Overcoming Fear and Anxiety

Chris Cole

‘Anxiety in a man’s heart weighs it down, but a good word makes it glad,’ Proverbs12:25.

Being anxious or fearful are common emotions that all of us face and deal with, especially when we go into recovery from addictions. Perhaps you have been medicating the anxiety experienced in relationships for many years and now you are for the first time beginning to deal with it in a healthy way. The scripture affirms that anxiety can really weigh a man’s heart down. It can be such a burden that we will do anything to find relief. In this article I will focus on some strategies to help you overcome the struggles with anxiety and fear.

I think that one central fear we face is the unknown. Not knowing what will happen can really drive a person to control their environment and everyone in it. As a result, we try to control so much that is out of our control. We anxiously try to control outcomes, as well as the circumstances. We try to control bad things from happening and people from getting upset with us. I believe that is why we falsely think that our addictions can make life work. We find relief from the anxiety with something that we can control. Take away that and the anxiety comes back. Then we get desperate for something else to take away the anxiety that we can control. Perhaps you struggle with cross addictions, where you take away one addiction (sex) and increase another (smoking).

Learning to deal with anxiety in a healthy way is an essential component to your recovery. The bible teaches that we must renew our mind with the truth, for the truth sets us free.

One strategy is to learn how to recognize anxious thoughts. Beware of: all or nothing thinking; over-generalization, dwelling on the negative, magnification and minimization, and ‘should’ statements. Learn to speak the truth to yourself and to calm yourself down by utilizing positive and truthful self talk.

In Philippians 4, Paul wrote:
‘(6) Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. (7) And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (8) Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. (9) The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you. ‘

I want to highlight the importance of dwelling on the things of verse 8. Verse nine says we need to practice them. You can train yourself to respond (think) in a new way. I also recognize that much anxiety comes as you project yourself in the future. Some people use the acronym FEAR as Future Events Appear Real. I cannot control the future, or how someone may respond or react, but I can control me and what I think in the here and now. So stay in the present. Also remember, take one step at a time. Essential here is learning to give up control over what I can’t control anyway, like what people think of me or how they may react.

If your anxiety is overwhelming, seek the help of a professional Christian counselor. Sometimes medication may be necessary to help you manage while you change the way you think. A counselor can help you process your fear and anxiety and help you develop new ways of handling life. He or she can help you learn to take risks and grow, and depend on God in new way. Peter (1 Peter 5:7) said we are to ‘cast all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.’

So in summary, learn to accept anxiety, understand it in context, and learn to identify the anxiety producing thoughts and replace them with the truth. I like the serenity prayer that Reinhold Niebuhr wrote because it reminds me that I need to ‘accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and to have the wisdom to know the difference.’

Do you need some help with you fear or anxiety? Please join us at our next New Life Weekend.

The Flood: Sexuality Outside the Boundaries

Jeff McVay

“…if we walk in the Light and He Himself is the light, we have fellowship with one another and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.” – I John 1:7.

A pastor friend of mine once preached a sermon on the topic of sexuality (scandalous to most of us, I know, but he did it nonetheless and I am glad that he did but that’s a different article). In his sermon he said that ‘sexuality is a powerful river that flows through all of humanity.’ As a hiker and backpacker, that was a powerful metaphor for me. When I go hiking, there is nothing I love more than to walk along the side of a river, creek or mountain lake. I began to think about why that is. Mostly I love it because of the life that I see all around it. Life is sustained by it. The river that I am walking next to may also water the crops of the farmer up stream which then puts food on my table and sustains life for my family and me. The river also may provide life for animals and trees that produce life giving things for many people both up stream and down stream. This is also how God intended sexuality to be among us as human beings. It (much like the river) is a wonderful, life giving, sustaining, and powerful force for good as long as it stays within the boundaries (i.e. life long commitment between a man and a woman).

When either a river or sexuality gets outside of its banks, the end result is destruction.

After the horror of what we all witnessed in New Orleans this past summer, we know the destructive power of water when it gets outside its boundaries. The water that was life giving now becomes life taking. It flows to the lowest places and becomes polluted.  People in it and around it become sick due to the bacteria that the water picked up in places that it was never supposed to go. We saw that its greatest impact was on the poor, needy, and weak who were unable for various reasons to get out ahead of the storm. We also saw how great numbers of people became isolated from the rest of the world and from each other. As the water rose, they moved from the first floor to the second floor and then many to the attic where there was no light. They were trapped in the dark wondering if anyone would come or if anyone even knew that they were still alive.

This is also similar to what happens when the powerful river of sexuality gets outside its boundaries. What was intended to bring life, flows to the lowest places, gets polluted, harms those who are most vulnerable, brings destruction, and most of all, leads people into a desperate isolation. The flood of shame becomes so overwhelming that people wind up retreating into dead end places, alone in the dark, isolated with little or no resources, wondering if anyone could possibly rescue them.

It is into this darkness that the good news from I John comes when it says, ‘God is light and in God there is no darkness at all’ (1 John 1:5). What isolated people who are living in the dark need is light. This is not a light that shames them for being in the dark, but a light that shows their need for rescue and a light that shows the way out. For those in New Orleans, I never once heard a news report of a rescuer shaming or belittling a person who needed rescue. They never asked, ‘Why are you in the dark?’ or ‘Why did you retreat to your attic?’ No one commented that, ‘Those people were so ignorant to rush to the dead end.’ They simply saw that there was a need of rescue and the most important thing was to help them get to safety and into the care of others who could help.

This also should be the process of recovery from sexual addiction. People need light and help not shame and condemnation. Again I John seems to give hope to those who are currently alone in the dark when He writes, ‘If we walk in the light, and God is this light, then we have fellowship with one another and the blood of Jesus, God’s son, cleanses us from all sin’ (I John 1:7).

In studying this, I found it interesting that the first thing people experience when they step into the light of God is that they have ‘fellowship (another word for friendship) with one another.’ I felt like John got his priorities mixed up. Shouldn’t he have said that the first thing that happens is that we get cleansed from sin or at least that the first person we have fellowship with is God? But then I remembered that usually God allows His light to shine through other human beings into our darkness and that to be with God is to be in community. In other words, we cannot do this alone and God never asks us to. In essence it is through these friendships that God applies the blood of Jesus for our cleansing.

What does this mean for you? If you are trapped in the dark attic of sexual addiction or pornography, there is hope for you. There is light to show you the way out. There is a community of others to help, because you cannot do this yourself. There is cleansing from your sin, and there is a new story that God will write for you. All you must do is let someone know that you are trapped and make that step into the God’s light. As the boundaries of structure, discipline and friendship are applied to your life, you will find that even sexuality can be what God intended it to be: a river of life giving intimacy, honesty and openness that is renewing for both you and your spouse. The clean up (just like in New Orleans) might be long, exhausting, and difficult but in the end you will have a sexually safe place to live for both you and your family.

For more help on this subject see Every Man’s Battle.

Spiritual Warfare and Recovery

Craig L. Boden

Congratulations on your progress in the recovery from Sexual Addiction. Allow me to remind you of the management tools you received at the Every Man’s Battleworkshop. These tools work when we apply them. You might want to take the opportunity to review those tools of management care.

If you are a Christian, you have been enlisted in the Lord’s army, and as with all good soldiers the training in boot camp applies throughout the career of the soldier. He must be equipped and ready for battle. His equipment must be clean and in working order. He must care for himself and be fit for battle. Do not loose sight of the fact that you, as a believer, have been enlisted into an army. As Paul called Timothy, so we too are called to’

‘Suffer hardship with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus” II Timothy 2:3

We are all aware of how difficult the war on terrorism is to fight when we don’t know who the enemy is, what they look like, or where they will fight. Yet we hear the news and see casualties daily. It becomes discouraging when the news reports more casualties among our forces and civilians than we hear about enemy casualties. It causes us to wonder ‘Are we winning? Can we win?’ The answer is a resounding ‘YES!’ Do not be discouraged, be ready to fight!

The analogy is all too clear when we look at our recovery process. Let’s look at Ephesians 6:10 ‘ 13

‘Finally, be strong in the Lord, and in the strength of His might. Put on the full armor of God, that you may be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the full armor of God, that you may be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm.’

Attending an EMB is like basic training without the exercise and getting yelled at! Recovery is partly your advanced training and direct warfare. Every good soldier must continue to train and learn strategies for war. Then there are the times when we have been called to the front of battle. This term is confusing because this is not conventional warfare. There is no front. Today being on the front is equivalent to a terrorist picking off his targets much like a sniper or carefully placed land mines along the roadside. Unfortunately the front can also be sitting in your office and a jet plane crashing into your building.

Men, we are at war, physically and spiritually.

It is so easy to become discouraged when it seems we are bombarded at every turn with temptation. The temptation is not sin. We fall when we turn to the temptation rather than to God. We question why did I get blind sided? How could I have let this happen again? Why do I struggle so much? And why is this desire so intense? When will it stop? When can I move to the rear and be safe of the temptation? In my great-great grandfather’s memoirs from the Civil War, at one point when the battle was very intense and he did not think he would make it, he told his ‘body guard’ to move to the rear. A while later he looked over his shoulder to discover his ‘body guard’ (actually his slave and friend) crouching behind him. I told you to move to the rear. He replied, ‘But Capt’n ther ain’t no rear!’ Sometimes I feel the same way when it comes to Satan’s attacks. It appears the rear, where we are apt to lay down our weapons for a rest, is when we step on the land mine or receive incoming sniper fire.

Perhaps it is in the times of lax or perhaps over confidence when we feel safe, that we are most vulnerable to the enemy.

I think of the conversation between Jesus and Peter in Luke 22. After receiving the Passover Meal with Jesus a discussion, actually an argument, breaks forth between the disciples about who will be the greatest. Jesus explained to them, and us, that being the greatest means being a servant to all. Then He turns to Simon (Peter).

‘Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has demanded to sift you like wheat; but I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail, and you, when once you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.’

Satan set his sights on Peter. He wanted him in the worst way. He wanted to destroy him and could have done it. But Jesus interceded on Peter’s behalf. Satan was limited in what he could do. The same is true for you. Satan is a powerful foe. Do not loose sight of the enemy’s strength. But he is limited in the use of power.

Remember the story about Job?

‘Then the Lord said to Satan, ‘Behold, all that he has is in your power, only do not put forth your hand on him.’ (Job 1:12).

Satan was limited to what he could do with Job. In his frustration he again appealed to God to touch his bone and flesh, believing then Job would turn from God.

‘So the Lord said to Satan, ‘Behold, he is in your power, only spare his life (Job 2:6).

Satan had to ask permission to use his power on God’s chosen one. God, in His Sovereignty, allowed Job to be tempted to turn away from Him. He allowed his suffering. He allowed a battle that was raging in a different realm, invisible, and inaudible to Job or any other human, to pierce the realm below afflicting its devastating blows with exact precision, without any more warning than the people in the Twin Towers in NY City had September 11, 2001.

We hear the phrase, ‘War is hell,’ in this context it is not slang nor intended to be base, but graphically accurate. Spiritual War is from the pit of hell with all of Satan’s forces aimed at derailing us from faithfulness to God our Father. Satan’s forces may be ancient but are on the cutting edge of our best technology. He obviously is a master strategist in war. He knows how to use smart bombs. We are struck down without even knowing we were in danger. He is a master of cyber space and afflicts us with the click of a mouse. He is a master of infiltrating our ranks and comes between us and the ones we love the most. We become perplexed when we begin to believe our wives and children are the enemy. They are not. But they can be victims of the enemy’so can we. Satan can cause us to feel persecuted while in recovery. While doing the right thing now, our past acting out may still have left open emotional and relational wounds.

Men, take courage. There is good news. No, the war is not over, but it has been won. Jesus has not only seen the end from the beginning. He is the Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End. Satan has been defeated yet his forces still skirmish. You and I are their desired target. No, the encouragement comes from Paul to the Corinthian Soldiers (Christians). II Corinthians 4:7-11,

‘But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the surpassing greatness of the power may be of God and not from ourselves; we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body. For we who live are constantly being delivered over to death for Jesus sake, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh.’

Men take courage. Do not be surprised by the ‘fiery ordeal’ as Peter calls it in I Peter 4:12. Do not think you can win the battle of temptation on your own. You are a band of brothers. Get a ‘buddy,’ an accountability partner if you do not have one. Remember even your best strategy can be under minded by the enemy. Work the management plan. If Satan can just keep us isolated in shame we will meet defeat. Talk to others about the struggle, the temptations, and defuse Satan’s booby traps.

Be prepared for an assault at all times. Greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world. (I John 4:4).

For more help in the battle for purity see Every Man’s Battle.