At the time, I never really considered myself a person that struggled with fear and anxiety. I had been happily attending my non-denominational church for years. While I had been feeling the pull of the Catholic Church for some time, I always figured it would be something I would approach later in life. In my mind, if I could put it off, it wouldn’t mess everything up that I currently held dear. Little did I know just how much God wanted to shuffle up the complacency I had let settle into my heart. With many tears and even more fervent prayers, I found myself in RCIA. It didn’t take long.
As I ran home to Mother Church (sometimes kicking and screaming along the road), things began to shift. Dear relationships began to fade, opinions began to creep in, and disappointment battered me from many angles. I was following God’s will, I knew that with every bit of me. But things began to get very, very difficult.
Enter Fear + Anxiety
This is when I distinctly remember fear and anxiety entering into my life in a specific way. Looking back, I can actually identify patterns of behavior in my childhood that demonstrated a young person dealing with anxiety, but these had tempered over the years. They were raging full force now, and I knew I needed help.
It is incredibly important to note that I sought the aid of an excellent counselor at this time. I truly needed to process some traumatic events that unfolded during that period of my life with the help of a professional. I highly encourage you to seek the help of a counselor if you need one. There is no shame in it, only much freedom waiting on the other side.
Beyond this incredibly helpful professional counseling relationship, I began to employ a spiritual discipline that changed my life. Besides the Sacraments and prayer, this practice was the most efficacious habit I formed to help curb my anxiety during what I deemed my own “Dark Ages”. It is so simple, but so very powerful.
Engaging in the Battle
It became very clear that there was a deep, deep battle raging in my mind. Much of my fear and anxiety were stemming from frightful thought-patterns that had cemented themselves into my daily existence. They were so subtle, so alluring in a way, that I would never have noticed them.
But it was time. Time to fight.
I began to think about my anxious thoughts.
Examining My Anxious Thoughts
Being intentional about your thought pattern may not be a new concept for you. But at the time, this was something I desperately needed to learn.
I began to identify the spaces in my life where my thoughts began to swirl. Typically these were spots I was alone: in the shower, getting ready for the day, and driving in my car.
Once I began to identify these spaces, and pay attention to what small voices were echoing around in my head, I realized I was consistently speaking lies about myself, my worth, and my dignity.
Say It Out Loud
In order to make these statements even more obvious, I forced myself to say them out loud. Something about taking the muted, reverberating thoughts out of your head, and forcing them into reality creates a stark realization.
“So many friends are so upset with me. Obviously I’m not worthy of their love.”
“My experience of loneliness just shows how I drive people away. I’m not able to have true, lasting relationships. Maybe I’m too messed up.”
“At the end of the day, no one will stand by you. You need to learn to never let anyone in close. They will only hurt you.”
What ridiculous statements! Lies literally from the pit of hell. But when they hide in the confines of your mind, slip in on the edge, swirl down so deep before you catch them and expose them, you start to internalize them. You start to believe them.
So what did I do? What can we do? Once we expose these lies, once we speak them out and identify them for what they are, how do we fight?
The Armor of God
Ephesians 6 details for us the armor of God. It teaches us how we engage with those forces seeking to destroy us. Take in a key point, however. In the powerful description St. Paul gives us of this armor, only one tool is offensive. “The sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” The word of God! Scripture became my offensive tool. It was how I fought back.
There was one verse specifically that became my anthem for radically changing the pattern of my anxious thoughts. 2 Corinthians 10:5 states, “We destroy arguments and every proud obstacle to the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ”.
We reject those things that would stand in the way of us knowing truth, and we make our thoughts submit to what Jesus would say about us. We make them obedient to Christ. It is a powerful exercise in self-discipline to curb anxiety, and replace lies with truth.
The Sword of the Spirit
Every time I would hear myself state a lie regarding any aspect of my life, I would stop. I would state this verse out loud (I encourage you to memorize it!). And I would replace that lie with God’s truth.
- Thought swirling: “That relationship has died. They obviously reject and hate me. I remember how they said those words to me and how much I felt abandoned. Look how abandoned I still am. How abandoned I will always be.”
- Stop and recite: “We destroy arguments and every proud obstacle to the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ”.
- Replacing lies with truth: “Jesus, you gave Your life to reach me, to be close to me. You will never reject me or leave me. You call me Your own. Those memories of abandonment no longer have the power to hurt me because I am choosing to live in forgiveness.”
So simple, right? Picture that process happening twenty times a day, sometimes more. That is how twisted my mental space had become as I had let Satan have free-reign inside of it. I had become a slave to my thoughts, thinking that they controlled me. That they got to hold any space they wanted in my brain. No more! I was thinking about my thoughts, and by taking control, I was only giving space to those thoughts that held up to God’s truth.
Use This Tool!
I simply cannot communicate how much this changed my life. This highly practical tool gave me a method to fight back, and I submit it to you if you ever find yourself a slave to lies you may have never even noticed. Jesus wants more for you. He wants you to be free. Pick up the sword of the Spirit, that is, the Word of God, and fight back.
Do you struggle with anxiety? How do you fight back? Have you ever thought about your anxious thoughts? Have you submitted them to Jesus in order to hear what He would tell you about them?Thinking About My Anxious Thoughts #BISblog // Click To Tweet
Sarah Scarbrough is a wife, mother of three, and registered nurse. A convert to the Church, she found her way home with the help of the early church fathers, Saint Teresa of Avila, Chesterton, and Dorothy Day. She’s committed to transparency and truth in living: we’re all messes, striving for Heaven together.