A note from Kelly King: Anxiety is an increasing issue affecting women. While there are many possible reasons for a woman to experience anxiety—from the smallest expression to severe—there are some general ways you can encourage someone who is dealing with anxiety. In today’s article, Denise O’Donoghue provides some simple, yet important tips you can incorporate as you minister to others. As with anything, please seek medical help and professional counseling if anxiety is debilitating. If someone you love has thoughts of self-harm, please seek immediate help.
In today’s world, anxiety seems to be a common theme with which Christian women are struggling. Today, I want to offer five ways you can come alongside a friend who is dealing with anxiety and be an encouragement and help.
1. Make sure she has recently had a physical.
There are many factors that can influence feelings of anxiety. An increase in anxiety can be a symptom of a health condition such as heart disease, diabetes, or thyroid disease. Additionally, an increase in anxiety could be a side effect of certain medications such as blood pressure meds, steroids, hormones, or even caffeine. For these reasons, it is important to encourage her to discuss her anxiety with her doctor so that any physical causes can be ruled out or treated.
2. Ask her about her daily time with the Lord.
Reading God’s Word and talking to God in prayer is a lifeline for believers. If your friend is struggling with anxiety, perhaps she has fallen into a pattern of neglecting this important spiritual discipline. Spending daily time with God reassures us that God is wise (Rom. 16:27), holy (Isa. 6:3), loving (1 John 4:8), and merciful (Ex. 34:6-7) at all times and in all circumstances.1 Encourage your friend to be faithful to read her Bible and spend time in prayer daily. If you have favorite verses that have been helpful in times of anxiety, share those with her as well.
3. Remind her to take her thoughts captive.
We are told in 2 Corinthians 10:5b to take every thought and purpose captive to the obedience of Christ. Help your friend practice taking anxious thoughts captive. One way to do this is to have a list of verses close at hand in order to replace those anxious thoughts with thoughts that are pure, lovely, true, etc. (Phil. 4:8). These verses can be captured on her phone (which she probably has with her at all times) or on index cards or even sticky notes placed in strategic locations.
4. Point her to Scripture regarding anxiety.
Offer your friend comfort by pointing out that God knew His children would battle anxiety, and so He has much to say about it in His Word (Matt. 6:25-34, for example). Philippians 4:4,6-7 is prescription-like in instructing us how to deal with anxiety. First, rejoice in the Lord (v. 4). Rejoice in God’s character, in His promises, and in the salvation He has freely given. Next, talk to God about every circumstance and situation that is provoking anxiety (v. 6). Finally, end prayer time by thanking God for the many blessings He has given (v. 6). This last step is crucial. If not followed, the last thoughts that are on her mind are the things that are making her anxious. Paul is very purposeful in re-centering our thoughts to what we have to be thankful for rather than continuing to dwell on the things making us anxious. According to God’s Word, it is by following these “steps” that we can truly move from anxiety to peace (v. 7).
5. Pray with her and for her.
Offer to go before the Lord with your friend. Follow the pattern given in Philippians 4 as described above. This will bring peace and also model for her God’s method for replacing anxiety with peace through prayer. If you are willing, tell her you are going to be praying for her. However, only tell her this if you will be committed to do so.
Galatians 6:2 instructs, “Carry one another’s burdens and in this way you will fulfill the requirements of the law of Christ [that is, the law of Christian love].”2 Encouraging a friend who is dealing with anxiety in these five ways is a loving way to carry her burden and perhaps lighten her load.
1 Elyse Fitzpatrick, Overcoming Fear, Worry, and Anxiety (Eugene, Oregon: Harvest House Publishers, 2001), p. 132.
2 Scripture quotation taken from the Amplified Bible.
Denise has served as the Director of Women’s Life and Assistant Professor at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, where she taught graduate courses in ministry to women. Prior to serving at Southeastern, Denise was a student there and earned both her MA in Biblical Counseling and Doctor of Education. Denise’s dissertation for her doctoral degree was on “Critical Success Factors for Creating and Sustaining an Intergenerational Women’s Ministry.” She has spoken on the topic of intergenerational ministry across the U.S. Denise also served as Women’s Ministry Coordinator at Bay Leaf Baptist Church. Currently, she is enjoying serving her church, Imago Dei, as a member of the biblical counseling team and Refugee Hope Partners as the Director of Ministries. She has two married daughters and seven grandchildren. Denise and her husband, Rod, live in Raleigh, North Carolina.