• The Anatomy of Anxiety Part 8: Lions, and Tigers, and Bears, Oh My!

    Posted on October 27th, 2009 bob.kellemen No comments

    The Anatomy of Anxiety, Part 8:

    Anxiety, Worry, Fear, and Phobia—Oh My!

     

    Note: For part one of this mini-series, please visit: http://bit.ly/aHstk. For part two, please visit: http://bit.ly/20R01P. For part three, stop by: http://bit.ly/HAoxI. For part four, drop by: http://bit.ly/1I6XmF. For part five, visit: http://bit.ly/19Jdqt. For part six, please go here: http://bit.ly/19vCXx. For part seven, please visit: http://bit.ly/21wPLg.

     

    Does worry, doubt, or fear get the best of you sometimes? Do you wonder where anxiety comes from and how to defeat it in your life and the lives of those you love? Then we need a biblical anatomy of anxiety.

     

    What Anxiety Feels Like

     

    We use a host of terms for “anxiety.” Four of the most common are anxiety, worry, fear, and phobia.

     

    Though these are distinct and can be contrasted, we can also identify common threads woven throughout each of these terms. They consist of overlapping, similar experiences.

     

    The following are actual ways that people have described to me their experiences of anxiety, worry, fear, and phobia.

     

    *I’m constantly turned in upon myself and tuned in only to myself.

     

    “I’m consistently reflecting on myself and overly concerned with my life in a way that feels self-centered, obsessive, out of control, and abnormal.”

     

    *I’m hyper-vigilant in my response to threat and I always have a sense of foreboding.

     

    “I feel like something bad is going to happen that I can’t control or handle.”

     

    *My mind gets stuck in a state of alertness and preparation for danger, real or imagined.

     

    “I can’t seem to stop preparing for the worst.”

     

    *My fear is my survival system, like an alarm clock intended to startle me awake. But the button is stuck and the alarm won’t stop!

     

    “It’s like the old Lost in Space show with the Robot always screaming, ‘Danger! Danger! Will Robinson!’”

     

    *Anxiety is my present experience of a scary future.

     

    “I feel like the cowardly lion, afraid of his own shadow, and like all the Oz characters always chanting, ‘Lions, and Tigers, and Bears! Oh my!’”

     

    *My fear retreats from the threat. Fear cringes.  

     

    “I don’t fight; I flee because I view the danger as bigger than my resources.”

     

    *My fear causes distortions. I seem weaker than I am. God seems weak, or uninvolved, or uncaring.

     

    “I’m David against Goliath, but I don’t see God in the scene.”

     

    *I sense a dangerous threat that I can’t control or surmount.

     

    “Life is too hard for me. This situation is too big for me. I’m a child in an adult world.”

     

    *I worry all the time. It’s a distracting care, a consuming thought.

     

    “I get stuck on the step of identifying every possible negative eventuality. I define the problem, but I don’t move on to identifying options, finding solutions, or taking action.”

     

    *I’m in a near constant state of dread or apprehension, usually not even triggered by any specific danger.

     

    “I’m swallowed in panic and confusion about my uncertain future. All I know for sure is that at least one of the potential negative outcomes is sure to occur!”

     

    The Rest of the Story

     

    Have you “been there, done that?” Do any of these real-life descriptions fit your real life? Or the life of someone you love? Someone you are ministering to?

     

    It’s easy for us, especially if these issues are uncommon to us, to quickly say, “It’s all sin. Just trust God. Be anxious for nothing. Pray.”

     

    Even if all of that advice were always true; it’s still trite.

     

    We change lives with Christ’s changeless truth…not with our trite truisms.

     

    I invite you to return for part nine and beyond as we’ll begin to share realistic biblical principles for overcoming anxiety—at its root, at its core.

     

    Our entire blog series is moving toward the goal of finding God’s sustaining, healing, reconciling, and guiding care and cure for anxiety.

  • Diagnosing Anxiety

    Posted on October 14th, 2009 bob.kellemen No comments

    The Anatomy of Anxiety, Part 5: Why Am I Afraid?

    Note: For part one of this mini-series, please visit: http://bit.ly/aHstk. For part two, please visit: http://bit.ly/20R01P. For part three, stop by: http://bit.ly/HAoxI. For part four, drop by: http://bit.ly/1I6XmF.

     

    Does worry, doubt, or fear get the best of you sometimes? Do you wonder where anxiety comes from and how to defeat it in your life and the lives of those you love? Then we need a biblical anatomy of anxiety. 

     

    What Is the Biblical Portrait of Phobia, Anxiety, and Fear?

     

    John tells us that “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love (1 John 4:18).

     

    The word John uses for “fear” is “phobos.” It is used 138 times in the New Testament. Interestingly, the number one New Testament command is, “Fear not!”

     

    In a positive sense, phobos can mean reverence, awe, respect, and honor.

     

    In a negative usage, it means terror, apprehension, alarm, and arousal to flee. In Matthew 28:4, we have a word picture of phobos/phobia. When the Angel of the Lord appears, the guards fear and fall like dead men. Thus here it is used of paralysis of action.

     

    In Luke 21:26, phobos relates to uncertain expectations, terror, apprehension that fears the “What next!?”

     

    In Romans 8:15, phobos has the idea of slavish terror as Paul reminds us that we have been given a spirit of sonship, confidence, and relational acceptance, not a spirit of slavish terror about relational rejection.

     

    Fear of Ultimate Rejection

     

    John is quite specific in his portrait as he says fear has to do with punishment. Punishment means rejection, separation, condemnation—to be left as a loveless orphan, to be abandoned as a helpless child.

     

    To understand John fully, we must go back one verse. In 1 John 4:17, John says that “love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment.”

     

    Confidence is openness, frankness, boldness, assurance, concealing nothing, no hiding, no shame, no fear. It is the courage to come boldly before the throne of grace—because of grace! It is the courage to express myself freely and openly in relationship because I know there is now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus.

     

    So What Is Phobia, Fear, and Anxiety?

     

    So, how does the Bible picture and define anxiety, fear, and phobia? We might summarize it like this:

     

    “Phobia is paralyzing apprehension causing me to flee what I fear or to become paralyzed when facing my fear because I doubt my relational acceptance and security, because I doubt God’s grace. My ultimate fear is fear of rejection by God. That fear is the cause of all other fears in life.”

     

    What do I fear?

     

    “I fear God, but not in the sense of reverence and awe. I fear God’s rejection because I refuse to place faith in God’s gracious acceptance of me in Christ.”

     

    Why am I afraid?

     

    “If the God of the universe rejects me, then I’m on my own. And If I’m on my own, life is too much for me.”

     

    Making It Real

     

    Let’s make it real-life practical. Phobia/phobos/fear/anxiety makes me feel like:

     

    *“Life is unsafe. It’s too hard for me.”

     

    *”If I cry out for help, no one will respond. If I reach up to God, He won’t care because He has rejected me. He is ashamed of me and I am ashamed in His presence.”

     

    *”I won’t be protected. There’s no one who cares and no one who is in control. No one is flying this plane!”

     

    *”I am orphaned and left alone because no one cares about me. Therefore, I have to make life work on my own.”

     

    *”But I’m small, childlike, inadequate. I can’t overcome the 800-pound gorilla of life. While I  must face life alone, life is too much for me to face.”

     

    So How Do We Diagnose Fear?

     

    Phobias, fear, worries, and anxiety signify my failure to grasp and apply God’s powerful promise of gracious acceptance and protection. Fear and anxiety are caused by my refusal to accept my acceptance in Christ. If I believe Satan’s lying, condemning narrative, then I am left with no option other than trusting in myself. And I am far too small to handle life on my own.

     

    Fear becomes a vicious cycle. Fearing God’s rejection, I reject God’s help, and I end up feeling helpless to face life.

     

    The Rest of the Story: There Has to Be a Better Way

     

    There has to be a better way, don’t you think? I sure hope so!

     

    John gives us that better way when he tells us that “perfect love casts our all fear” (1 John 4:18).

     

    Join us again tomorrow when we examine biblical principles for overcoming anxiety with faith, hope, and healing love.

  • Biblical Models for Handling Anxiety

    Posted on October 7th, 2009 bob.kellemen No comments

    The Anatomy of Anxiety, Part 2: Sentry Duty

    Note: For part one of this mini-series, please visit: http://bit.ly/aHstk

     

    Does worry, doubt, or fear get the best of you sometimes? Do you wonder where anxiety comes from and how to defeat it in your life and the lives of those you love? Then we need a biblical anatomy of anxiety.

     
    A Picture Is Worth 1,000 Words

     

    Picture the difference between anger, anxiety, and vigilant faith like this:

     

    *Anger: The Fight Response to Threat—Attack: Vigilante Justice.

     

    Taking matters into my own hands.

     

    *Anxiety: The Flight Response to Threat—Retreat: Vigil without Action.

     

    Taking my safety into my own hands. “If I worry enough, at least I feel as if I have some control.”

     

    *Vigilance: The Faith Response to Threat—Befriend and Tend (Engage and Protect): Vigorous Response.

     

    Taking the safety of myself and others and surrendering it to God’s hands while I take a stand for God’s plan. It is befriending and tending to others even when I am threatened.

     

    Called to Sentry Duty

     

    The root “vig” relates to sentry. God built into our brains a sentry. A sentinel. Adam went off sentry duty when he allowed his wife to be attacked by Satan without intervening. He failed to use his vigor—his energy, force, power given to him from God to “keep the garden” and to “cleave to his wife.”

     

    Where does fear fit into this equation? We know that fear is a God-given emotion. We are called to fear God. Why did God create us with a capacity to fear, and how does fear run amok?

     

    Fear is our response to uncertainty about our resources in the face of danger. We are assaulted by a force that overwhelms us. Then we are compelled to face that we are helpless and that ultimately our safety is out of our control. Faith faces this reality by trusting in the unseen reality of a God who cares and controls. Fear compels me to face my neediness.

     

    Anxiety is fear without faith. It is vigilance run amok. We scan the horizon constantly, fearfully, but without ever taking action or responsibility. And without clinging to God.

     

    Biblical Models

     

    Jesus models constructive vigilance in the garden. He faced His dread of death (Matthew 26:39). And He placed faith in His Father’s good heart and strong hands (Matthew 26:39).

     

    Jesus’ disciples modeled destructive fear and anxiety. Peter at one point chose the fight response of vigilante justice—cutting off an ear! At another point Peter chose the flight response of vigil without action—denying the Lord three times. All of the disciples displayed the inability to hold a vigil. “Could you not keep vigil with me one hour?”

     

    Faith or Fear?

     

    Healthy vigilance and a godly response to fear prompt us to relationship: trusting God with faith. And it prompts us to impact: protecting others through vigilance with vigor.

     

    Abnormal, unhealthy, sinful anxiety prompts us to retreat from relationship: we turn to inward scanning without relational trust in God. And it prompts us to retreat from impact: we experience vigilance without vigor as we self-protect instead of lovingly and strongly protecting others.

     

    Fear of God roots us in the essence of existence not in the externals of our situation. Where does fear drive us? To protect ourselves through the flight response of anxiety or the fight response of anger? Or to God, our Protector who empowers us to tend and befriend (“Guard the garden!”)?

     

    The Rest of the Story

     

    Join us again tomorrow when we explore how to move From Fear to Faith by Love.