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Anxiety and the Gospel

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August 2, 2021

Welcome to the start of our conversation on mental health and the gospel to get this conversation started, I’ve been thinking about what many of us have experienced for the last 18 months. This has been a time like no other in many of our lives where the constant pivoting and changes and unexpected has brought a lot of unexpected results in our own mental health experience and stories. So to start off our time together, and to start off this conversation, I thought what a better place to start than to begin to lay the foundations for our conversation on anxiety and the gospel. I believe That in our time together that we will have this opportunity to begin to mine God’s word in modern psychology and bring them together to begin to understand what is it that the gospel has to say to our hearts, to our minds. And honestly, even to our bodies about what the Lord is doing to make us new in him. So today we’re going to start that conversation.

I don’t know about you, But many people that I’ve had conversations with over the last 18 months to honestly, almost two years, they exp have experienced what is almost like a tsunami of emotions and feelings and things in their body that maybe they’ve experienced to a lesser level before, but has now grown to become something that is overwhelming and actually begins to impede their normal function for the purposes of our conversations now, and in the future, we can begin to have conversations on mental health and know that we have a struggle, or we have a tendency when receiving some of these things we will talk about. So as we talk about anxiety, many of us have that as part of our stories in the last year, year and a half, maybe even longer, what it becomes diagnosable is when it begins to meet certain criteria that the DSM has set out for us, which is a book and a manual that helps us understand one, is this becoming something that is A bigger issue, but by and Large, the one thing that we look for is that this issue, whether it’s anxiety or depression or any other thing that comes in This way is that it begins to interfere with our normal life. So I just want you to take that definition. I don’t want you to tuck it away in your mind. Yes, I can have these tendencies and probably most of us have had these moments and these days where we’ve experienced this, but when it begins to overwhelm, when it begins to interfere, whether I see it or whether other people are telling me that it does, that is when we begin to get to that diagnostic place.

So many Of us see, right, that how feel is what affects our emotions And our emotions seem to affect our behavior. But where does this all start? And there’s many different Camps on this many different thought positions, but I believe that as we look back at this emotions and our feelings and our thoughts, it is actually a very good opportunity to begin to see that much of what we think and feel much about. Even our body can experience, whether it’s in shaking or sweating or racing heart, or just a complete Lack of energy. That much of what we experience in our body comes Back to what we were experiencing in our emotions and our emotions come back and anchor into what happens with our thoughts. But you see the problem often is, is that we don’t have an awareness all the time of what is going on in our thought life. We don’t have an understanding of these things that become automatic thoughts that just lead us on a path.

So this is where we’re going to start in our conversation of anxiety. Some of the things that we’re going to talk about might go a little slower than honestly, even I would like them to have happen, But I think it’s important that we are dissecting every piece of this process so That we can understand it in great depth in our pursuit, oftentimes of trying to get rid of anxiety. We want fast answers and we want it to go away, But that Is not how we care for anxiety. And that is not actually how we understand what is going on, because it’s important to remember that anxiety is actually part of the way that God knit us together. It is not part of sin that you and I, as general, and oftentimes for the common person have anxious, thoughts and feelings is actually part of this intricate alert system that the Lord has built inside of us. That we’re going to talk about over the coming weeks.  It’s an indicator Light, almost like a little flag, a little, a little light on your dashboard that if we ignore and try to get away, if I went into my engine and I just turned off all my indicator lights, and I continued to drive without actually addressing the problem that was fueling that indicator Light, we would get in pretty quick trouble. If I just put a piece of paper and try to ignore that that indicator light was on, which  I’ve recently done, it created a big problem, But we have an opportunity when we see this anxiety coming up inside of us to honor and to respect and homage, almost treat it as a sacred opportunity. Something is going on in our story. Something’s going on in our thoughts. Something is going on in our body that is giving us this feedback that we are able to respect and to see, and to treat as sacred. That is an indicator that we need to look into something deeper and into something further.

So if we go back and We start thinking about how do We think, I want to introduce You a little bit to what is actually going on in your neurology and in your biology that is fueling this. And so the first thing I want to talk about today is these are cognitions, right? Thoughts are basically cognitions and cognitions is a mental action or the process by which information is traveling around in this beautiful mind, in this beautiful brain that we have structurally. This happens in the nervous system, Through our synapses. And the synapse is a structure that permits a neuron or a nerve cell to pass an electrical Or chemical signal to another neuron. And this is how communicating happens in our brain. One single neuron can have thousands of synapses and All of our thoughts, all of our cognitions, they follow pathways And highways.

Although it’s kind of an imperfect example, it’s this highway and pathway a thoughts. The more you think of thought the wider, the pathway, the less you think of thought the Morton arrows.  In fact, we know from modern brain science, that there are actually parts of our brain, that if we begin to stop using, they get less and less activity and they actually tend to go offline. Now there’s not brain damage there. There’s just not a lot of electrical or chemical experience going on in that part of the brain. And for us to actually oftentimes function, as God has created the brain to function, we need our whole brain to be online and we need it to be connected to each other. I think in our conversations, you will begin to see that there’s a theme of being connected to ourselves and being connected to other people. That will be one of the greatest takeaways. If I could boil down some of these first, probably 10 or 12 weeks from the discussions that we’re going to be having, it will be, am I growing greater in connection to understanding myself and my growing greater in my connection to other People. So these synapses, they formed these highways. And I want to show You a picture of what this ultimately creates. Ultimately, this creates something called the connectome and the connectome you’ll see in all of these colors, these are different highways and byways and pathways and communication structures that are magnificent and wondrous brain has to be able to talk to ourselves and to communicate to Other people. And this develops when we are born in this develops continually, as we learn and watch The world around us as small children, different circumstances can form the connections. Different circumstances can tell us something is okay, and different circumstances can tell us something is not okay. That is why our developmental main goal of being an infant ages zero to two, is that we’re learning to trust the world around us because it’s actually building a reflection of trust in our brains to see what is going on and to perceive Situations. Many of these pathways, many of these roads are beautiful. And we learned to trust.

We learned that we are loved. We learned that we can are safe, but many times in many people’s stories, this is the beginning of writing,
Different, big T trauma or little T trauma. We’re going to talk about that In the weeks to come, because it’s one of my current favorite subjects to understand, because I think it is so extremely helpful for where many of us find ourselves right now, but this connectome, and this situation, this whole entire pathway road system in our minds, This is where the cognitions start. And it is how they travel. And we believe that how we Deal with this aspect, our thoughts, what is going on in our minds and in our very brain activity to pull these thoughts to our minds, to connect them to one another and to live them out is actually the beginning of so much opportunity for change.

So I want you to consider the words of second Corinthians ten five, because oftentimes you and I have thoughts, right? And they don’t lead us to where we’re trying to go Lead us to our purpose. They do not lead us on a journey that is part of our created purpose and who God is trying to grow us to be. In fact, if anything, they begin to completely distract us and to destroy us second, Corinthians 10, actually verse four begins. And it says for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, But have divine power  To destroy these strongholds, these thought patterns, these ways that our mind tries to lead us in direction. Therefore we destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God and take every thought captive to obey. And I think all too often, the scripture in our minds Can reflect the communication, the conversations and the debate and the argument that we’re having with other people. And absolutely does it apply to that. But the first and foremost battleground for just sharing thoughts that raise themselves against the knowledge of God is in our own minds.

So my deepest desire is that you and I grow in awareness of what is even going on In our thoughts. If I see that I having this behavior, And I see that I’m having this emotion,

Where is this starting? Sometimes for me,  It’s been very challenging to actually own that process, to actually understand where are these thoughts growing from? Where are these behaviors growing from? Where are these emotions Coming from? But the work is actually mandated Here in second Corinthians. And it is actually part of, one of the most beautiful journeys that we can have is to be honest with ourselves as to what lies or are, or misconceptions, or honestly, sometimes even ignorance is that we have, that is actually stirring what this looks like. And a one of the greatest ones in my story recently has been, if my theology supports and understands that God is with me, how many times in these situations would you look at my life in the way I’m dealing, whether it’s with my children or whether it’s a stressful situation, and you would see that my theology Is not actually Affecting that moment, the way that the Lord would
Want it to, because my thoughts, the opinion that’s being raised, The argument in my head is maybe that I’m all alone. That it’s all up to me. I have to fix a situation and I have to get it together. That is a lofty argument going on in my mind, I would have told you never, that is not there. I believe a hundred percent that God is with me, But yet in these moments, if I was to be honest, it’s not Translating into the life of being frazzled and being very overwhelmed, mostly in parenting. This is our first and our starting point in this conversation.

As we continue to talk about what it is that we have anxiety and the gospel and how these things merge my deepest and most sincere prayer is that our time together will allow you to think about these topics in a way that is Fresh in a way where you’re able to see that the power of the holy spirit is absolutely at work in all of these different steps. And in a way that even today, you are able to see the, your mind Was not created to be a free for all, for your thoughts to jump and pinball around wherever they want to Go. But your mind Is created to support you in who God has made you to be. And it is created to support you to be growing his kingdom first and foremost, not in this world around us, But that his kingdom of peace And his kingdom of joy and his kingdom of Symbility and reasonableness would actually also be manifest in your own heart and your mind, and even in your body. So I hope that you will Join us next time in our continued conversation of what this looks like, but until then press on.

On This Episode:

Breanne Fuelling

Director of Counseling Ministries and Village Kids

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