Did you know that the current, most commonly accepted treatment for anxiety was actually written about in scripture more than 2000 years ago?
In the Bible, in Philippians 4, verses 8 and 9, it says, “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me–put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.”
God says that if you let your mind dwell on what is true, noble, lovely….. things that are positive and good….. the outcome is that God will give peace to you. In other words you will find relief from your anxiety.
This same approach has now been ‘discovered’ in psychological research. We therapists use what is called Cognitive Behavior Therapy to relieve anxiety, an approach that targets repetitive negative thinking as the culprit in anxiety symptoms.
Just as God told us, when we refocus our thinking on what is true and good, especially in our identity in Christ, our expectations change and we behave in ways that fit the new thinking…. healthier ways that invite healthier responses from others.
Bad thinking leads to bad behavior. Not in the sense of sin, but in the sense of unhealthy, anxious, or depressed mood. You let your thinking drift in a negative direction and it brings you down.
Have you noticed that when you are anxious, your thoughts tend to be extremely black-and-white? You aren’t thinking, “Boy am I worried about money.” You are thinking, “We aren’t going to be able to pay the bills. We’re going to lose the house. We are going to be on the streets. I am a loser.”
It isn’t true that any of this is happening. It is all in the future. It is only happening in your imagination. You allow yourself to play out a scene in your mind like you are at the movies. What you see on the screen in your mind is not really happening, where your life goes in a bad direction. But for the time, you believe it, just like in the movies. You have yourself believing that catastrophic things are happening, because you can see it right there in your mind.
Instead, ‘truthful’ thinking leads to ‘truthful’ behavior. When you focus your thinking on what is really happening, your mood is better, and consequently your behavior is better. When you recognize that your life is pretty good, and you are only having anxious thoughts or negative thoughts, you are better able to face the issues in your life and do something about them. When you forecast that things will turn out OK, even if it’s hard right now, you are better able to cope with what is happening.
The proverb says, “As a man thinks in his heart, so is he.” If you think of yourself as a loser, you will tend to enact that in your life. You will shrink back from opportunity, from relationships. Conversely, if you think of yourself as valuable and successful, if you picture that in the movie in your mind, you will be better able to take advantage of your strengths and resources, and you will be more able to interact with people in a more confident way.