A note from Kelly King: I recently bought a Christmas t-shirt that says, “Peace on Earth.” The first time I wore it I actually thought about what it said—not that it just looked cute. What does it mean to have peace on earth? What does it mean to have peace in our hearts? We can have peace in our hearts when the Prince of Peace reigns in our hearts. Even so, for many women, anxiety is a daily struggle. In today’s article, Kaye Hurta outlines some signs of anxiety and some steps to come alongside that person. If you or someone you know is struggling in this area, seek professional help.
It has been a difficult year for our country. No, I’m not going to make any political statements. If you watch or read the headlines, you can see for yourself. No matter what your political leanings are, our current culture can be described with words like disagreement, disharmony, fighting, and war—all antonyms to the word peace.
With all that is going on around us, it is no wonder that we have become a culture riddled with anxiety. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, anxiety is the most common mental illness in the United States, affecting 40 million adults over the age of 18. That number doesn’t take into account the increase of anxiety disorders among our children! Anxiety, in all its forms, can be crippling. It is highly treatable, but very few seek treatment.
With statistics like that, my guess is that you or someone you know is struggling with anxiety.
Not sure? Here are 7 common signs of anxiety:
- Excessive worry, feeling out of control
- Sleep disturbances (and as a result of lack of sleep, feeling physically exhausted, foggy brain)
- Panic attacks
- Muscle tension (wringing hands, clinched jaw, stiff back or neck)
- Nausea or vomiting
- Flashbacks (something may trigger a painful memory and cause anxiety, common with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder)
- Social anxiety (shutting down in large or unfamiliar social settings)
Jesus is our Peace. One day, He will rule and reign and there will be peace on earth. Today is not that day. However, in the wait, Philippians 4:6-7 outlines a biblical promise for controlling anxiety, “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” (NIV).
A word of caution: while I believe in the healing power of Jesus over ALL disease, including mental illness, simply prescribing this verse to someone with an anxiety disorder would be harmful. The best approach for coming alongside someone with anxiety (or any mental illness) is this:
- Reassure the person they are not alone in their struggles.
- Encourage deep breathing and focus in the moment
- Seek professional help. If the situation is out of control, call 911. If not, make referrals to counselors and psychiatrists.
- Love does. Without crossing personal boundaries, sometimes an offer to go to an appointment with someone is the key to them getting help.
- Pray for them. Pray Philippians 4:6-7 over them and encourage them to do the same when anxious thoughts invade.
At Christmas it can seem like the whole world is singing of hope, love, joy, and peace. For someone who is hurting, this can be extremely lonely and isolating. As we lead and serve, let’s commit to an increased awareness of the potential pain around us. Let’s pray for wisdom and opportunities to engage with women in their stories. Let’s listen well, love well, and be ready with appropriate referrals and next steps. Above all, let’s pray. Pray that the God of all comfort will pour Himself out on those who are hurting this season.
Kaye Hurta has a Masters Degree in counseling from Liberty University and is a crisis counselor for Women’s Events through LifeWay Christian Resources. Whether speaking, singing, or listening, Kaye’s passion is to help others find intimacy with Christ and soul transformation through the living pages of His Word. Kaye met and married her husband Chris in Austin, Texas in 1987. They have two daughters through the miracle of adoption, Madison and Cami. They live in the Chicago burbs where they are both on staff at Willow Creek Community Church. Kaye is also a contributing author for the LifeWay resource, Women Reaching Women in Crisis.