Worried Sick? 

Last Sunday we spent some time looking at Paul's encouragement to the Philippian Christians not to be "anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petiton, present your requests to God" (Phil 4:6). We saw how Paul presents prayer as the antidote to worry, giving us peace instead - and not just any old peace - the peace of God to garrison our souls. You can have a listen here.
I shared the old adage (or a variation of it) "the way to be anxious about nothing is to pray about everything", but even as I did I qualified the statement. Anxiety is on one level a universal experience, but on another level it can be quite particular. For example, sometimes anxiety arises out of complex medical cirucmstances where we need, alongside prayer and the gospel, the help of qualified professionals to make progress. This needs to be said, because, just as some Christians have not grasped that worry could ever be spiritual problem, other Christians are inclined to super-spiritualise their anxiety, believing that any recourse to medicine or therapy would be somehow ungodly or a sign of a lack of faith.
So what concrete steps can we take if worry begins not just to afflict us but to take over? 

  1. Understand more about anxiety. Tim Challies has just published a helpful orientation around General Anxiety Disorder, written by Adam Ford of Christian Cartoon fame; Some Things You Should Know About Christians Who Struggle With Anxiety. That article will be instructive both for those supporting people with anxiety and those suffering from it themselves. The CCEF website has lots of helpful resources on the subject too. For a more extensive treatment of the subject I've appreciated Will van der Hart and Rob Waller's Worry Book. As vicar (and self-confessed worrier!) and psychiatrist the two authors are able to offer a well balanced and compassionate approach to anxiety.
  2. Get professional help, which might include seeing a GP, a cbt therapist, a psychiatrist and/or taking medication
  3. See a Christian Counsellor. Somewhere in between the first and second suggestions (and alongside them) it might help to meet up regularly for a period of time with a trained Christian counsellor who (unlike your GP) has the resources and training to work through your worries through the lens of the scriptures. Ask your pastor/minister to point you in the right direction.
John Adams, 16/08/2016

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