“How are you today?”
I looked up from my folded hands. It was meet-and-greet time at church, and I hadn’t left my pew. “I’m great! How are you?” Meanwhile, my mind filed through all the worries that had piled up that week.
I was going through a season of battling worry and anxiety. Though I knew God was trustworthy, for many days I still fought to trust him. I knew such lack of trust was sin, because the Bible calls me to trust God and not to worry (Philippians 4:6-7 rang through my mind daily). But the battle raged each day.
My fear of others finding out about my battle was crushing. I didn’t want anyone to know how deep in the trenches I was and how difficult the battle had become.
These fears led me into my own exile. I didn’t dare to have long conversations with friends because my anxiety might come up. I didn’t want to be at church because people were always asking how I was doing.
Maybe you are struggling in the same way and wondering, How do I battle raging fears that lead me into isolation?
Our Deep Fear
Our isolation, as a result of anxiety, stems from another fear—the fear of man.
If only we knew that people would react to our confession with grace, that they wouldn’t hurt us or break our confidence, and that they would not abandon us, then maybe we could confess our anxiety to them.
But no person is fully reliable. Even those who love us the most will not be able to love us perfectly, and often it’s their poor responses that wound the deepest. So, to protect ourselves, we hide away and isolate, pretending all is well, when in reality, we’re weak and afraid.
Our Faithful God
So where can we find courage to open our hearts to other sinful people? By first opening them to God, who is fully trustworthy. As David said in Psalm 62:8:
Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before him; God is a refuge for us.
In our sin, we ran from Christ and wanted nothing to do with him (Romans 3:9-18). When he called us to repentance and obedience, we exiled ourselves from his joyous presence and ran further into sin. We deserve punishment and isolation.
But God didn’t leave us alone. He sought and saved those he chose before the foundation of earth (Ephesians 1), though they ran from him. God sent his Son, Jesus, to bear the punishment that we in our sin deserved. By his death, we can receive full forgiveness for our past, present, and future sins. And through his resurrection we are freed from sin’s power to fight against its remaining presence. God opened our eyes to this good news so that we would repent, believe in him, and be brought from rebellious isolation back into relationship with him.
[Tweet “God remains faithful when we are not. He loved us when we were the most unloving.”]
God remains faithful when we are not. He loved us when we were the most unloving. How much more will he prove to be faithful when our friends or family are not?
In every way that people fall short, God is faithful. In every aspect of his character he cannot be anything but perfect (Psalm 18:30, Deuteronomy 32:4). That’s why he’s trustworthy. He alone is perfect and always will be (Hebrews 13:8).
When we place our hope in God, recognizing that even if others fail or hurt us he will still love perfectly, then we can have courage to trust others. We no longer have to hope for the perfect response from them, because we already have a perfectly loving and gracious response from God. When we accept that others will fail us but God never will, then we can find the freedom to open up knowing they may not respond well.
Our Loving Family
However, in the midst of anxiety, I didn’t want to be around other believers, especially those I knew without a doubt would ask, “How are you?” I was tired of forcing a smile, of pleasantries, and of hiding. I was tired of feeling like a failure compared to those surrounding me.
Tell your brothers and sisters about your battle.
But God has given us the body of believers in the local church to be our family. They are the people we can go to for the spiritual encouragement we need. For this reason, we are called to faithfully and regularly gather as the church:
And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. (Hebrews 10:24-25)
To find this encouragement in the body, we need to first be a part of the body. 1 Corinthians 12:26 says, “If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.” The church is meant to be one body. It should be so interconnected that when one member is hurting, all the other members mourn with them. For this to take place, we must be vulnerable at times and open up, honestly telling people that we are battling anxiety when they ask the inevitable question, “How are you?”
[Tweet “We were not created to be self-sufficient, but to need the guidance and help of others.”]
We were not created to be self-sufficient, but to need the guidance and help of others. And this is what glorifies God: when the world sees the body of Christ holding one another up and showing God’s love to each other. “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35 ESV).
Confess to your brothers and sisters your need for Christ.
Turning to others and admitting our weaknesses can feel so humiliating. We don’t like people to see us in our low-points and sin. And in some ways, we may think it doesn’t bring glory to God. However, admitting our weaknesses, even anxiety, can be glorifying to God as we come before others and say, “I can’t do it all on my own. I need help, I need Christ, and I need the family he has given me in this church.”
It can be tempting and easy to isolate ourselves whenever we are fighting sin. Though the isolation may be appealing, it never does bring the peace it promises. True peace is found first resting in God’s faithfulness, and then letting down our walls to find help from the church family he has given us.
Friend, who can you open up to today about your battle against anxiety?