Yea, if I’m honest, my weight is a cause for anxiety but we’re gonna’ save that post for when I’m feeling a little more courageous. Today I want to talk about the weight of anxiety, that sense of heaviness that makes you respond to life as if you’re carrying around an extra fifty pounds. I wish there was a scale to register that kind of weight.
My issues with anxiety began when I was a young mother, but here’s the thing—nobody talked about anxiety back then other than to say things like, “My nerves are shot.”
That weird, gnawing feeling I had in my gut every single morning when I woke up? I had no idea it was anxiety. It never occurred to me to mention it to my doctor, so I basically just got used to feeling bad.
As a young Christian that just felt wrong. It’s not normal for Christians to feel this bad, right? I felt bad. Therefore I must be bad. That made my stomach feel even worse.
I thought the Christian life was supposed to be this trouble-free bubble. Guess I never read the verse that says, “In this world you will have trouble….”
Or this one: “When my anxious thoughts multiply within me, Thy consolations delight my soul.”
Did you catch that?
“When,” I have anxious thoughts, not “If” I have anxious thoughts. Anxiety is normal. Let me repeat that:
Anxiety is normal.
It may be a FACT of life but it doesn’t have to RULE my life.
There’s a weird kind of math going on; stay with me here for a helpful little word study.
The phrase “anxious thoughts” means disquieting thoughts or cogitations and comes from a root word meaning division—divided opinion, or divided in mind.
Picture your thoughts as cogs in your brain. When you’re calm, those cogs are all turning uniformly. But when you’re anxious, some of those cogs change direction.
Half of the cogs are quietly meditating on the verse, “I can do all things through Christ,” while the other cogs are screaming at the top of their lungs,
“Oh, my God, I’m going to DIE!”
Anxious thoughts are divided thoughts; they’re ambivalent, they take sides against each other. Anything divided becomes smaller. Here’s where the math gets weird:
Divided thoughts MULTIPLY.
The word multiply in the Hebrew is nob and it means multitude, numerous, to be increased… HUGE.
Author John Ortberg says, “When anxiety grabs my mind, it is self-perpetuating. Worrisome thoughts reproduce faster than rabbits.”
And where does this division and multiplication take place?
In our gut.
Anxiety starts in the gut
The Hebrew word here for within is qereb and it means inner part, middle, interior, bowels, the seat of thought and emotion.
John 7:38 says, “He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.”
In his book, The Me I Want To Be, Ortberg explains, “The belly is the deepest place inside you—the place where you get anxious or afraid, where you feel hollow or empty when you are disappointed. The Greek word is koilia, and we speak of getting colitis when rivers of stress run in our belly. Scientists say we have a reptile brain—a ‘brain in the gut”—that is, neurons in the digestive system that produce feelings of well-being or threat deeper than we can put in to words.”
That inability to put my feelings into words was the most frustrating part for me. I couldn’t explain how I felt. My husband, who at the time had never experienced anxiety, thought that the problem was in my head.
“What are you worried about?” he’d ask. “Everything is going fine.”
How could I get him to understand when I couldn’t understand it myself? My stomach just felt uneasy and that uneasiness felt the same as worry. It felt like dread. Heavy. It felt awful.
Anxiety is heavy
When you study Proverbs 12:25 it starts to make sense: “Anxiety in the heart of a man weighs it down…”
In this verse, the word ‘anxiety’ is de’agah and means heaviness, or dread.
My heart knew that the Lord would never leave me or forsake me, but my body wasn’t getting the message. Even though I did my best to keep scripture in the forefront of my mind, it was like there was an audio running in the background that kept my body, soul and spirit from operating in sync.
I did what any good Christian girl would do: spent time in the Word, practiced deep breathing, monitored my thoughts, said breath prayers; I even switched to decaf. Some days were better than others. When it got really bad I saw the doctor and got a prescription. It helped.
Down but not out
Maybe I was just prone to anxiety. That word “prone,” though… Hmmm. I didn’t like the passivity it suggested.
There’s an interesting twist to all this. In my study time yesterday I discovered that the Hebrew word “weighs” is shachah; it means to be prostrate, to bow down, in reverence.
Anxiety might weigh me down, put me prone to the ground but I have the power to decide what I’m going to do while I’m down there.
What I’m going to do is worship. Worship in the weight of the wilderness.
“…now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come SO THAT the proven genuineness of your faith … may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is REVEALED.” 1 Peter 1:6-7.
Clearly, trouble is an ongoing reality. Anxiety will arrive, dragging its heavy friends behind it. The question is, when it does, will Jesus be revealed?
It depends on what you do when you’re flat on your face.