From anxiety to true joy
Four steps to a restored connection with your creator.
For a season of my life, I struggled with a particular thorn. Anxiety. Most of you have probably met anxiety before. Whether that is on the odd occasion (just before an exam for example) or when anxiety has seemed to have moved in and said ‘hey, I’m sticking around here for a while’. That was my experience. I let anxiety settle in, accepted it was normal and that was who I was. Getting scared about leaving my house, feeling lonely in a group of close friends and experiencing panic attacks. I thought I could cope with it and still live for Jesus. But as soon as anxiety grew, it started to push out love, peace and mostly my joyfulness. And I felt stuck. Is this it? Is this life?
I want to let you know there is hope! We have a real, loving God who is working in us. Moulding us. And through this particular tough season, that’s exactly what he was doing in me.
Looking for joy in the wrong places
In my life, I wasn’t experiencing joy because I kept seeking it in the wrong places. My security, my comfort and my joy wasn’t in God, it was in something else. An idol. Over time it grew. I didn’t see it taking centre of my life, taking the place only God can fill. But it did.
Joy comes from God (Galatians 5:22). Pure joy that leaves you content in any circumstance. Idols don’t provide that. Whatever kind of idol — popularity, success, money, relationships — they all make promises that are false. And they can’t satisfy your soul. Sure, they will provide you with a quick relief, but not deep, lasting joy. But you (yes you!) can have that joy.
Finding true joy
The answer to finding true joy? Living with Jesus.
“…and in Christ you have been brought to fullness” (Colossians 2:10)
We are complete in Jesus. He’s the only one who fully satisfies your soul. And because of that we can have joy. Not just any joy, but His joy. Joy that brings us alive! That is what God desires! It brings Him glory to see you fully alive and living in Him. It’s what he created you for. You will not find a greater joy.
As soon as God powerfully started to reveal this to me, everything started to get better. I turned my focus to him. My confidence began to grow. I laughed and smiled. I loved being around people I cared for. My panic attacks pretty much started to stop. My passion for Jesus grew. I wanted to seek Him. And everything was about Him.
Tips for joy-seekers
I want to leave you with some practical steps that helped me find true joy in God.
1. Ask yourself, ‘Where is my security? What do I hold higher than God?’
It’s a tough question to ask yourself. Remember though, God only wants what is good for you (Romans 8:28) and sometimes that means going through something that is temporarily painful. Realising where my security was and what I had to do to change that was hard. But it was completely worth it. Be honest with yourself.
Talk to God. Be honest with him. From the point I did that, I started to feel a sense of freedom from my anxiety. That is what God does. He is full of grace and wants to restore us back to him. He can help you put Him back at your centre. Listen to him. Be honest, trust and obey him.
3. Spend time with God everyday
Read scripture and learn his heart. It puts him at your focus. He will build you up and help you to put Him back at your core. Find that place and give your time to Him, for he longs to spend time with you.
4. Practice thankfulness
Be grateful. Open your eyes to what’s around you. Thank God for it. Oh the joy it brings. It could be thanking God for the sun, the rain, the grass on your feet, the sound of the ice cream van. I know that on days when I have been feeling anxious, being grateful has lifted my eyes to God, reminding me who is my centre, spurring me to lift up how I was feeling and found joy no matter what situation I was in.
“Then can’t I give thanks for anything? And if I can give thanks for the good things, the hard things, the absolute everything, I can enter the gates to glory. Living in His presence is fullness of joy” (Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts)
Open your eyes. Look to Him. Live life with Him. Live with joy.
A note on anxiety: My anxiety came from seeking joy in the wrong places. But I know for other people, their anxiety is a disorder that can lead to depression, suicidal thoughts and other serious consequences. If you are experiencing that kind of anxiety, I recommend you also get in touch with a medical professional or helpline who can help you further. And I pray you will continue to find joy in God as you get the support you need.
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