Archives For Anxiety

A Rough Time

June 11, 2013

We all go through difficult times. Going through them “well” is the challenge. Scripture has much to say about how we are to respond to the difficulties and trials of this life. Whether our difficulty is physical, spiritual, relational, occupational, or material/financial in nature, God wants us to turn to Him. But how exactly should we come to Him? The apostle Peter gives us a couple of guidelines for turning to God in the midst of life’s difficulties ().

The first thing that Peter tells us to do is to humble ourselves. The reason for humbling ourselves is found in the preceding verse where we are told that “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble”. To humble ourselves means to see ourselves correctly in comparison to God. We are the creature, and He is the creator. We have all the questions, and He has all of the answers. In order to receive the grace that God makes available to me in times of difficulty, I have to acknowledge my need for it and acknowledge that He is the ultimate source/solution of my help.

What I am humbling myself under is God’s kind and loving providence. tells us of our great value in God’s sight. Not one sparrow (of minimal worth) dies out of God’s will, and we are worth significantly more. In fact, we are worth so much to God that he has numbered the hairs on our heads (and I assume continues to keep an accurate count of them over our lifespan). The trial or difficulty you are experiencing comes from “God’s mighty hand” (v.6). He is in complete control of all that is happening to you.

You are also told in v.7 that you can “cast all your anxiety on Him because he cares for you.” God loves you deeply. He takes great delight in you (). If God loves and cares for me, and he has brought/allowed this trial in my life, then I can know for sure that He is working in me and through me to get through it. It is the truth of knowing that a God who loves me beyond what I can imagine, who is working all things for my good (), and who is in control of all my circumstances, that allows me to humble myself before him and to cast my anxieties onto him.

While these guidelines are crucial for going through difficult times, they tell only part of the story. We find in numerous other places in Scripture (; ; ) that God intends for us to go through difficult times in community. The stress and, at times, embarrassment of trials lead us to isolate. During such times we really need the support and encouragement of others. “Humbling ourselves” enough to allow others to care for us and to speak into our lives is part of God’s plan to sustain and comfort us.

As you struggle with difficulties in your relationships, your health, your job, or your material world, let the truth of these verses be an encouragement to you. I pray they will give you the strength to do what God calls you to do in these circumstances. And in due time, he will lift you up.

Dr. Barbian

Dr. Tom Barbian, LPC

Executive Director View More Posts »
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Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. (ESV)

28 And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. 29 Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. 30 But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. 31 Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows. (ESV)

17 The Lord your God is in your midst,
a mighty one who will save;
he will rejoice over you with gladness;
he will quiet you by his love;
he will exult over you with loud singing. (ESV)

28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. (ESV)

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer. Our hope for you is unshaken, for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort.

For we do not want you to be ignorant, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. 10 He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again. 11 You also must help us by prayer, so that many will give thanks on our behalf for the blessing granted us through the prayers of many. (ESV)

13 Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise. 14 Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. 15 And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. 16 Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. (ESV)

Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. (ESV)

In my last article, “Anxiety: A Sign of the Times”, I discussed the difference between anxiety, fear, and worry. I also pointed out how anxiety can serve an adaptive function. Like pain, anxiety can alert us to danger and motivate us to take corrective action. When fear and anxiety function as God intended them to, they serve us well. When this is not the case, fear and anxiety can become pathological and lead to impairment in one’s life. Here I plan to look at how anxiety becomes disordered.

Anxiety is that “subjectively unpleasant feeling” that accompanies fear. Fear is said to be rational when it is related to a legitimate danger or threat. When the threat is imagined or exaggerated, the fear is considered to be irrational. So, pathological anxiety is anxiety that is greatly disproportionate to the threat and or continues even though the threat is gone. Allow me to illustrate with a couple of examples.

In Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) an individual was exposed to a danger that involved the threat of loss of life or serious injury. Once the person is removed from the danger and is safe, he continues to have recollections of the danger (flashbacks, nightmares, intrusive memories). These recollections produce a quite similar anxiety reaction to when the original threat was present. Treatment involves a cognitive processing of the traumatic memories and management of the intense anxiety.

Panic Disorder is another problem where one experiences intense anxiety that is out of proportion to any legitimate threat. It involves a malfunctioning of one’s “flight or fight mechanism.” The flight or fight mechanism exists in our brain to signal our body to take action when we encounter a threat. This action occurs in our central nervous system and is experienced as anxiety. The problem is that this mechanism doesn’t know the difference between real and imagined or exaggerated danger. Hence one is having an intense physiological and anxiety reaction that seems beyond his control. Treatment involves a de-conditioning process accompanied by anxiety management techniques and cognitive restructuring (changes in one’s thinking).

The above are just two of about ten different anxiety disorders that one could experience. All of them involve anxiety that is disproportionate to any threat. Anxiety disorders can come upon a person suddenly, with or without apparent cause. Other times, they build slowly over time and are the result of incorrect learning and negative experiences. Some individuals seem to have inherited a personality type that is generally more reactive and more prone to the development of an anxiety disorder. Also some individuals grow up in an environment that is unstable, dysfunctional, or chaotic which results in frequent threatening situations and the triggering of the flight or flight mechanism.

Regardless of the reasons one might develop excessive anxiety or an anxiety disorder, God is remarkable in how He works to redeem us. He has allowed us to develop certain therapy techniques along with some helpful medications that are very effective in helping those with anxiety disorders. Additionally, His word gives us truth to focus on when our thinking is in disarray. More importantly, the Holy Spirit is actively working to redeem what the sin in this world has defiled. If you or someone you know is suffering from anxiety, pursue help so that your life may be what God intended.

Dr. Barbian

Dr. Tom Barbian, LPC

Executive Director View More Posts »
More about Dr. Barbian »

One estimate is that over 35 million Americans suffer from an anxiety disorder. Some speculate that this is because we live in such stressful times; that many of us live in a constant state of being overwhelmed. Regardless of the causes, anxiety is a common problem that brings people to the counseling center.

It might be helpful to look at what anxiety is and what it is not. To being with, it is important to distinguish between several words that are often used interchangeably. Fear, worry, and anxiety are not the same thing. It will also be helpful to understand what is normal and when fear and anxiety become pathological.

Let us begin with fear. Fear is a cognitive process, while anxiety is an emotional one. Fear can be defined as “the cognitive appraisal of danger.” There exist in us certain fears that are inhibitors of behavior that deter us from dangerous activity. One such fear/inhibitor is called the “visual cliff reflex.” This response which, is seen children and often persists into adulthood, consists of physiological responses (dizziness and immobility) as one approaches the edge of a cliff. These God-given fears of actual danger serve to protect us.

Anxiety is the emotional experience that accompanies fear. It has been defined as “a subjectively unpleasant emotional state.” The emotion of anxiety is accompanied by physiological sensations such as rapid heartbeat, shortness of breath, sweating, muscle contractions, dizziness, and nausea among others. We experience anxiety on a range of levels from mild to severe and incapacitating. Anxiety can come upon us suddenly in response to an immediate threat, or it can build over time as we progressively encounter a threat.

Anxiety can be likened to pain. We experience an intense unpleasant emotion (anxiety) in response to a present danger and are hence motivated to take steps to reduce the danger and to prevent its reoccurrence. Anxiety (like pain) has a protective function as it can warn us to stop or take corrective action. It is possible to experience anxiety that is in response to a misperception or exaggerated danger. When this occurs, the anxiety becomes counterproductive and in worse cases pathological (more on this in a subsequent article).

I want to conclude by addressing the concept of worry. Worry (like fear) is a cognitive process. When we worry, we are involved in a thought process where we are excessively engaged in problem solving. Worry is future oriented. We are in some manner trying to understand, figure out, or know what will happen. Often in worry, we are trying to know something that cannot be known at the present time. Worry, a cognitive process, is accompanied by the emotion of anxiety. It is important to differentiate between the two. To stop feeling the anxiety when we are engaged in the worry thought process doesn’t work. We must stop the worry first (more on that later) for the anxiety to subside. The scripture passages that tell us “to be anxious for nothing” are in fact addressing worry.

In subsequent articles I will look at how anxiety becomes disordered and what can be done about worry.

Dr. Barbian

Dr. Tom Barbian, LPC

Executive Director View More Posts »
More about Dr. Barbian »