When it comes to anxiety, as pastors and Christians, we say things like…
- “You just need to trust God more.”
- “Pray more.”
- “Think about something different.”
While these quick answers are not necessarily bad pieces of advice, they can feel incomplete. The anxious mind isn’t always in a logical state of mind. So cognitive facts or truths will make sense to someone feeling intense feelings of fear or worry, but it often doesn’t help to calm the emotional side of one’s brain. This is where connection comes in. People need to know that you see them and understand their feelings, even when they are illogical or faith-lacking.
The Body Connection
Further, we must remember that the brain is an organ in our body, and God has given us wisdom in caring for our bodies. So while trusting God and praying are the foundation for dealing with anxiety, it is the starting point and incomplete without action. Why? Because the body has a physical element. In the Old Testament, trusting God for the Israelites looked like following God’s law on dietary restrictions. It was practical. God was guiding His people to healthy steps that benefited their bodies. The same is true today. God has given us wisdom and understanding to help our brains with brain-boosting actions.
For example, let’s say I am dealing with anxiety (which I do from time to time.) I trust God. I know he will bring me peace and heal my brain. I also pray. But if I pray, ask God to heal my anxiety, and ask him to help me to stop worrying while I am still drinking 6 cups of coffee a day and getting 5 hours of sleep, I am missing a key part of his wisdom and guidance. It’s practical too. Not just spiritual.
Faith and Action
Before you dismiss me as minimizing God’s power, let me prove to you that you already believe this and apply it to your own life. How do I know? Because if you had a friend who was having a heart attack next to you, you would call for medical help AND pray for them. But I bet you wouldn’t JUST pray for them. You understand that it is Faith and Action together.
Here’s how James, the brother of Jesus, says it:
What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their PHYSICAL needs, what good is it?
In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.James 2:14-17 NIV (empahsis mine)
So telling someone with anxiety to “pray more and worry less” and like telling someone, “Go, I wish you well.”
As pastors, ministry leaders, and Christian parents or business owners, we must walk with people and help guide them with FAITH and practical anxiety-reducing, brain-boosting ACTIONS.
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