There are many situations in life that I find takes us in circles. It is so difficult to fight against the current of repeating cycles in our lives.
The world is difficult to navigate and for most of us there are many circumstances or events in our life that breed anxiety.
- Personal sickness or illness in a close friend or family member
- Our job not going in the direction we want or are comfortable with
- Violence in our community or country
- Bitterness or distance in a close relationship
- Financial concern or overwhelming obligations
Each of us can easily point to something on this short list that has been present in our life, if not now, in the past 6-12 months. It is hard not to feel anxious over such difficult circumstances in life.
For me, the symptom of anxiety never shows up alone. I don’t get a feeling of unrest and nervousness for a few days and then it just goes away. I get a special 2-for-1 combination of symptoms.
Right on the heels of the worry and concern comes a powerful need.
This is a need for control.
Just the feeling of worry, the cycling of thoughts, the racing heartbeat propels a subsequent need to stop these feelings.
My first thoughts move to how… Can I make it stop? The key focal point being “I.”
I need to fix it… whatever is causing the anxiety.
If I can’t fix it… I need to fix something. What can I do to feel more in control of my life, my circumstance, and my feelings?
We are all different, but for me I usually have a recurring pattern of trying to gain control over my anxiety:
- Get organized in some area of life – if I am organized I feel like I can calm the chaos.
- Develop an action plan to try to change the circumstance/issue causing worry. If it is financial, I go on a spending fast and become the budget nazi at home. If it is sickness, I go on a health kick and try to get everyone on board with me. (You get the idea…)
- Try to execute whatever the plan is at the speed of light. Somehow I think the faster I implement, the sooner I gain control, and the more immediate the sense of peace and relief arrive.
In actuality, my frantic desire and move for control usually makes me more anxious. And this new anxiousness is pretty immediate. It is almost an adrenaline rush. Trying to fix things with superhero strength and speed creates a surge of anxiety and propels this circular repeating cycle in life.
There are many other ways that people try to control their situations that are less action-oriented and may not at first appear like a move to take control, but nevertheless is exactly that:
- Self-medicating with alcohol or prescriptions to arrest the feelings of anxiety and stress.
- Hiding out and isolating yourself to create a false sense of peace and calm.
- Fighting it out with people close to you; our need to control a conversation or release our stress is often poorly timed and aimed at the wrong people.
The frustrating part for me is that I know my cycle all to well and I know that it is in the shape of a circle, one that can certainly feel unending, as circles do. I also know that ultimately I am not in control.
Finding Christ some 15 years ago gave me a huge sense of relief finally knowing and understanding that only God is really in control. And thankfully, through His grace and mercy, He loves me and will deliver me from my circumstance. I know this and I have seen over and over that the only way to get off of the hamster wheel is to turn to the One who is in control.
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” Philippians 4:6
He makes it easy for us too. We just need to pray and seek help from our God.
“Many are the afflictions of the righteous but the Lord delivers him out of them all.” Psalm 34:19
I don’t want to give the impression that we have no part in working through our own circumstances and issues. Yes, I am sure that God can rain down the answers to our prayers without any help from us, but many times He will still work through us, or others, on our behalf.
We may still need a plan to get out of a circumstance to heal our core issues, but I do believe that:
- Looking to God and knowing that He is in control can calm the symptoms and emotions of anxiousness quickly. We don’t have to be afraid or worried even in the storm.
- When we move forward, it won’t be in a hurry-up, I-have-to-make-something-happen, adrenaline-induced, propulsion.
God’s plans move us forward. I visualize moving through the storm and out of it rather than moving with the storm caught up in the eye of the tornado.
Knowing what I know about turning to God first, I have gotten better at catching myself before the circular becomes a tornado. If I can get ahead of it and turn to Him first, the path is always better than when I am taking control.
Even in the storm, my anxiety is calmed.