Worrying makes you wary.  Meaning, the more you worry the warier you become – of everything.  For the sufferers of anxiety, fear, and the darkest worry – panic attacks, there is nothing more difficult to overcome.   How does one avoid allowing the dark feelings of worry from reaching the darker stages?

The great make-you-think series ‘This is us’ had a powerful scene of the main character suffering a panic attack.   To some it is a ridiculous situation, just pull yourself together and get over it, thus says an insensitive buffoon.  I have to admit, I was one of those insensitive buffoons when my daughter at the age of 15 lay on the floor in what I saw as an ‘over-reacting, childish, attention seeking, moment’.    I had honestly never experienced having or seeing someone have a panic attack.

Randall experiencing a stress induced panic attack

Aside from watching the ‘This is Us’ episode to gain a softer heart towards anyone suffering or dealing with panic attacks I strongly recommend gaining some education on the topic of panic attacks.   It is no joke for anyone that suffers through such a dark personal episode.   For anyone that actually is trying to cope with this problem, the aforementioned article and others in my Helpful Links tab is worth a deep study. (We have studied all of these over the years, they are more than a quick google search)

For a really poor review on how to deal with anxiety issues, read this excerpt from today.com.   Well actually it wasn’t that bad, as it brought to light an issue that many people are not aware of for those who ridicule anyone that has suffered from an attack.    The issue I have is the number one recommendation being to ‘go see a doctor’.   In some cases that may indeed be a necessity, but all a doctor will recommend is medication and to go see a therapist.  The other issue I have is the statement, ‘anxiety is so treatable if people just present themselves for treatment’.   Treatment?

The article mentioned 6 million people (U.S. stats) suffer from panic disorder. What they failed to mention is forty million have some variation of anxiety disorders  (see full list)   I have come to the belief that worry and anxiety can affect anyone at any time and can become worse if circumstances arise in your life bringing on exorbitant amounts of stress.   For some, our genetic make-up results in many of us carrying around worry – always.  There is nothing wrong with you fellow worriers, like any particular hindrance, or as one great writer calls it a ‘thorn in the flesh’, it is something we can learn to handle.   The remedy (along with strong support if needed) is prevention and preparedness to ensure the ‘dark’ does not become darker.

A few nights ago, I had my usual bladder awakening call at  four in the morning.  (Sorry to you millennial’s scratching your heads, wait until you reach middle age and you’ll see what I mean).   I carefully walked through our very dark bedroom shuffling my feet slowly to avoid tripping over or bumping into anything along the way.  As I returned, I took the same path back, much more confidently knowing my path was clear.

Little did I know, as I headed out of the bathroom and in full stride, that my all-black 140-pound giant schnauzer had changed sleeping positions and plopped himself outstretched in the middle of the bedroom.   Totally unsuspecting such an obstacle I found myself flying across the room.   In one second I was flung onto the floor landing on my face.  There were shouts of me screaming at the dog causing my wife to have a panic attack of sorts wondering what was the cause of the tremendous explosion at the foot of her bed.   Fortunately, my face landed on the scrambling dog posterior, but I obtained some very large bruises on the left elbow and right knee.

If life is a journey of seeking to walk wisely in the light, it does not take much to get us off track and stumble in the darkness. 

While we wish to remain calm, anxiety free, depression free, anger free, or whatever thorn in our sides that gets in the way it does not take a lot to ruin a perfect flow.   A phone call from an unhappy customer, an unexpected break-down of a car or appliance, a bad diagnosis from the doctor, a job loss, the wi-fi going out, tripping over the dog, worries and negative vibes can bring on the dark blues.  Soon we find ourselves with a mind wandering off into worry, fear, and doubt; it is like walking in the darkness.  All can seem impossible.

We can pull up our bootstraps and tough it out.   And strong people can do that for a short while. The real secret to defeating the inner demons is not by boosting the outward showing, it is boosting our inside fortitude.  We tend to concentrate on the outside of things, how we look, how we sound, and having all our stuff to show that we look good on the outside.    However, if the light is not shining on the inside, it will not take us very far for very long.

For everyday life, the very same recommendations made on how to prevent anxiety can help any darkness we experience to not become darker.  A few of those (recommended by ‘The Calm Clinic’) are:

  • Regular Exercise
  • Sleep Enough
  • Eat healthily and avoid hyper causing foods (sugar, caffeine)
  • Research Your Thorn in the flesh (whether it is anxiety, depression, anger, alcoholism, know what you are up against and defeat it)
  • Practice good Breathing and Relaxation
  • Have strong people relationships with positive influences
  • Know when you have reached the max and take a vacation

In other words, live right and your life will be bright, and when you feel darkness creeping in, make sure it does not get darker.

My primary goal in this story was to lighten the load on those who deal with anxiety and to give a little insight to those who get-on the case of others.  I also carry a burden for those who toe the line of spiritual guilt because ‘you should never worry’.  If you care to explore the inner struggles of a church-going-worrier, dare to enter the portico…

(If this is your first time visiting Average Joe’s Portico, please read the Do you Dare  tab to understand the shift, tap the red line before you read below and come on back ‘if you dare’)

If You Dare, Click to Enter Into Joe's Portico.

I once heard a famous preacher say ‘to worry is sin’ because the Bible says ‘be anxious for nothing’ (All worriers know Phillipians 4:6-7 please don’t over-use it on us – “do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.  And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus)

I heard another share that he had always taught that people who are depressed simply lack faith.   He later changed his mode of thinking and teaching when he himself battled depression saying, ‘now I understand differently’.  I find it sad that some Pastors have to personally experience a problem before understanding others struggles.  Similar to my own experience with my daughter’s panic attack, I changed my view.

It is perplexing to me that Christians at times will use the excuse that we are only human, when caught in a transgression that makes headlines, to explain a failure to ‘non-believers’.  Yet, some look down upon people who battle emotional disorders. (thankfully many churches have recognized the error and have set up support groups)   I raise my hand in guilt over past wrong thinking as well but write today as one who has changed and instead look for signs of those who I recognize need assistance.  Of importance is eliminating ignorance, but more, providing hope and encouragement to those who are battling with mind related issues.

Paul reminds us, do not look at us, look at the One who can remove and heal darkness:

“Remember, our Message is not about ourselves; we’re proclaiming Jesus Christ, the Master. All we are is messengers, errand runners from Jesus for you. It started when God said, “Light up the darkness!” and our lives filled up with light as we saw and understood God in the face of Christ, all bright and beautiful.

If you only look at us, you might well miss the brightness. We carry this precious Message around in the unadorned clay pots of our ordinary lives. That’s to prevent anyone from confusing God’s incomparable power with us. As it is, there’s not much chance of that. You know for yourselves that we’re not much to look at. We’ve been surrounded and battered by troubles, but we’re not demoralized; we’re not sure what to do, but we know that God knows what to do; we’ve been spiritually terrorized, but God hasn’t left our side; we’ve been thrown down, but we haven’t broken. What they did to Jesus, they do to us—trial and torture, mockery and murder; what Jesus did among them, he does in us—he lives! Our lives are at constant risk for Jesus’ sake, which makes Jesus’ life all the more evident in us. While we’re going through the worst, you’re getting in on the best!    2 Corinthians 4:5-12 (The Msg)

Sometimes we go through rough patches.  Sometimes anxiety and worry set in on us (it even happened to Paul: apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches 2 Cor 11:28). Sometimes we go through dark moments; the secret is to disallow the dark to become darker.  At the point where we allow worry to overtake us, requires getting extra help.  To do nothing about it and give up hope, at that point the preacher may be right.   Daily we must work hard to have a transformation of the mind and not give up, (Covered in  a previous story)  as Paul eloquently explains there is a better hope:

“So we’re not giving up. How could we! Even though on the outside it often looks like things are falling apart on us, on the inside, where God is making new life, not a day goes by without his unfolding grace. These hard times are small potatoes compared to the coming good times, the lavish celebration prepared for us. There’s far more here than meets the eye. The things we see now are here today, gone tomorrow. But the things we can’t see now will last forever.” 2 Corinthians 4:5-12, 16-18 MSG

Having talked with a number of people and studied on this topic much I am not qualified as an expert, but speak as one who has made great strides overcoming a life-long issue.  In fact, I write as of this second having taken what most would consider being an extremely bold step of faith.  First, I am in the midst of walking away from a good paying job solely to write to help people.   Second, dropping political separation of church and business to speak about how Jesus has changed my life.    In addition, to be bold enough to admit it is a struggle to be 100% worry free.  We believe that as Christians we are new people, born-again, free.    But bam, sometimes in the middle of the night I wake up and find myself numb with worry about all sorts of things.

Out of nowhere, I lay with my rls (restless leg syndrome) legs-a-moving worrying if I made a dumb decision.   I worry that people will think I’ve lost my marbles.  I worry they’ll think my writing stinks, why would I even try such a thing?  I worry we will run out of money faster than calculated.    That is when I remember tripping over the dog in the dark caused me to get up and take smaller steps back to bed.

The next few days I was extra cautious taking drag-steps to ensure I would not trip over my dog and bust up my knee again.   That is similar to how I learned to deal with my anxiety issues, it did not happen overnight, but came via small steps taken every day.   All the little things that are necessary to overcome any problem are applied and dealt with – one small step at a time.  And if we stumble and fall back a little bit, we get back up and try again.  We start from where we fell and quickly (at least quicker than the last time because you have the know-how) get back to where we were and progress in steps to victory.

Ted Dekker states, ‘Our journey isn’t becoming more than we are because we are already complete.  Rather our journey is to awaken to, or align with, who we are already are in Christ. And as we do that, we find ourselves rushing to our Fathers table where His fruits of peace, love, joy, patience, kindness, gentleness, self-control and power are built up in limitless abundance. ‘   As Jesus calls us to be the light of the world, even though we stumble at times, we learn to pull ourselves out of the darkness one step at a time as we learn to live right, and win out over those inner battles.  By living right, I do not mean following a bunch of rules, but using wisdom to deal with issues that are not solved by simply turning a switch off.

 The ways of right-living people glow with light; the longer they live, the brighter they shine.  Proverbs 4:18

The good news is we do not have to search for peace by following a bunch of rules (like in the old testament when the people followed the rules of Moses) but through a real live relationship with the Creator of the universe:

“Whenever, though, they turn to face God as Moses did, God removes the veil and there they are—face-to-face! They suddenly recognize that God is a living, personal presence, not a piece of chiseled stone. And when God is personally present, a living Spirit, that old, constricting legislation is recognized as obsolete. We’re free of it! All of us! Nothing between us and God, our faces shining with the brightness of his face. And so we are transfigured much like the Messiah, our lives gradually becoming brighter and more beautiful as God enters our lives and we become more like him.”  2 Corinthians 3:16-18 MSG

The final question for those in Christ who do have inner battles is not how dark is darker, but how bright is brighter.   We are the victors who can tell how we overcame, all to the glory of God.

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