“I can’t do this anymore.”
Oh, the many, many times I’ve uttered these words…
- screaming them over my steering wheel, veins popping out of my neck, when an innocent (kind of) driver is the absolute last straw and my rage erupts unchecked
- hissing them into the darkness when a fussy baby wakes for the fourth time this hour and I lose my cool and come dangerously close to losing my salvation
- throwing them like barbs into my husband’s face as I stalk cooly from the room, totally withdrawn and unwilling to bend
- sobbing them as I lay in a heap on the floor, the weight of fear and panic pulling me to the my knees until I can’t stand, can’t move, can’t breath, can only lay in my horror and wonder if I’ll ever be okay again
“I can’t do this anymore.”
There was a time – a horrible time – in my life that I was speaking these words nearly every day. It had become my mantra, my motto, my declaration of total defeat. Depression and anxiety were working me over and I was to a breaking point.
I’ve known and walked with Jesus my entire life. While I haven’t always done what I’ve known He wants me to or been the person I know He created me to be, He has never, ever abandoned me. He’s been my constant companion, my always-there friend.
Then why, also, has anxiety always been there, nipping at my heels and scraping at my defenses and eroding my peace and joy? There have been season of great victory in my life, and also seasons of great defeat. But no low season compares to that one I experienced a few years ago, when I realized that my entire heart and mind could be boiled down to one oft-repeated phrase:
“I can’t do this anymore.”
I was right, of course. Not that I couldn’t do life anymore; even in the darkness, I know better, and I know that I can do anything through Jesus, no matter how bad it hurts or how hard it is.
But there came a day that I realized that I really couldn’t do “it” anymore – I couldn’t keep living in this anxiety.
My journey to overcome anxiety and depression did not come to an end that day, and I wouldn’t be a very good friend if I didn’t let you know, here and now, that yours won’t end today either. This is a battle we fight over time, with an army and a plan and all kinds of weapons, from prayer to Bible study, from therapy to church involvement, from (carefully prescribed) medication to (Biblically-based) meditation. It is a journey of a lifetime, because it is a journey for a lifetime.
But on that terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad day, God gave me a gift, a glimmer, a glimpse of hope that gave me the strength to take a step, and then another step, and then more steps out of the chasm of anxiety and into the garden of peace.
That day, God (via my wonderful, kind, wise, shockingly sexy husband) led me to a passage in the Bible; just two short paragraphs that the apostle Paul wrote to the church in Philippi, that contained *THE key* to overcoming anxiety.
Philippians 4:6-9 NIV:
Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.
I’d read this passage before, of course. Like any good Christian, which I was. Like any good pastor, which I also was, and still am. Yes, even my ministry credentials and respectable job title hadn’t shielded me from anxiety’s relentless attacks.
But that day, God, through the Holy Spirit, allowed me to really understand this passage for the very first time.
The first paragraph is the instructions. The meat. The way we overcome anxiety for good:
- Rejoice, no matter what
- Be gentle, no matter what
- Remember God is near, no matter what
- Don’t be anxious, no matter what
- Pray, no matter what
- Be thankful, no matter what
And perhaps that paragraph would be enough, for really holy people. But I aren’t one of those; I’m just a broken girl serving an unbreakable God, who loves me enough to spell it out for me even plainer than plain.
Hence, the second paragraph: the HOW of it all. How do we rejoice? How do we be thankful? How do we pray? How do we “not be anxious”???
We think about what is true, and noble, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable, and excellent, and praiseworthy. Not just good stuff. Not even just God stuff. God tells us to get really, really specific, and look around for the really, really good stuff.
And then He goes on to tell us to DO something:
- what we’ve learned
- what we’ve received
- what we’ve heard
This was Paul speaking to the Philippian church, but it is surely also God speaking to us. When anxiety strikes, we win the battle by thinking on Godly things AND by doing Godly things.
Enter “The Anxiety Reset”.
This was the way I journaled that day. And the next day. And the many, many days after that. Sometimes twice a day.
Let’s get something straight: I don’t believe in magic. This verse isn’t an incantation, and using the worksheet doesn’t “unlock” some mystical sense of well-being.
But God IS faithful to His word, and He’s clear: when we think on the right things, we experience peace. And not just peace on its own; the God of peace is WITH us.
Using this method has given me (and others! and you!) a method to intentionally think about the things God tells us to. And I can’t wait to hear what happens when you give it a try.
Using the Worksheet
I highly recommend you print this page out; maybe even several, so you don’t have to run to the printer every time you feel anxiety coming on (paper jams do not help the situation).
Grab a pen and sit down with the sheet. Review the passage, and then start writing. Your answers don’t have to be uber-holy, and they don’t have to be “right”, as in correct. Nobody is grading you, and God didn’t give you this assignment because He wanted to watch you squirm; it’s for your good!
Instead, just write down things that honestly fit in each box. Some of my own examples include:
- true: I am safe, my kids are safe, my family is safe
- noble: caring for my kids is noble, even when it feels thankless and frustrating
- right: I chose to respect my husband instead of nag him today; I did the right thing
- pure: my baby’s one-tooth grin is pure joy
- lovely: my blue eyes and freckles
- admirable: the way my friend has chosen to forgive her husband for his affair
- excellent: my new favorite worship song was written and recorded with excellence in mind, and it show
- praiseworthy: God has kept me safe through everything I’ve experienced today
- what I’ve learned from God: He is The God Who Sees Me (Genesis 16:13)
- what I’ve received from God: He gave me a voice to sing and lead people in worship
- what I’ve heard from God: He called me to marry my husband, and I know I can trust God with my heart
You can see that there’s no rules about format, tense, complete sentences, anything. In fact, it doesn’t all need to be specifically about God, not because He’s not worthy, but because He is the maker of all good things (James 1:17). What better way to remember His goodness than to have eyes to see all the wonderful things around us.
The beauty here is found in our focus. We aren’t changing the situation; we are finding God’s hand in the current situation. Which of course, was His will all along.
So give it a go. Maybe even give it a try right now, anxiety or not. Nothing like a little proactive panic-proofing! (And don’t forget to let me know how it goes!)
I’m rooting for you,
Don’t have the worksheet? You can download it for FREE here!