Anxiety is a terrible thing. You feel SO alone, but you aren’t. Today, I want to unpack some truth into your life as well as things people who don’t struggle with anxiety can do to be more present. Take time today to listen and be encouraged. You can also download the letter that was read at the end of today’s message by visiting http://www.oswegochristian.com/breaking-the-grip-of-anxiety/
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WELCOME:I wouldn’t categorize myself as an anxious person, but I do have some anxiety. Like for instance, I hate calling doctors offices to set up appointments. I could be having a heart attack and I would still be like, “Jenni, will you call for me?” It’s just something that I have an irrational response to. I think we all have things like that. Today, we are going to look at the ways that we respond with anxiety and look at how God wants to give you some freedom in that experience.
OPENING ILLUSTRATION:Do you guys remember Tuesday? Remember when the news took over the tv stations and tornado’s were coming our way? In Kansas, we all know, there are two responses to a tornado… 1. You freak out, grab all your kids, dogs, pictures, and toilet paper and run to your tornado shelter. 2. Or you grab your binoculars, open your garage door and stand out in the storm looking for a funnel cloud. That’s it. Those are your two options. Well, there’s a third option, you move to Canada, but none of us in here are that chicken hearted…Which one are you? tornado shelter or binoculars? There aren’t any canadians in here are there? Phew… Ok…This week we are talking about anxiety. You might be surprised that Anxiety is something that scripture actually deals with. There’s quite a bit about it and passages that apply to it. But as I was thinking about anxiety I thought, there are really two kinds of people. There are people that are gripped by it and people that are affected by it. And of course, there’s Canadians…Now, before we go very far, we need to explain what we mean by anxiety.the reality is, all of us face anxiety at some point. -When you see your child climbing 40 feet up in a tree and your heart skips a beat, that’s a reasonable anxiety-When there are flashing lights behind you after you’ve been driving 90 mph, that’s reasonable anxiety-when your boss says, “Later today, I need to speak to you in my office alone” that’s reasonable anxiety.Anxiety is a natural, God given response to create a heightened state of alertness in dangerous or fearful situations.BThe problem is for some of us our brains have a disproportionate response to the inputs we experience. This can lead to excessive nervousness, fear, apprehension, and worry.Now here’s the deal. If you are gripped with anxiety, you get this. ILLUSTRATION:You know what it’s like to walk into a room full of strangers and feel like the walls are closing in on you, dreading every interaction. You’re thinking, “you’re lucky I’m even here Kent!”You know what it’s like to be immobilized by a deadline, feeling the weight of it hanging over you like 100lbs barbell.You know what it’s like run the events of the day over and over again, rethinking every situation to the nth degree.You are gripped by anxiety. It can feel desperate and hopeless.Here’s the problem. Others of you are like the binoculars people with the tornado – you go through life pretty care free and don’t get it.You’re not gripped by anxiety – you are affected by it.People who are affected by anxiety are the people who are trying to manage the anxiety of their loved ones and coworkers – they need extra patience and struggle trying to understand why the other person can’t just get over it.ILLUSTRATION:I am a little of both of these people. As I studied this more, I have silly anxiety over little things – like asking questions that I think are dumb, or letting someone do something knowing they may not be as good at it as me. But I’ve also realized how often I’m the person saying, “Just get over it…” “You shouldn’t be worrying about this…”What I’ve learned from researching anxiety is that very few of us are very good at dealing with it. Either as those who are gripped by it or those who are affected by it.so, what do we do?Here’s a few things I need to say before we jump into what the bible has to say about this.And I’m speaking directly to those of you who struggle with anxiety and are gripped by it.1. You are not alone. 40 million Americans struggle with this. And it is more and more prevalent in younger generations. My guess is, if you are 40 or under, you identify with this and if you are older, you may be going, “I don’t get it”?There are a lot of reasons for the increase in anxiety. But I believe one of the biggest contributing factors is lack of boredom. People can’t even sit on the toilet without using a phone – DO NOT USE OTHER PEOPLES PHONES! Younger Americans are CONSTANTLY evaluating their outer worlds and give little to no attention to their inner worlds.Some of our anxiety comes from not dealing with the inner turmoil inside of us.I also want you to know,2. It’s ok to not be ok…ILLUSTRATION:after my dad died, I went to see a Christian Counselor (suggest cc’s). One of the things he said was, “Kent, who’s putting all this pressure on you. You need to stand up and say to your congregation that it’s ok not to be ok, because Christians rarely admit that it’s ok to not be perfect” That changed everything for me. God is not displeased with you just because you’re not perfect. Believe it or not, that’s EXACTLY why He died for you.the last thing I want you to know is this3. There is hope to recover from Anxiety…Living with things like depression or anxiety it can feel like you are never going to get over it.I want you to know, if you don’t give up, God won’t either.it may take a lifetime, but God will NEVER give up on you – no matter how dark it may seem… reminds me of a passage of scripture:2 Corinthians 4:16-1716 Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.Before I speak into those of you who are gripped with anxiety, can I speak for a moment into those of us who are affected by it?As someone who has been on this side of the fence, I need to tell you – we need to repent… I have not been a man who has always led with compassion in this area, and I am so deeply sorry for that.if you are someone who is dealing with someone who is riddled by anxiety. 2 things to do to lead better with the anxious.1. Let Love Lead1 Corinthians 13:4-84 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.8 Love never fails. Rarely has my response to anxiety been about loving the other person, it has almost always been a selfish oriented response. I would never react that way to a sprained ankle or broken leg, but an emotionally mental challenge I react poorly to.2. Come up with a game planWork with the person to learn ways you can help in those moments. Maybe it’s just giving them space and you handling the thing that is producing the anxiety. But come up with a game plan and ask them to trust that in those moments, you are trying to lead with love. Now for those of you who are gripped with anxiety. I want to offer you something a little different from a normal 3 point message. There are SO many scriptures that are so good for helping with anxiety. I was thinking, how do I give that to you in a way that’s meaningful. So, I did something different. I took a bunch of these passages and I wrote them into a letter from your Abba – your daddy, God the Father…I want to close by reading this letter to you. I’m going to ask you to do something for me. I’m going to have Kris come up and play the keys and I want to ask you to close your eyes, bow your head and listen to this letter from God to you…
Dear Beloved,I know the crushing thoughts that pervade your heart. I hear the waves of anxious thinking that bombard your mind. I need you to know, I have looked you over, and I know your heart of hearts. I know all the good and all the dastardly, all the hidden things you want no one to know, and I need you to know, I’m here, not going anywhere. I’m here to lead you into a way that is everlasting – a way of hope, life, and peace (Psalm 139:23-24).Let that word, “peace,” hang in the air for a moment – it is yours. It’s what I offer. It is the peace that comes when you finally come to the end of yourself. When you finally realize your utter inability to control anything. It is a peace that comes when you recognize, in deep conversation with me, that I am utterly in control. You will know you are getting there when your mind shifts from fixating on everything you wish you were, to every good thing you’ve already been given. Listen to me dear one, I am not done with you. Your anxious mind wants to try and figure out a way through, it wants to bring control to what feels out of control. I’m inviting you to embrace your lack of control. I’m inviting you to the shelter I long to provide for you, my peace. It is a peace that will shock and amaze those around you; it surpasses and transcends what the world can understand. My peace is a guard for the deepest recesses of your heart and mind. Embrace it, even when it feels impossible to make sense (Philippians 4:6-7).I am a caregiver by nature – a nurturer of the broken, the gentle hand that restores. You are bent – I won’t break you. Your spark smolders – I will not snuff you out. I will walk alongside, at the pace you can bear, because you are what I’m after (Matthew 12:20). You worry about so many things. I need you to know I see the constant whirlpool of shame, blame, guilt, and inadequacy. Do you still not know me? Do you not know I see what no one else sees? I look past the outside of the cup to what is within. I look past the frenetic. I look past your sense of inferiority. I look past all of what occupies your mind to the part of you that, like a child, looks for an Abba, a Daddy. I see your heart, and I like what I see (1 Samuel 16:7).There are a few things I need you to know. The waters will rise, yet I am still with you. You may feel as though the raging river will sweep you away, but I will not allow it to take you. You may walk through red hot coals in this life – I will keep you from being burned. You will not be set afire. I am with you (Isaiah 43:3).Don’t you know my name? I’m the “Warrior Hearted One.” I have a fierce love for those I love. I know fighting, and I am on your side. Let me take up your cause, you can relax in me. I am your salvation. Can I tell you a deep secret? One I wrote long ago? Lean in close, let me whisper my truth to your deepest longing. “I take great delight in you.” I see you, and I delight in YOU. I know, the enemy has filled your mind with lies and half-truths, but I know nothing of them because I did not create them. They are a horrible fiction that has hidden my truth. You are my treasure, my love. My child, I long to sing over you in joy! (Zephaniah 3:17)I know it feels like there are so many things to fix, so many things to worry about, so many things that if you don’t engage them will fall off the face of this earth. This is not my truth. My truth is that I can take care of it. For fun I spend my days dressing the flowers, feeding the birds, capping the mountains with white, and stirring the oceans. How much more do you think you are worth to me? Stop, don’t answer that. I already have. You are worth everything, my very life – put on the line to bring you back into my presence (Matthew 6:25-34, John 3:16), and, get this, I did all that while you were at your absolute worst (Romans 5:8). So, what makes you think I can’t handle what you feel you are now?Let me close with this. Hard days are in front of you – unimaginable pain, inscrutable distress. Don’t lose heart, my dear one. I am the overcomer. I’ve overcome the stronghold of sin. I’ve overcome your dead heart and shocked it back to life. I’ve overcome the greatest enemy of all: death (John 16:33, 1 Corinthians 15:55-57). So, when I say this, believe it. I have a special book, a journal of sorts. In it I record the names of those who are mine. It is my “family reunion” list, and dear one, you are on it. I will have special compassion on you because you are my special child whom I love dearly. Rest in that (Malachi 3:16-17).With deep love,Your Abba (Daddy)
I want to give this letter to you as a gift to you in order to give you a practical way to slow down when you are in the midst of an anxious moment. Maybe you are going into an environment that always seems to trigger your anxiety, take 5 minutes and read this letter before. Keep it in your car or your wallet or somewhere you can read it each day. If you feel anxiety coming on, go back to the letter and read it, let it grab your heart and allow God to bring healing and His peace.