For years I’ve lived with a level of anxiety in my life and, for the most part, I would say I was unaware of its presence. After you’ve had something present in your life for a while, you tend to become blind to its effects. I suppose it’s because we just get used to things.
The Lord began breathing on this area of my life about 2 years ago and gave my wife and I a fire to see it broken off. It’s been a hard journey, to be honest, consisting of tears of frustration and long, difficult conversations on the couch. It has been, however, completely worth it. No one is meant to live with anxiety.
This journey first started with the realization that anxiety was present in my life. It had been a voice I listened to for years and had become so familiar with it that I had accepted it. But all of the damage was about to be undone. With the patience of my wife and the goodness of the Lord on my side (not to mention a few counseling sessions), I began to fight to gain back my peace. All of the momentum I gained over the previous 24 or so months was pushing me toward a single moment. The moment I broke up with anxiety.
It was a simple moment, really, perhaps even a bit odd. A few weeks ago, I was driving my car and felt prompted to call it all off so I did. I spoke directly to my anxiety and said, “I don’t need you. I’ve listened to you for a long time but I can’t anymore. I’ve made you a friend but you’ve never helped me. You’ve never made any aspect of my life better and I can’t live with you any more. As of this moment, I’m ending our friendship. You no longer have access to my mind or my heart and I will never listen to you again.”
There was no clap of thunder or earthquake to accompany this moment. Like I said, it was simple but I felt something shift and the first rays of sunlight started spilling into my heart. I felt joy and excitement where only hopelessness and fear had been.
Sometimes, I believe we become so used to a struggle that we actually become familiar and comfortable with it. We look for it. We expect it to show up. Whether it’s anxiety, shame, rejection or any other struggle, when this level of familiarity happens, we’ve made friends with something very dangerous and disloyal. It will never help us and will never add to our lives. Ending our friendship and dependence on it is vital.
Should you decide to end a relationship like this, fantastic! It might seem silly but there is power behind it.
If the issues don’t fade immediately, it’s okay. Don’t freak out. There is nothing wrong with you and this is perfectly normal for two reasons.
Here’s the first reason. Our brains are fascinating. Science has shown that pathways are actually created by recurring thought patterns and trauma. This is why whenever you encounter a “trigger” you can find yourself reacting before you’ve even processed what’s happening. The part of your brain than processes logic actually gets bypassed by these pathways meaning that you react or feel an emotion before you’ve had a chance to assess the situation. You hear a certain word or phrase and you react. You get a text message from your boss and you immediately remember the time you missed that meeting and start feeling anxious before you even check to see what the text says.
So what does all of this mean to you? If you’ve dealt with something like anxiety for a while, your brain will naturally fire off the part of your brain that produces anxiety because it’s always done that. In essence, it’s become a habit of your brain. But the amazing thing about our minds is that they can be retrained to form new pathways which will break the association that has been made (you know, the whole “be made new by the renewing of your mind” thing). This can be accomplished by reminding yourself of the truth of the situation. That anxiety is a liar and that the Lord has promised to be your help in all situations. And you do this as many times as it takes. If it takes 1000 times every day, that’s totally fine. It will change. Your inheritance as a child of God is peace and a sound mind.
The second reason is that your mind is the most crucial battleground in all creation and the enemy wants to own it. For thousands of years he has preyed on minds—weaving just enough truth into his lies to keep people bound up by believing that things will never change or that they deserve to be punished. He tries to whisper those lies to all of us but they will only have power in our lives if we listen to them.
So many of us go through life without realizing that we live with these lies screaming in our ears.
“You’re not good enough to do this.”
“This is never going to change and you’ll just have to live with this for the rest of your life.”
“You’re going to be just like the person who hurt you. See? You’ve hurt people already.”
Listening to lies like these will keep us living in the realm of anxiety because we will feel trapped and insufficient to break free.
My friend Jason says that you can’t be anxious and trust God at the same time and this is such a true statement! If you fully trust in God, then you’ll remember His promises over your life. These promises are designed to give you hope and will keep your head above water no matter the ferocity of the storm.
Hope is the biggest weapon against the enemy because it stands in direct opposition of his oldest trick: discouragement. You can’t have hope and be discouraged at the same time. They are opposites and cannot co-exist. Hope is the seed of breakthrough. If you have hope then victory is only a matter of time. If you don’t have hope, get some!
I can’t tell you what breaking a friendship like this will look like or feel like for you. You may feel something drastic, you may not feel anything at all. Not having an emotional response is not an indicator that nothing actually happened so don’t get tripped up by that. Often, we don’t live in our breakthrough because it didn’t look or feel the same way it did for someone else. If we don’t think we have breakthrough, we probably won’t live like we do.
Since I broke up with anxiety, I’ve had to remind it several times that our friendship was over. And, if it continues to try sneaking back into my life, I’ll just keep sending it away. Eventually it will get tired of not getting results and will just stop showing up. If I believed these persistent, annoying little knocks on the door of my mind were indicative of my friendship being still active, then I’d let it back in and stay under it’s influence.
Your mind is a battlefield. Love and fear both battle to be the victor and it’s up to you to decide which one will win out. Which voice will you listen to? The voice that builds you up or the one that tears you down? The one that promises life and freedom or the voice that tells you that you’re doomed to a life of captivity? The voice you listen to is the voice you empower and the voice you will serve.
God is about to change everything for you. Know how I know? Because that’s who He is. He is always turning night into day and winter into spring. He is a God of promise and redemption. Whatever you’re dealing with right now, He is bringing the answer. Not only that, but once you have victory, He’s going to give you authority over the problem you’ve struggled with. He’s going to make you a threat to the enemy and is going to use you to break people out of the same bondage you were in. How’s that for revenge?
Now, here’s your first assignment: believe that instead of the voice that tells you it won’t work out for you. You’re not friends with him anymore anyway.