For years, Christian women have been told, "If you just prayed more, had more faith, and trusted Jesus, you'd have more peace." But what does it mean when a Christian momma continues to worry? How does she reconcile her feelings of fear with her faith in God? And how does she raise her children in a home full of peace when she feels anything but peaceful?
Becky Thompson, a best-selling author with a degree in biblical studies, knows firsthand what it is like to suffer from the crippling effects of anxietya condition she has struggled to overcome for most of her life. For her and many others, the fear she faces is not a faith issue. It's a physical one that affects over 40 million adults in the US.
As Becky examines the relationship between the promise of peace in Scripture and the reality of life, motherhood, and anxiety, she brings both a practical and spiritual approach to the discussion of anxiety and how it impacts your mind, body, and spirit.
Peace meets moms in the forest of fear where they have felt isolated and alone and walks them toward hope, reminding them that there are millions of other women who walk the same dark, uncertain trails they do and there isn't something wrong with their faith because they can't shake the fear. Peace is a lifeline for the Christian mom desperate for solid advice based on sound doctrine and presented in a way that makes her feel understood and far less alone on her journey toward healing.
|Publisher:||The Crown Publishing Group|
|Product dimensions:||5.10(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.80(d)|
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
Unafraid of the Dark
What Does the Fear You Feel Say About Your Faith?
About a year ago, I woke up one morning and felt nervous about everything but nothing specific. I closed my eyes and tried to remember what I was worried about exactly. We had made a cross-country move from Oklahoma to California on a giant God adventure just about six months before. Despite the big leap, our kids were settling into school and life in Los Angeles. Our marriage was in a really healthy place. Our business was steadily growing. Our finances weren’t in terrible shape. We had supportive families and a growing community, and we had never felt more strongly that God was leading us daily. He was meeting all our needs, but despite how great everything seemed, that morning I woke up afraid.
Here’s the way I describe this sort of feeling to friends or family who don’t deal with chronic anxiety: Imagine your alarm clock goes off and you open your eyes, knowing you’re going to face something that day that will bring you to a fearful place. It’s the same feeling someone might experience if she was afraid of the dentist and had a nine o’clock appointment, if she was about to take a big exam she didn’t feel prepared for, or if she needed to make a speech and was terrified of public speaking.
Anxiety can feel just like those common fears anyone might experience when anticipating a big event or when an uncomfortable situation needs to be overcome. It’s the feeling of getting ready to face something scary, but there’s not always a specific cause on the calendar. Sometimes it’s brought on by something specific we are afraid of, but other times it’s not. There’s no dentist appointment or exam or speech. There’s not always even a conversation or conflict. Nothing needs to be tackled, climbed, surmounted, or pushed through. There’s just fear. Looming fear. About everything. And nothing. And sometimes that feeling of fear can be scary all on its own.
Why? Well, those of us with anxiety know that when the average person has fear about the dentist appointment, she can look forward to the appointment being over. When she must give the speech or take the test or sit through the interview, once it’s done, it’s done. But when fear comes without a cause, we don’t have that hope of getting to the other side of the situation. There’s no deep sigh of relief and release of stress once it’s done and over with. There’s just the lingering unrest of an unidentified dread. And in that restless place of worry, we can begin to look for and create unrealistic fears that feel very, very real.
That’s how I felt that morning one year ago. My heart sank. It was as though something terrible had happened or was about to happen, yet everything was just about as good as it could be. My brain was signaling to my body some impending doom, something off, something that deserved my attention. But I couldn’t think of what it could be.
Like flipping through files, I pulled up in my mind each person I love, doing my best to locate the source of the morning’s fear. Is everything okay with Jared? I couldn’t think of anything wrong with my husband. It’s not him. What about Kolton or Kadence or Jaxton? I thought of each of my children’s faces. Nothing to be afraid of. Well, nothing out of the ordinary sprang to the front of my thoughts . . . just all the usual worries a typical mom might have concerning her children.
I continued to think of situations and relationships, work deadlines and friendships, and I couldn’t identify any one thing that could be causing this sinking feeling of fear. Simply, I had nothing to be worried about, yet I was nervous about the day.
I wonder if you’ve ever experienced something similar. Yes, I’m sure we can all say we have gone to bed thinking about a problem that causes us to feel afraid and then awoken the next morning with the same issue ready to reclaim our attention. Maybe for you it was a health situation or financial issue. Maybe it was a relationship in conflict or a conversation that needed to be had. Maybe it was work or something to do with your husband or with your child’s teacher. Maybe it was just your daily to-do list that seemed so much bigger than you. But maybe, like me, you’ve woken up and experienced fear without a source. You’ve felt alarmed by . . . something . . . everything . . . but nothing at all. Maybe you’ve just felt anxious.
What Is Anxiety?
Many of us are familiar with the feeling, but few of us understand what actually goes on in our bodies when we experience anxiety. So, what is anxiety, exactly? According to the American Psychiatric Association, “Anxiety is a normal reaction to stress. . . . It can alert us to dangers and help us prepare and pay attention. . . . Anxiety refers to anticipation of a future concern.” Basically, anxiety is what we experience when we look toward the future and feel afraid and then prepare to face whatever threat we see coming. Anxiety disorders are different from daily feelings of nervousness. Anxiety disorders are diagnosed when a person’s fear is not proportional to the situation he’s facing and when his responses to the fear impede his daily life.
I know how anxious momma hearts work. If I had just read those facts surrounding anxiety disorders, I would start self-diagnosing, wondering, Do I have a disorder? Am I okay? So, I’ll just pop in with a quick reminder. You are okay! But even if you were to be diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, you’d be a part of a very large community. Anxiety disorders are very common, affecting nearly a third of all adults at some point in their lives. That’s a lot of people!
Some obvious questions come up after reading this statistic: If anxiety disorders are so common, why is there such a stigma of shame in the church surrounding feelings of fear? Why are we so hesitant to tell others (especially our friends who go to church with us and should want to help us) that we are out here in the forest? Why are we so afraid to shout “Hello?” and hope someone who has been here before or who is out here with us comes to our rescue and reminds us that we are not alone?
I think, deep down, one of our biggest worries as Christian women is what our fear says about our faith. We think to ourselves, If God tells me to fear not and if Jesus tells me He has given me His peace yet I am still afraid, then what does that say about what I believe at my core? So we worry. We worry because we deal with anxiety, and then we worry about what the anxiety says about who we are. On top of all that, we worry about what other people would say if they found out about our silent struggle.
And so, instead of feeling overwhelmed and crying out, “Help! I need help over here! Something’s not right. I need my people to surround me!” shame keeps us silent. We wander through this darkness alone, willing ourselves to just be better.
The forest of fear can be one of the loneliest places for Christian women because only people who have made it out want to admit they are familiar with the woods of worry. Do you know what I mean? We hear things like, “Oh, I used to have anxiety.” “I went through a season of anxiety.” “I knew someone who faced anxiety, and then the Lord healed her.” While those testimonies are tremendously life giving and it helps to know there are women who made it to the other side, what about a community for the women who are still walking through the dark? Why do we feel so much shame in admitting we haven’t made it out of this place yet?
Those who struggle with anxiety have a problem, but they are not the problem.
I think we are hesitant to say we are anxious because for a very long time, the church has spoken from the position that anxiety is primarily a spiritual thought battle. When Christians struggle with fear, they are told, “Just pray more and read your Bible, and you’ll have peace.” And while it is true that anxiety can stem from an emotional trauma, a stressful life event, or a supernatural attack by the Enemy, anxiety can also be triggered by a broken process in the body. As a result, many churchgoing, Jesus-loving Christians with clinical anxiety wonder what’s wrong with them and their faith. I’m doing all that, and it’s not changing anything. I must be the problem, we believe. But that’s a lie that must be addressed. Those who struggle with anxiety have a problem, but they are not the problem.