5 Mindsets to Suffocate Your Fears

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Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again—rejoice! Let everyone see that you are considerate in all you do. Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus. [Philippians 4:4-7]

With so much going on in our lives, with our loved ones and our country, there is much to be fearful of. It seems like the only thing that is not unprecedented right now is the anxiety many people are experiencing daily. 

Here are five mindsets to starve your fears: 

1. Look at life like it’s a railroad track, not peaks and valleys.

One of the self-inflicted ways we harm our attitude and perspective on how things are going is by putting our life in good seasons and bad seasons. We talk about mountains and valleys. It unconsciously affects our emotional outlook of whether or not we have a happy mood (good season, mountain peak) or a negative mood (bad season, valley). 

When we believe we’re in a valley season, we neglect to appreciate the good in our lives. 
When we believe we’re in a peak season, we become unaware that a trial is on its way toward us.

Rather than looking at what is happening in us, to us and around us as highs and lows, we need to look at life like it’s a railroad track. Railroad tracks have two sides to them heading in a parallel direction. 

Instead of seeing life as a series of good seasons and bad seasons, our perspective should be that good and bad are happening congruently at the same time. There is always something to be thankful for and there is always a difficulty to be working through. Keep one eye on each side of the tracks.

Having the discipline to see the good track with our view of things alongside the bad will take away the oxygen for anxiety and fear to breathe. Thank God for the good, trust Him when it’s scary.

Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again – rejoice! [Philippians 4:4]

2. Decision-making needs to come from the rudder, not the sails. 

Anger, out of fear, is the emotion we have when we can’t control the things we want to control. 

Pride, out of insecurity, is the emotion we have when we’re excited about how our lives are going. 

Too many of our decisions are coming immediately from our emotions, and the majority of those impulsive choices are damaging our relationships and the reputation we want those watching our lives to have of us. 

Our emotions are more like the sail of a boat than they are like the rudder. We feel fear, we feel anxiety, we feel out of control and we react right away, like sails do when the wind hits. 

When the pressured storms of life hit, instead of permitting our emotions to drive us where we go, we need to let reasonableness and wisdom direct our responses to what is going on. Instead of our decisions being the sails taking us immediately where the wind goes, they need to be viewed as the rudder of a ship: steady, secure, even-keel, stable. 

Being considerate of how our words and actions will be viewed by God and others allows the rudder of faith to drive our lives rather than the sails of emotion. 

Let everyone see that you are considerate in all you do. [Philippians 4:5]

3. When fear is felt, make the Indiana Jones switch from panic to prayer. 

Remember watching the opening sequence of Raiders of the Lost Ark when Indiana Jones desired to take a small golden statue? If he just took the statue, an ancient alarm system would trigger a huge boulder to roll over him and make him Flat Stanley. 

To trick the alarm system, with steady hands he quickly takes the golden statue and then replaces it with a bag of sand (which, I don’t know why he thought the weight would be the same as gold is so much more dense than sand is) – but the quick switch is what I want us to focus on. 

The second that panic is felt, we need to switch it to prayer. 

When fear is felt, our heart races and becomes heavy as gold. Our mind flies through all of the hypothetical possible dangers of what could or could not happen. We become paralyzed and miss out on the adventurous, joyful life God has in store for us. 

Whether the fear felt is real, or whether it’s a lie, it needs to be switched out and prayer needs to be done immediately so the large boulder of anxiety doesn’t flatten our faith in Jesus. 

Freaking out is not a fruit of the Spirit. 
Non-Christians freak out. 
Faithfulness is a fruit of the Spirit.
Christians pray and trust God.  

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. [Philippians 4:6]

4. Treat prayer like ordering from a fancy menu: be specific. 

My tastebuds are not fans of three ingredients: onions, mushrooms and coconut. When I take my wife out on a date to a fancy restaurant, the majority of the meals have the three ingredients I don’t love. 

When I order, I have to be specific on what I want and what I don’t want. 

Let’s say a waiter came to my table at a nice restaurant and asked me, What would you like? How weird would it be if I just said: Food. I want food. The waiter can serve me better the more specific I am – AND – I can enjoy the experience better the more specific I am. 

When praying to God, we need to be very specific. Being specific doesn’t invite God to know what we want, He knows what we want before we even ask, but what it does is it allows us to see the specific ways God will answer our prayers the more we drill down what we want exactly. 

Also, Scripture teaches us that we don’t get because we don’t ask. The more generic we are in our prayers the more vague of a timeline the answers will arrive. 

I don’t want us to treat God like He’s a genie, but sometimes the specific desires of our hearts needs to be laid out in articulate, exact requests. 

When fear rises up, replace it with prayer. Specific prayer. Tell God exactly what you need.

Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. [Philippians 4:6]

5. Finding God’s peace means being in God’s presence.

Anxiety, worry, depression and fear are not from God. If those emotions are reigning in our hearts and minds, God’s presence will feel far away.

Our God has the ultimate goal to guard our emotional life like a soldier. 

Sometimes during nights where we can’t sleep and our minds are full of fear, sometimes during moments in the day when we feel shaken due to what’s going on that we can’t control – we need to acknowledge the presence of God – out loud. 

Simply saying, I refuse to be afraid. I welcome You, Lord, I welcome Your Spirit, I welcome Your truth, I welcome Your power right now in this room, in my heart, in my mind, for my future. 

And then being in the presence of God, you will find the peace of God. 

Light drives our darkness.
Truth drives out lies.
Perfect drives out fear.  

Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus. [Philippians 4:7]

This is the ministry of the Holy Spirit.

Thanks for reading. You are loved. 

Z

A Vaccine for Anxiety

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I read an article in The New York Times that said although we – today, in this generation – are more wealthy, are more healthy, have a bigger sense of liberty and purpose than our parents and grandparents did in their generation, we are 20% more anxious and depressed.

People today are 20% more anxious and depressed than the previous generation. 

Usually when anything increases 10% in any generation, it’s an epidemic. We are living in a double epidemic of depression and anxiety right now. 

This is The New York Times reporting this. They don’t lean to the right politically. They’re not really any friend of the church. They’re just doing their journalistic duty reporting that even though we are healthier than ever before and have all the advancements of the medical world available to us, and even though we are wealthier and have more opportunity and more means to make more money and even though we have a greater sense of liberty, meaning we can go anywhere, travel anywhere, set personal goals and bucket lists, with all of that – 

People today are 20% more anxious and depressed than the previous generation. 

I’ve got a friend who is a pastor in the church. 8 years ago he was diagnosed with an anxiety disorder. As time went on after his diagnosis, he became fatigued toward the people in his church coming up to him Sunday after Sunday saying that the cure to his anxiety was that he just needed to trust Jesus a bit more. 

He told me one day over coffee that he wanted to lovingly punch the people who kept saying that all he needed to stop any anxiety attacks was to pray more. 

If you don’t know anything about having an anxiety disorder than you don’t know. 

I read about a man who experienced an anxiety attack for the first time and when it hit him, he thought he was having heart attack because his blood pressure was at the level of a stroke. 

The doctor told him to go home and rest, and for the next 3 nights he had an anxiety attack and thought he was dying. He was flown from Kansas City to Los Angeles for better care and for the next 6 months, every single night, he thought he was dying due to experiencing this anxious paralysis. 

$50,000 later with all the medical tests available, he was diagnosed with severe anxiety disorder. 

And this guy is a Christian leader, an elder in a church. He gets told all the time by people at his church to suck it up, pray it out, trust Jesus and he wants to slug people in their well-meaning faces. 

I know a woman in the church who struggles with an anxiety disorder and I reached out to her via Facebook-messenging last week asking her about her anxiety disorder and she wrote back – 

“You can do everything right in your marriage and it can still fall apart. You can do your best in raising your kids in a loving way – or even in the way the Bible wants you to – and there’s still no guarantee that when they are older they still love Jesus – they could walk away from God. You can do everything right at work and still not succeed in the way you expect .Or still not get promoted. Or still not find purpose. Or even lose your job. You can do everything right as a friend and still get back-stabbed by them.”

And then she wrote this – 

“This world is volatile and if you haven’t admitted that, it’s time to admit it.” 

The New York Times article referenced earlier goes on to say that the Western world, specifically America, is disintegrating from other inside out. That, no matter how much you convince yourself on the outside of things that everything is okay, your soul inside knows something is off. No matter how many trips you take or things you buy or nights out with friends or shows you binge to ignore it – something is off inside.

I’ll put it like this: 

In all of life, in every aspect, there will be a backdrop of disappointment and dissatisfaction. 

[insert sarcasm] Thanks for choosing to read my blog today. I hope you are fully encouraged. Enjoy the rest of your week.

…………………………..

No matter how much wealth, how much health, how much liberty you have to succeed or how great you look or how awesome your family is, depression and anxiety will set in if you think any of those things can really save you. 

Have you heard the latest report on what the death rate is right now? I didn’t have to Google the answer. The death rate is 1 per person.

You are going to die.
I am going to die.
Every day is a gift from God.

And if I attach myself to something that is also disintegrating, like my marriage, my kids, my job, my money, my health,  then my soul knows that and I will disintegrate as well. 

C.S. Lewis put it this way, 

“Most people, if they really learned how to look into their own hearts would know that they want something that this world can never give them. These longings which no marriage, no travel, no learning will ever satisfy. 

There is always something that we have grasped at that first moment of longing that just fades away with reality. The thing we thought we were going to get in the new experience always evades us.” [C.S. Lewis]

Part of the reason people come to Jesus and give their life to Him is they hope He will give them the idols they worship. They hope Jesus will give them a spouse, give them a child, give them their break through, give them their health back, give them a house like everyone else. 

People pray to Jesus all the time saying He’s their Savior but what they’re praying for is really their savior. 

Anxiety is ultimately the fear of losing someone or something you think you can’t live without. 

Yes, if it happens, one day, it’ll hurt to lose a job, lose a dream, lose a loved one, lose your own health. But the only thing you can’t truly live without is Jesus.

When our day doesn’t go how we thought, or our year doesn’t go as hoped, or our life turns out in a worse way than we dreamed (when a flu virus becomes a global pandemic) we forget there’s a sovereign God.

And I’m not a doctor or a scientist but if you feel like you don’t have control of your life you probably don’t have control of your life. 

The only thing that lasts is God. Everything else fades away. 

Your soul knows when you attach yourself to something other than Jesus and that’s why we get more miserable and more unsatisfied. 

We are only as durable as what we have placed our trust in. 

Did you know that beautiful people (to the world, I think all people are beautiful) but beautiful people to culture are more prone to commit suicide because as they get older, they lose their looks and figure and since they’ve attached their identity to their physical appearance, once that is gone, what do they have to live for in their mind? 

The Bible communicates that your life and mine is all about us having an intimate relationship with God and once you say you will believe in Him and follow Him, He will not only forgive you and bring you in, He will spend the rest of your life destroying your lesser loves. 

He will frustrate the things in your life you love more than Him – the things you think you can’t live without. If God doesn’t destroy what is destructible, you will place your identity and faith in it and it will destroy you from the inside out. 

That’s why I beg every Sunday when I preach at the loving church I am a part of for those listening to place Jesus at the center of who they are. They need love Him more than self, more than health, more than money, more than marriage, more than children, more than dreams, because if they don’t, those areas are going to be frustrated until Jesus is their passion and you are going to be anxious. 

As long as you think life is all about you and how fake great you are, anxiety and depression will grow in you. 

If you want the good and satisfying life Jesus came to earth to die and rise for you to have, you have got to let go of whatever or whoever you’ve attached yourself to and hang onto Him. 

Let go and let God.

It’s when we say, God, this life is not about me. It’s about You. I’m taking each day as a gift from You, no matter what happens, You are large and in charge and I am Your child, Your servant, I will trust in You. 

How many Christians are praying a prayer like that verses how many are over-reacting with anxiety at what is taking place in their lives or in the media?

If you want to let go of anxiety, you have to attach yourself to something eternal. 

If you attach yourself to someone or something other than Jesus, that something or someone is fading away and you will fade away with it, but if you attach yourself to Jesus, the One who was, is and will always be, you will live and your anxiety will fade away. 

But it’s a daily decision and I was hoping to give you that daily reminder today. 

Thanks for reading. You are loved. 

Z

Understanding Depression

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If you’ve never had a season of depressive illness or you haven’t battled clinical depression yourself, then it’s difficult to know the depths of despair one goes into. It’s difficult to empathize with they feel, how they think, how they view life. 

Maybe you’ve thought when thinking of someone who is depressed, Why can’t they just snap out of it?

350 million people in the world battle depression.
Women are 70% more likely to be depressed.
11% of teenagers will have a depression disorder by the time they leave home.
16 million Americans battle depression.
30% of college students report feeling depressed.
10% of people over 65 years old in our country are depressed.

The United States loses 80 BILLION dollars a year due to those who are depressed and don’t want to work on the productive level they could. 

50% of those who are diagnosed as depressed do not seek professional help and many battling a depressive illness believe the lie that God is against them, or doesn’t love them, or that He doesn’t exist.

Proverbs 18:14 says, A man’s spirit will endure sickness, but a crushed spirit who can bear?

Meaning, illness in the physical body comes and goes, but depression sticks around and can feel like an unbearable weight.

The medical world does not view depression as a psychological illness or even a mental or emotional illness. Medicine views depression as a physical issue (in the same category as a broken arm, they speak of a broken spirit). Doctors are able to check the fluid in someone’s spinal system and recognize deficiencies they have that affect the rest of the body and this is based out of the limbic system.

The limbic system is the center part of our brain that controls our emotions and our sleep patterns. It’s where our beliefs are cemented and it’s where we store our memories, so think of the movie INSIDE OUT if you’ve seen it, he entire movie was out of Riley’s limbic system. It affects the entire brain. 

If your favorite sports team wins the championship or you succeed at work or you book a vacation, there will be euphoria in your household and in your life, but after a day or two, your limbic system will get things down to normal when it comes to your mood. 

If you go through a tragedy, some kind of loss, and your makeup is healthy and solid, during and after that tragedy you’ll feel sad. You’ll cry. Eventually your limbic system will get your mood back to normal again. 

It’s when your limbic system is broken that can turn someone into a person their loved ones don’t recognize or remember, when the limbic system is broken, here are some symptoms: 

Erratic sleep patterns/Insomnia
Loss of appetite
Dizziness

Apathy
Heart palpitations

Breathing problems
Loss of affection
Anxiety
Irritability
Permanent sadness

Lethargy

Another verse in the book of Proverbs speaks to what these symptoms do to us: 

Anxiety in a man’s heart weighs him down (Proverbs 12:25).

If someone is always worrying or cemented in sadness, and that’s all they do is worry and feel down, it’s like a lead blanket on their body when they wake up in the morning. They can’t move. 

If someone sad and lethargic and pessimistic, the medical world says it’s probably that their limbic system is broken. 

Someone pumped with drugs can have their limbic system broken. Hormones can break it. Viruses in the body can break it down. 

The medical world says that BY FAR the most lethal attack on our limbic system, which controls our moods, our memories and outlook on life, by far the most danger happens when someone is stressed.

It’s in the incorrect handling of stress that breaks us. 

Here are two things I have seen bring peace in my life and they properly handle the stress thrusted upon me and my family:

Being grateful and applying Scripture in our daily lives gives us peace. 

If you continue to be grateful, not just this month of thankfulness, but every day, it’s a healthy step. 

You get to wake up in this wonderful world, you get to be with your loved ones, you get to work, you get to be generous, you get to live in this country, you get to be a part of church, AND EVEN, you get to go through trials because God is molding you into someone more like Jesus – you are grateful, it will distance you from depressive thinking and those around you who battle depression will notice your positive, joy-filled manner and want what you have. 

AND if you are applying Scripture to your daily life, that means you’re reading the Bible, thinking about what you’ve read, talking with others about God’s Word, memorizing parts of it, and letting it affect your words and actions.

In the Christian worldview, we either walk toward Jesus and have wisdom or we walk toward anything else and have ruin.

When we shift our thinking to thanking God, praying to God, asking God to heal and strengthen us and when we apply His Word to our lives, which includes serving and forgiving others, there is peace that He gives as a gift.

I still get sad. I’m exhausted. I can feel beaten down. I get frustrated. I’ve experienced loss. But I know that when I continue to be grateful and read and apply truth I find in the Bible to my days, depression cannot root into my life. 

Thanks for reading. You are loved. 

Zach