One of the great joys of running this blog is receiving letters to the editor. Not surprisingly, the vast majority of those letters this week concerned Adam Ford’s guest article Some Things You Should Know About Christians Who Struggle With Anxiety. I have chosen to print only letters related to that subject. I hope you find them both interesting and thought-provoking.
I have a 17 year old daughter who also has Generalised and Social Anxiety disorders. I found this article a remarkable inside view to living with anxiety and I really value that insight. The one thing I would have appreciated Adam’s perspective on is the use of medication to treat anxiety (perhaps this would be a great follow up article). I think there is a huge misconception amongst Christians that using medicine to treat disorders such as anxiety or depression is a cop-out. Many think that Christians should be leaning on God and faith to overcome these disorders. This misconception does not acknowledge the severity of living with anxiety. We don’t think twice about taking medicine for diabetes or asthma, so why is there still a resistance to treating anxiety and depression medically?
—Joan C, Johannesburg, South Africa
The topic of anxiety, panic attacks, etc is a persistent one and also controversial. Our thoughts are quite opposite to the views expressed in the article. True physiological problems are able to be diagnosed by laboratory tests. There are no blood tests, urinalysis, or internal scope which are routinely used to diagnose the ailments mentioned in the article. Rather a set of observable behaviors and attitudes are used to determine them. Sadly, these diagnostic lists are very subjective and the behaviors are easily faked by clever individuals. We have known of this happening.
Various family members & friends have experienced anxiety, depression, panic attacks or such episodes. Those who are Christians acknowledged that at the outset for them it truly was a spiritual matter. Their desire to be in control of their situations over-rode their desire to depend on God’s best and His provision. When medication was prescribed, there was a change in actions, but at times the behavior changed at will, too. It was disturbing to read a Christian site, and for another to confirm by sharing the article to a wider audience, that lack of trust in God and His provision for His people is not a spiritual matter. From the beginning God declared it to be so and there is nothing to indicate He has changed His mind.
Thank you for taking the time to read this letter. God bless you
—Ruth M, Gorham, ME
Tim, I am thankful for your blog and the wealth of biblical wisdom it provides. I had a heart to respond and share my journey with anxiety. I hope it brings encouragement. Thank you Adam for bravely sharing your story about your struggles with Anxiety. Unlike you, I have always been an introvert and had struggled with anxiety since childhood. Anxiety has run all through my family on both sides for generations. I do not normally write a reply to a blog, but as I read your story, my heart ached for you. I could not resist to share my story of God’s deliverance from a period of time when my fear became overwhelming, just as you described. My desire is to bring you hope and encouragement that there is freedom from this prison of fear.
As I share my experience, let me start by saying that I hope that any part of my story does not sound as though I am an expert or that I have all the answers, I don’t. I only boast in Jesus Christ who graciously set me free from this bondage. Like most people, as you mentioned, I kept this anxiety to myself. I was the “good” girl, the “strong” Christian, a Pharisee at heart. I falsely believed that I had to hold everything and everyone all together, including myself. I grew up in an alcoholic, dysfunctional home. At some point in my early childhood, a lie was planted deep into my heart. After doing something wrong, my father whom I greatly cherished, told me that I would be sent to an orphanage if I continued to be bad. I was also taught that God kept a record of wrongs and to be careful not to get 3 black X’s in the sky. This created a very fear based relationship with my earthly father and God my Father.
After receiving Christ as my Savior as a teenager, I still struggled with fear and rejection. After being baptized as a young adult, I was chosen to share my testimony which included struggling with social anxiety. But it was not until many years later, with two teens of my own, when severe trials and suffering hit our family. It was then that I experienced my first panic attack. I was not only being attacked by panic, but all my hopes and dreams for the Christian family I envisioned, was being destroyed. It was a huge dark battle. I don’t think I shared my panic attacks with anyone. My husband knew I was struggling, yet even with him, I did not fully disclose the severity. Like you described, your whole world gets turned upside down. Simple pleasures such as driving, shopping, eating (which includes fear in swallowing and choking), taking a bath, walking in a crowd of people, traveling to new places, even breathing, all became an overwhelming scary burden.
Looking back, I do believe that a big part of this trial was to prove my faith genuine and to lead me to full assurance in Christ. (1 Peter1:6-7) To root out the lies of my heart and bring true healing and freedom. During that time of fear, I could not sense God’s presence, but I do believe now, that He was closer than I ever realized. I believe the Spirit was bringing me out of my bondage to fear and leading me to receive the Spirit of Adoption where I now cry “Abba Father” (Romans 8:15).
Today I have confidence knowing that God first loved me. I no longer I am trying to earn his favor(slavery), live in fear of being sent to an orphanage (rejection), or that He will disown me by getting three black X’s in the sky (performance). The love of Christ has cast out my bondage to fear (1 John 4:17-19).
During my battle, I desperately clung to God’s Word and cried out in prayer for God’s mercy. I also read some books such as Anxious for Nothing by John Mac Arthur and Overcoming Fear, Worry, and Anxiety by Elyse Fitzpatrick that were great resources to help me renew my wrong thinking. I think most of my fear was initiated in my mind by wrong thinking and self focus. By grace, I learned to take every wrong thought captive and focus on God’s attributes, meditate on His Truth, and behold the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I gradually was set free and have not had a panic attack for a long time now.
More recently, I have grown to love Dr. Martin Lloyd Jones. His sermon on “A Spirit of Bondage” (John 3:8) and “Freedom from Fear” (Romans 8:15) now help me to better understand the many different aspects of fear in the believer as well as the unbeliever. MLJ says that godly men such as Augustine, Whitfield, and Luther struggled with this very thing. How encouraging! Once set free, look at the impact they have had on so many for the Kingdom of God. I believe the same for you.
(Just a sidenote…Since that dark time, God has been restoring our broken family. shortly before my father’s passing he told me that he became born again, my mother rededicated her life to the Lord, my daughter who was missing for weeks was blessed with a son (our first grand baby). God is so gracious, loving, and merciful. May He continue to write our story for His glory.)
—Barbara P, Orange, CA
I just wanted to thank you for posting this article, but most especially to Adam for having the courage to write it. My wife has been struggling with debilitating anxiety for several years now. We don’t understand it, why it is happening, nor how to help others understand. Reading Adam’s words was like watching my wife and our life together. Most days I donst get it, but Adam has given her words she has not been able to express to me and so many others around us. I am humbled as a result. Sincerest thanks from the bottoms of our hearts.
—Sean F, Reading, PA
Thank you for your openness. I do understand that the purpose of writing this piece was to give people a window into anxiety disorder. It was helpful for that. But it did seem to give the impression that it was completely physiological and therefore not something God was able to change. First of all, God can change the physiological. And also, a disorder like this involves the spiritual and emotional, the whole person. God is at work in all of these areas. Are you able to write a follow up article describing how the gospel has worked in your life to change you? How you have been able to overcome aspects of this disorder to get outside yourself, and serve others?
—Jeremy P, Middleboro, MA
I appreciate the author’s perspective, his sense of humor, honesty, affirmation of the power of the gospel within this situation. Nonetheless, the story also seemed to beg the question: why the change? what happened to begin this anxiety disorder?
—Steven I, Three Hills, AB