagining all the ways that I was going to hurt her, and realizing that I had contributed to her hurt because I wasn’t able to help her. I got angry!

Part of it was, I was angry at the circumstance. I was angry at all the people in her life who had hurt her before I got her. And I was angry at me because I wasn’t able to do this. So I think there is probably a real natural connection for more people than you imagine listening to your voice right now. 

People who are saying, “Hey, you know what? I struggle with anxiety, and I can see how sometimes I get angry.”

Janet: While it was hard to see that and very humbling and maybe a little embarrassing, I knew the gravity of the situation was very big and I needed to do whatever I could to overcome and find healing. Because so many lives were touched by my inability to function as a whole person.

Dannah: Yes, when we operate in anxiety, it impacts everyone around us! Today we’re going to talk today about practical ways to win the battle of anxiety. Before we do that though, Janet, I just want to return to the fact that yesterday on Revive Our Hearts you grounded us in God’s Word when it comes to understanding the battle.

God has a lot to say about anxiety in the Bible, and you led us to a very important truth statement, which was this: “Anxiety is imagining a future without God’s grace in it.” This is a very powerful sentence that has helped me look at Scripture differently.

Before we dive into the practical, let’s just remind everybody—including our own hearts—that unless we’re using these practical tools in conjunction with God’s Word, they might not be as effective as they could be.

Let me take us to the story of Joshua and Caleb, because I saw how very powerfully that sentence (“Anxiety is imagining a future without God’s grace in it.”) is in their story. At the beginning we see that a whole bunch of men—is it twelve men?—go to scope out the land. (see Num. 13–14) They decide, “Can we go in there? Is this the land flowing with milk and honey that God promised to us?”

The first group of men come back with incredible unbelief, lack of faith. They say, “Hey, those people in there are strong; they’re like giants! The land devours people!” It’s almost mythical, the stuff they say. And so what do they do? They come back and they imagine the future without God’s grace in it, right?

What happens to the Israelites? Well, they start feeling fear; they feel really bad. The Bible says they say things like this, “If only we’d died in Egypt!” or “If we’d just died in the wilderness!” or “Why has the Lord brought us to this land, so that we could die?” They’re saying, “Hey, maybe we should just go back to Egypt!”

They’re really expressive about the emotions of unbelief that some of those scouts communicated. I was reading a book lately, and I think this fits into the conversation about anxiety and imagining the future. It said this, “Unbelief holds a committee meeting with our feelings to see if they approve of what he has said.” Think about that.

That’s kind of what’s happening here on the border of Canaan, is that some of these men have unbelief. “I don’t think that we can do it! I don’t think we can go into that land; it’s going to be destructive!” They’re imaging a future without God in it.

And then the Israelites are like, “Let’s check in with our feelings. Oh yeah . . . we’re gonna die!” Right? They affirm the unbelief. Thankfully, there were two men, Joshua and Caleb, who said: 

The land, which we passed through to spy it out, is an exceedingly good land. If the Lord delights in us, he will bring us into this land and give it to us, a land that flows with milk and honey. Only do not rebel against the LORD. And do not fear the people of the land, for they are bread for us. Their protection [has departed] from them, and the Lord is with us; do not fear them (Num. 14:7–9 ESV). 

And there it is again, what we talked about all day yesterday: “Do not fear.” “Do not be anxious.” “Do not be afraid.” We have to anchor our hearts the way that Joshua and Caleb did when they were standing on the border of Canaan, because we all are standing on some kind of a border that God is asking us to cross.

We have to decide if we will be anxious and operate in unbelief, or if we’ll walk forward in faith.

Janet: That’s very powerful. It reminds me, part of my strategy in overcoming anxiety was to get out of a self-absorbed mindset. I hear what you’re saying; the Israelites were saying, “We’re going to die! We should have been dead a long time ago; that would be better than this!”

When I am wrapped up in anxiety, it is all about me. I think I can say that 100 percent of the time. It’s, “Woe is me!” It’s a very, for me, self-absorbed mindset. But when I’m able to turn my focus on the truth of God’s Word and the truth of His character, through a lot of study and repetition of His truth and healthy self-talk regarding His truth, and who I am in Christ and all of the things, all the healthy inputs . . . that helps me get my mind off of myself and onto the bigger picture and onto the fact that I’m never alone. The future is full of God’s grace and love for me, and it’s worth it!

Dannah: Yes. And that takes belief, that takes faith. So we’re rooting this battle with anxiety in God’s truth, but we need to walk it out. So, Janet, what are some practical tips that have been helpful for you as you’ve won this battle?

Janet: Well, I will be glad to share those with you; they’re things that have worked for me. Dannah, I do believe there’s healing at hand for anxiety, and I do believe it happens in a lot of different ways. I want to tell you that one time I sat down with my counselor and I begged her to put me on medication!

In looking back, my counselor was very wise. She said, “You don’t need it. You’re not at that point.” I’m thankful now, but I do recognize that God uses lots of things to heal us. I’m thankful for His Holy Spirit who guides us in our healing, and I feel like that’s different for everybody.

Not everybody is going to go pick up a paintbrush after hearing me talk about this. It’s so important to rely on the Holy Spirit to teach us how we find healing, how we find wholeness, because we’re all so unique and so different.

Dannah: And so, in that area of medication I would say that, sometimes, we can actually see through functioning imaging scans that a person struggling with anxiety or depression needs some help. There might be some parts of the brain that aren’t functioning the way they’re supposed to and they need some serotonin or some other type of substance to help them get back into functioning mode. That’s when a doctor really can help. But we can’t run to that as our first solution, and we can’t let it be our only solution. Because God just doesn’t want to give us a crutch to overcome our anxiety. He wants to totally heal us. And that’s what you’re talking about, right?

Janet: Right, yes and I will say, even before all the strategies I mention, a healthy diet, a change in becoming active physically with some exercise, and getting a good night’s sleep, were all critical. 

Dannah: You’re convicting me a little bit! I did not eat well this week; I did not sleep well this week, and at the end of this week I can feel the anxiety a little bit. I felt it last night. There are really no circumstances in my life where I should feel anxious, but my body hasn’t been fueled the way that God designed me to be fueled.

So if you are struggling with anxiety, it’s not going to help a whole lot if you’re not taking care of your body to do some of these practical things, right?

Janet: From what I understand, that’s right. And for me it was true. I’m not sure of all the ins and outs of that, but after I would exercise or go for a walk or eat something that was good for me, I had accomplished something healthy for me. That feels good in my mind, it feels good in my heart, and it gives me courage to do the next thing that’s healthy for me. From what I understand, it’s also good for me chemically and inside my body. So it was a win, win, win for me!

Dannah: Well, exercise can actually give you some of those chemicals, like serotonin or dopamine, that sometimes a pill would give you. And if your brain is at a point where it’s not so critical that you need a pill, exercise is probably a better way to get that. So Tip # 1: Take care of your body! Right?

Janet: It certainly has helped me quite a bit, yes!

Dannah: What’s Tip # 2?

Janet: Tip # 2 reflects on something I said yesterday when I talked about manna and God supplying our needs for each day. I would say out loud, “God has equipped me for this moment, this day, this task.” I have just a little practical example of when that came into play, just quickly.

I was getting ready to leave for a trip and I couldn’t find my wallet. I immediately started getting anxious, because my mind immediately goes to, “What if I’d need my wallet? What if I get pulled over and I don’t have my license? What if I need to get in somewhere and I don’t have my proper ID, so they won’t let me?” What if, what if, what if? 

I’m imaging all these sources of anxiety that have not happened yet! I stopped and I said, “God has equipped me for this moment of not finding my wallet! If later on I don’t get in somewhere because I need my wallet, God will equip me for that moment, too.” It just de-escalates all the emotions. 

And then when I got in the car, of course, my wallet was in the car. But just saying out loud what I am truly equipped for brings it back to this moment instead of anxious moments of the future!

Dannah: You know, here in the studio I have a painting done by you with that saying on it. It says, “God has equipped me for this moment, this day, this task.” It has a red umbrella over it. And this is a really special painting that my husband commissioned you to make for me. 

Right after I heard your testimony and I heard that sentence, I had a sick llama. Now, you can go ahead and laugh that I had a sick llama, because most people do. They’re like, “Oh, you have a llama?” Yes, I have a herd of them, and I love them all like you love your dog or your cat. And I had one that was really sick.

He had a worm that generally gets to the spinal column and the brain, and there’s no saving them when they get this particular kind of parasite. I was anxious. I was anxious about what the end would look like, what would happen, how the other animals would react because they have their kind of chain of interacting with each other. And I was sad.

I was standing there out in the field with this llama and it starts to rain, and I’m really super-stressed. I thought, You know what? God has equipped me for this moment, this day, and this task! What do I want to do in this moment? Not tomorrow or next week when he starts to die, if he starts to die; what about this moment?

And I just thought, I’m going to go get an umbrella and I’m going to shield his head from the rain and I’m going to talk to my sweet pet. I’m sitting on a red bucket, talking to this llama, and my husband snapped a picture of that moment. 

And you know what? I was able to enjoy something really sweet with my pet because I chose to be in the moment rather than thinking about tomorrow or next week and how sad it was going to be. I’m going to remember that moment forever! That’s why Bob had this painting commissioned by you. 

It doesn’t matter if it’s the llama or if it’s a terminal illness your child is struggling with, or if it’s the brokenness of your marriage, or the death of your mom: God has equipped us for that moment, for this day, for this task.

Janet: I have found, for me, one of the main goals of what the enemy uses anxiety for is to take us out of the present moment. I think for moms this is especially powerful. If I’m so worried about what my kid’s going to be like in the future, it’s hard to look in her eyes now and be present in the moment—the right now—which is where she needs me, or he needs me, the most.

So the umbrella is a powerful image of being very present in the moment.

Dannah: Ah, that’s beautiful! So, Tip # 2 is realizing that God equipped me for this moment and living in it. What’s Tip # 3?

Janet: Tip # 3 is a very simple thing of just (this is me problem solving, I’m a great problem-solver) . . . I realize when I’m in anxiety, my emotions are running high, the emotional side of myself is just taking over, so I try to do something to engage my logical side. Sometimes I count backwards from “5” out loud. 

Sometimes it may be tapping out a rhythm of a song or maybe reciting a Scripture or a poem, just something that gets my logical brain to kind of wake up so it can kind of partner with my emotional side . . . and, ideally, they work together! It’s just been helpful to arrest my emotions and get my logic in gear so I can make good decisions in the midst of the anxiety.

Dannah: Yes, so that’s engaging your brain. Now, I’m thinking about how that can be a very left-brained activity . . . or painting is kind of a right-brained, creative activity. Let’s go back to that whole idea of you discovering a gift of painting. Had you imagined when you were younger that you would ever be a painter?

Janet: No. In fact, I have a specific memory of my middle school art teacher when I handed in a painting of a landscape. She took it and turned it upside down, like turned it around 180 degrees, so the sky was at the bottom and the water was at the top. And she said, “If you hand it in upside down, I’ll give you and ‘A.’”

I just played it cool. I said, “Okay, that’s fine, whatever! I don’t care.” But inside, I interpreted that as, “I’m not an artist. I cannot paint!” So I never did.

Dannah: It felt like criticism. 

Janet: Sure, yes. I understand now looking back what she was saying, and that’s fine. But I didn’t get that, then. Kids are great observers and terrible interpreters, sometimes, even as middle schoolers. So I didn’t paint.

And then in 2015 (I believe it was), when I was struggling with anxiety, in the depths of the battle, I had a day where I needed to do something tangibly beautiful. I’m a creative person. I make a lot of things, and sew, but I needed something easy.

So I grabbed a Crayola watercolor kit that my kids have (and that probably everyone listening has, somewhere!) and I just started putting color on paper, just putting color on paper, just because it was pretty . . . no shapes, even, just color. 

I just kept doing more and more until my husband, who’s an amazing accomplished artist, walked by one day and he said, “You can paint!” I didn’t know if I believed him or not, but I continued to paint. 

Dannah: I’m glad you did, because I remember when I heard that you were using paint to fight your anxiety and . . . no offense, Janet, but you have some scrawly handwriting. And I thought, Wow, she’s painting? I wonder what those look like?

Then I saw this picture of a gorilla; it was so realistic! It was only black-and-white, but it looked like I was seeing it in full color! It was a masterpiece and I was amazed. I think a lot of other people were, too, that you were painting serious art!

Janet: Yeah, I guess it just kind of happened that way. I loved painting animals—and I still do. But actually, the main thing I painted in the beginning was countries. So this is my fourth tip on practical things I did to overcome anxiety, and still do.

As I mentioned before, anxiety for me is a very self-absorbed state. I’m just very much inward thinking about my fears and, “What if, what if, what if?” So again, in my logical thinking I thought, “I need to [Tip # 4] get my mind onto other people.” So I began praying for other people every time anxiety would come.

And I don’t know how much of an anxiety attack is to do with the enemy and how much of it is psychological; I don’t know all of the things. But I do know when I was in the midst of an anxiety attack, if I would start praying out loud for someone’s salvation, something lifted! It was like the heaviness of it lifted, and I stood a fighting chance.

So I took that, that I learned, and I started painting all the countries in the world! I haven’t painted all the countries. I’m at I think like number thirty, maybe. I took my Operation World manual, and I would read about the country and paint the outline of it, and pray for it as I was painting it.

And in the midst of an anxiety experience, that’s what I would go do. When my husband or children would walk by they knew, “She’s painting a country; she’s in the depths; she’s dealing with anxiety.”

Dannah: And, “She’s praying!” Did they know that, too?

Janet: Yes, they did. Something about that act of getting my mind on someone else, or something else, and interceding for them broke so much of the heaviness and the oppressive feeling of anxiety. Then I was able to literally stand up and not be curled up in a ball.

Dannah: Wow, that’s powerful! Preaching to my heart, because many times when I’m anxious, it’s all about me. And if I start thinking about somebody else or praying for somebody else, it changes what I’m feeling!

That makes me think, Janet, that it would be cool to take a moment and just pray for women listening right now who are in the thick of the battle. They’re in that moment where they just don’t know what to do for this anxiety to stop, but your practical tips and God’s truth has really spoken to her.

Would you just take a moment and pray for her, that God would help her win?

Janet: Sure. Father, I thank You that we don’t have to have all the answers. I’m not sure we do have all the answers until we see You face to face. But I thank You that You help us along the way. Thank You for Your Holy Spirit, our Helper, our Nurturer who comes along and whispers to us and shouts to us and guides us in the ways of wholeness and healing.

Lord, for any woman right now who’s listening, and she’s just crying because she feels so overwhelmed by anxiety, Holy Spirit, would You just let her know You’re close, that You see her, that she’s not weak or hopeless? Let her know that Your presence is there, Your Spirit is there, and you have equipped her for this exact moment! 

Lord, I pray that You would give her something practical to do today that helps her get her head above the water. I pray that You would show her that she is not in a hopeless situation. Above everything, Father, we are grateful that there is grace and mercy and love for every day—for us, for our children, for our loved ones. You’re for us every day, and we are not alone! In Jesus’ name, amen.

Nancy: Well, amen! I love that idea of praying while you paint. What a great way to direct your thoughts away from yourself and to the Lord on behalf of others! Now, you may not be an artist, like Janet is, but you sure can pray for others! What a great way that is to overcome our anxious thoughts.

What’s the opposite of fear? There are a number of ways we could answer that question, but listen to what the apostle Paul wrote in 2 Timothy 1:7. He says, “God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.” And certainly interceding for others while you do something with your hands falls in the category of power and love and self-control.

Another opposite of fear and anxiety is trust . . . trusting God even when we can’t figure out what He’s doing and don’t feel like the circumstances in our lives make any sense at all. My husband, Robert, and I wrote a book on that topic. It’s called You Can Trust God to Write Your Story. The subtitle is Embracing the Mysteries of Providence.

Listen, things in your life and things in our world may seem chaotic and out of control, but the events of this earth, the events of our lives, are not determined by happenstance or chance. We are not helpless victims tossed about on the chaotic storms of life.

What we know for sure is that everything that comes into our lives flows out of God’s faithfulness, His character, His perfect providence! What gives our hearts assurance and rest even in chaotic times is that God is in control, He knows what He’s doing, and He’s orchestrating the events and the circumstances of this world to ultimately bring Him glory and to be for our greater good.

As Scripture reminds us—and as Robert and I remind each other day after day--—“Heaven rules!” Keeping that perspective will help us overcome anxious thoughts in those moments when we’re tempted to be fearful.

Well, I’d love to send you a copy of our book You Can Trust God to Write Your Story, along with a new downloadable discussion guide to go along with it. You can use this guide in a small group, you can do it on Zoom calls or on phone calls or on texting . . . or if you have a small group that’s actually meeting in person, as well.

The book and the downloadable guide are yours as our way of saying thank you for your gift of any size to support the ministry of Revive Our Hearts today. To make a donation, just go to ReviveOurHearts.com, or call us at 1–800–569–5959. When you call, be sure to ask us to send you a copy of the book and the study guide on Trusting God.

On Monday we’ll explore life-to-life mentoring with Donna Otto. Donna is an older woman, a longtime faithful woman of God, who has lived out this message of mentoring. If you’ve never heard her before, I can assure you, you’re going to enjoy this conversation. Please be back for Revive Our Hearts.

Pointing you away from fear and toward the love and grace of God, Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

*Offers available only during the broadcast of the podcast season.