In the thick of my thought battle, I found relief in therapy; not in my own, but in being the therapist for others. In those 50-minute sessions, behind closed doors I found solace in bringing hope and healing to others. My thought battles seemed to freeze in time. I became more, not less, effective in my role, for I now had valley-insight into the secret places of the mind, of which I had previously only had a birds-eye view. But when I was alone, the fight came to life, unrelenting.
I spent all of my alone time under the weight of fear and shame. It was crippling. I close my eyes now and picture myself doubled over, physically nauseated, hyperventilating, my hands grabbing anything that would steady me. I see two things now. While I felt crushed, and there were undoubtedly evil spirits surrounding me, God was surrounding me first. Despite how desperately absurd the thoughts became, God was physically protecting me: above, below, in front, behind, and beside. I cried out to Him, and while the thoughts didn’t stop, He was there encircling me with His promised protection.
He was between me and the lies. If not, I would have been overtaken. Indeed, if it had not been the Lord (Psalm 124).
Most of the time, all I could see was the enormity of it and the fear that this war would never end. The enemy attempts to one-up us, not just with our present burden but with the lie that there will never be relief. I was consumed with the lies, hyper-focused on surviving in the moment and, therefore, unable to overcome, until a friend encouraged me to write down all of God’s promises to me…whether or not I doubted them.
I put a cognitive-behavioral twist on the assignment. In a composition notebook, on the left side of the page I wrote down all the lies that were coming at me. On the right side, I wrote scriptures that directly refuted the lies. I did not know scripture through and through, but God brought verses to mind that spoke specifically over the lies, which was a manifestation of another of His promises (see John 14:26).
I didn’t know, then, that this horrific experience would be the birthplace of my life’s work: of teaching women to speak truth over lies so they can thrive, not merely survive. I determined that this war had to stop, that I had to stop being crushed by it and start speaking over it. I had to change my response.
Thereafter, every time I was alone and the lies started piercing me like poisoned darts, I opened that notebook, scanned down to the first lie that popped in my head and read aloud the corresponding truth. This was a practice I chose every time and over time: something I knew from clinical experience; nothing changes unless we do. I couldn’t change the enemy’s sneak attacks, but I could prepare for them.
Jack Canfield said, “If you want something different, you are going to have to do something different.”
I knew “it” would happen when I was alone, so I made that notebook an appendage to my body. I took it everywhere so that I would have it when, not if, I needed it. The notebook became so worn from the innumerable times I opened it (sometimes every single minute) that it fell apart, but for that reason I didn’t.
When fears come into our mind, they are not from God. Anxiety is a lie from the father of lies. How do I know this? Because Jesus said, in John 14:27, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” Do not believe the lie that you “have to” live with anxiety, that you have to learn how to “manage” it, or that it will always be a part of you. No, anxiety belongs to the enemy who wants to convince you that it's yours.
That doesn’t mean you will never again contend with “it.” The enemy continues to taunt me, a decade later, and I continue to diligently practice speaking truth over those lies. It is war. It is work. But the more we practice responding to lies with truth, the more readily available is that weapon, and God’s word “will accomplish…and achieve the purpose for which [He] sent it (Isaiah 55:11).”
Here are the truths I’ve discerned about my battle with anxiety and what I do because I know them:
There is no way to fight “it” alone. Human-created affirmations will be swatted down like Godzilla squashes a building. Clinical strategies are insufficient. God’s word is the only truth that stands. It is sharper than any two-edged sword (Hebrews 4:12). With it, we are equipped to stop suffering under the weight of anxiety, and to practice overcoming it.
Speak truth over lies and you will thrive.
Dr. Sherri shares her gifts of compassion, learning, and truth telling to inspire and equip women to thrive. She serves as a Thought Coach, Podcast Host of Thriving Thoughts with Dr. Sherri, Blogger and Creator of Thriving With Jesus, and Founder of Thriving Thoughts Global, a 501(c)3 dedicated to teaching women how to fortify their mental health and prevent mental ill-health. She loves to stay connected to the hearts of her fellow sisters. Follow her on Instagram @dr.sherrispeaks, Facebook @drsherriyoder and @sherri.yoder.3, or email her at email@example.com.