“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7
I don’t know how many times I have researched the fight, flight, freeze response related to fear, but it’s a lot. And I’m not sure how many times I have combed the Bible reading scripture related to fear, but it’s at least weekly. And yet all this time, I have failed to make the connection between the two. Actually pairing what scripture has to say about anxiety with what my education as a therapist has taught me about the bodies response to fear. And it’s rocking my little world…
We know the Bible tells us to be anxious for nothing. And girl, I know you hear me when I say I wish I could be anxious for nothing, but anxiety comes knocking none the less. I pray and present just like His Word tells me to do, and at times peace guards my heart and mind, but other times I continue to whirl further and further into my own neurotic mess.
But what if we were to step back and apply what we know about anxiety and use it to wield what God tells us in His Word?
We know when stress/fear/anxiety comes, our body is going to respond with fight, flight, or freeze. If we pay attention in that moment, we can identify which of these processes is actually going on.
For example, this past week my daughter had an appointment for dental work. My fear response was to flee. I wanted to skip the appointment and pretend like we weren’t supposed to be there in the first place, thus avoiding my fear (her potential anxiety response) and her fear (pain). I prayed about it briefly, but was up all night mentally rehearsing my escape plan should I need it.
Another example. Later in the week I faced a potential confrontation, and I froze. I just couldn’t do it. And that’s okay, but in doing so, I gave into my anxious response. Thus any peace I might have experienced was eliminated, and I felt depressed and defeated.
If we let our bodies natural fear reaction drive the bus, the peace God wants to give us will most likely never arrive. In order to experience rest, we have to pray and present our request with thanksgiving – but not flippantly – we need to do it like it’s serious business (because it is).
And what do I mean by that? If we look at research about how to derail fear and relax, most therapeutic means will suggest mindfulness, meditation, deep breathing, and prayer. Some would suggest repeating a word such as “peace” or “rest” paired with deep breathing and a focus on the here and now. But if you are like me, you usually toss up a quick prayer and then go right back to panic.
And I’ll be honest, for me, it’s because my faith struggles. I don’t think He will help, so I don’t spend much time asking Him. However, if I would change this quick prayer into a mindful experience where I truly sought His peace and didn’t give up until I experienced it, I would likely come to a place of rest and understanding unlike anything I have encountered before. I might choose a more value based action and I could potentially avoid sleep deprivation. It’s a game changer.
And so maybe, just maybe, being a little more intentional and fervent in our prayer and petition could actually help us come to peace God longs to give us. It certainly can’t hurt and is definitely worth a try. This week, let’s try it. I have a feeling God is going to be abundantly faithful. He always is.