A large part of my journey departing from a toxic religious community has involved anxiety. When you’re drilled with ideas and images of God destroying you and/or allowing devastation into your life if you miss church, don’t wear nylons (called disobeying the ‘man of God’), or choose a different church then anxiety sets in. After years of bible study and counsel, I have come to realize that God is often misunderstood. Re-examining 1 Corinthians 13 in light of God’s love has helped me to realize what His love really looks like and there is no reason to fear he would destroy me. Destruction in life happens to all kinds of people, both believers and non believers. The rain falls on the just and the unjust. Sometimes the unjust can be believers and sometimes the just are non believers. The point is, life happens and life can be both wonderful and messy at the same time. Yet, I still needed to learn to manage my anxiety through spiritual practices.
I’ve had to battle through twisted teachings that claim there ‘must be’ some kind of unrepentant sin in my life, because a ‘real Christian’ doesn’t experience anxiety. Advice for overcoming anxiety included rigid church attendance, faithful ministry service, daily bible reading, and memorizing passages from the bible. But what happens when you follow the bible prescriptions and anxiety still haunts you?
A spiritual crisis falls over me like a dark shadow and many nights of crying myself to sleep, wondering if I was truly redeemed as the scriptures claim. Has God deafened his ears toward me? Is he punishing me for something I’m not doing right? What am I missing? If I can’t live up to the prescribed path, am I doomed to suffer?
The Spirit whispers gently and assures me that Jesus already reconciled me to God and that part of my journey is to apply faith. Managing anxiety requires that I walk by faith and make a conscious effort to banish it from my life. I needed to work out my own salvation from anxiety. He is with me, but he reminds me that I am called to be an active participant in this faith walk. He has given me the power to snap out of this darkness and if he were to snap it out of existence for me, then I would miss out on the opportunity to exercise the power he has placed in me.
Realizing that this walk, this journey, isn’t about him making every path picture perfect for me. Life has issues, we all have dysfunction. He has called me to be an active part of my own solution.
In my psychology studies, I learned that making a physical effort in conjunction with my mental effort for overcoming, makes a huge difference. Adding my spiritual effort makes it all the more powerful.
I created a sacred space in my room for my spiritual practice.
One dresser top has been cleared off and carefully created to contain some special items to aid me in my journey. My space has symbols and reminders of the power he has given me. I have photos of my four children, my happy thoughts. Along with them is a candle, 3 types of rocks, a 3×5 card, a gift from my oldest daughter, a gift from my father (God rest his soul), A treasure box with 2 engraved stones, and gems and gold I got while panning with my children in a Northern California river. I don’t place my faith in these items. I don’t claim these items have power on their ow. I use them as reminders of the power that rests within me.
Faith requires a mental decision along with a physical action. As I light my candle, it is a physical way for me to start my day with faith plus action. It’s my little ‘green light’ to go into my day with faith. I look at my happy thoughts and give thanks for them. My engraved stones have the words ‘love’ and ‘believe’ to remind me that life is full of love and to believe in the power of that love. My rocks are calcite; green, orange, and blue. My green calcite is a symbol of mental health and for clearing away negative thoughts. I remind myself of this, verbally, that I am going to make effort to resist negative thoughts. The orange calcite is for mental and emotional equilibrium. There have been days when I would shut off my emotions to avoid the feelings that overwhelm me, but shutting off emotions can be harmful. So my affirmation is to allow emotions, but in balance. The orange calcite also reminds me that I have the power to banish depression and fear. My blue calcite is my symbol of strengthening communication and thoughts. To enlighten discussions and ease tension in communication. I then make the conscious effort to navigate my day with these in mind. For example; avoiding television programs that promotes fear, watching too much news, avoiding toxic people, and being careful with my own words.
My gems and gold serve as a reminder that He is my provider and to be thankful for all that he has provided me with in my life and for all that will come. Throughout the day, I give thanks for each provision from the newly bloomed rose to the rain that refreshes the earth to the giggles of my children as they enjoy their day.
These items can be viewed as a placebo, but I view them more as reminders. I am reminded that His power rests within me and I can access his power by making a mental, physical, and spiritual effort in my day. I don’t have to sit back, suffer, and wonder when he’s going to come through for me. He grants me the freedom and power to be a participant.
The more I practice my spirituality, the stronger I become. Any time anxiety tries to knock me down, I can visualize my practice and speak my affirmations aloud. Isn’t this just magic? I know David spoke, wrote, and sang about his faith. I know prophets spoke about encircling a camp a specific number of times, blowing trumpets, and sending out the singers ahead of battles. Daniel knelt in prayer by the same window three times a day and Jonah gave a spiritual sacrifice in the belly of a large fish at the bottom of the sea. Even the priests burned incense. Participating in a spiritual practice can be powerful to the practitioner when they apply physical actions with their faith. It’s not needed, really. God’s power is already within us, but when I’m feeling weakened, there’s no harm at all in getting back to some basics in using a physical routine to get me back on track.
I was also recently blessed with winning a drawing when Sarah hosted the InCourage inRL event at her home. The items I won have been hung on the walls in my home, giving even more reminders of God’s love and provision. Items provided by Red Letter Words and DaySpring contain beautiful affirmations of God’s love and blessings.
Any artistic expression of my faith, adorning our abodes, can serve as reminders of this participatory journey I have with God. I can recite memory verses, sing worship songs, or wear a symbolic piece of jewelry each day to keep myself mindful of just how powerful I am. Whatever works for me.
One thing that I’m not fond of is empty rituals. So when my routine becomes mundane, I start over with a fresh routine. The most important thing is the heart, not the routine. The routine is simply symbolic. I might redecorate my sacred space as needed or gear it around the holidays. Keeping it fresh can keep my spiritual practice vibrant and lively. This is how I’ve been managing my anxiety.
*disclaimer: none of these links are affiliates and I’m not being compensated for mentioning them. I just happen to like the products they offer.