by Dr. Michelle Bengtson
As long as I live, I will never forget the day I heard the words “I hate to tell you this, but you need to get your affairs in order.”
My husband and I were parents to a precious little toddler boy. We still considered ourselves honeymooners. We had the rest of our lives ahead of us—or so we thought.
And now we had a doctor telling us the worst thing imaginable…that my husband was expected to die of cancer, and that we might as well prepare for the inevitable.
Learning to handle fear, worry, and anxiety is a process.
I’d like to tell you that we were all full of faith that never doubted or wavered, or that we never shed an anxious tear. But that might just as well be Hollywood. From the moment we left that doctor’s office, worries, fears, and anxieties pervaded almost every waking thought I had.
“What if treatment doesn’t work?”
“What if my husband dies?”
“What if I become a widow?”
“What if my son has to grow up without a father?”
“What if I can no longer afford our home, or our vehicles, or daycare?”
And on, and on, and on my mind went. There was seemingly no end to my worries and concerns.
I have learned both about my patients in my private practice, and about myself, that when we start going down the “What if…?” path, it’s a slippery slope into worry, fear, and anxiety. I didn’t do a very good job guarding my heart against such toxic emotions back then, but I’ve learned a great deal in the intervening years.
For example, I’ve learned that our emotions are the outward manifestation of the thoughts we believe. So if we believe that God has left us, or that everything is up to us, or that God can’t be trusted, or that the future is uncertain, then we’ll experience worry, fear, and anxiety.
My husband underwent treatment, and thankfully, his doctor’s predictions did not have the final word. But much to our dismay, approximately 15 years after his original diagnosis, he received another diagnosis of cancer, this time a “secondary cancer,” meaning that it was the result of the chemotherapy treatments he had taken for the first cancer diagnosis.
This time, however, I was in a much different place. God had used the intervening 15 years to teach me about the power of our thoughts and the power of our words.
The power of truth in dealing with fear, worry, and anxiety.
Proverbs 23:7 teaches, “For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he.”
2 Timothy 1:7 teaches, “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.”
In those intervening years, I learned the importance of being very careful what thoughts I let into my mind. I learned to pay attention to where those thoughts came from, and to check to see if they lined up with God’s word or not.
Having been a mental health practitioner for decades, I knew that worry, fear, and anxiety were considered the common cold of mental illness. Over 264 million people are diagnosed with anxiety disorders worldwide, and that’s just those who seek out medical care. That doesn’t account for those who don’t seek medical attention or deal with the less severe every day worries and concerns. But the truth is, as a society, we’ve come to accept worry, fear, and anxiety just like we accept the common cold…as something that is inevitable.
Peace is God’s antidote for anxiety.
The problem is, that’s not what God says. Hundreds of times in the Bible, God tells us “Do not fear,” “Do not worry for tomorrow,” and “Be anxious for nothing.” You see, worry, fear, and anxiety is not our portion. Peace is.
Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not our heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” (John 14:27).
As the antidote to worry, fear, and anxiety, Jesus offered His peace. But the enemy of our soul would love nothing more than to tangle us up in his web of worry, fear, and anxiety to choke all peace out of our hearts and minds. But God gave us the weapons of power, love, and a sound mind to fight back against worry, fear, and anxiety to reclaim the peace He promised.
Part of the power and sound mind entailed being very careful what I spoke.
Proverbs 18:21 teaches, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue…”
It’s very easy to fall into a habit of saying things like “I’m just afraid that…” or “I’m worried about…” and not realize the power we give our words.
In those intervening years, I had to learn to be very intentional about the things I allowed myself to think, and the words I not only spoke, but also those I received from others. I also learned that part of having a sound mind required that I intentionally choose my focus, which often meant focusing on the truth rather than the facts. Facts can be a slippery slope to worry, fear, and anxiety, but God’s truth will lead to peace.
For example, the facts were that my husband was given a diagnosis of cancer, but the truth was that God is still our healer, and even if He didn’t heal my husband this side of heaven, He would provide for us. The facts might be that the bank balance is zero, but the truth is that God cares for you and will provide for you more than the birds of the air and the flowers of the field.
The next time you find yourself battling worry, fear, or anxiety, use the power of God’s word, the perfect love that casts out fear, and the sound mind that God has given you to fight back against that spirit of fear, and reclaim that peace God promises.
About Dr. Michelle Bengtson
Dr. Bengtson studied neuroscience and is board certified in clinical neuropsychology. She established her own clinical practice in the Dallas area. From her professional and personal life, she recognized a deep lack of understanding of the call to “renew our minds” and the transformational effects a robust understanding of this has on our physical and mental health and outlook.
Dr. Bengtson lives to foster regeneration and renew life in her listeners. She recognizes brokenness in her life and others’ and offers steps we can take as we walk with Christ through the thin places.
About Dr. Michelle Bengston’s books
Dr. Bengtson authored the award winning “Hope Prevails: Insights from a Doctor’s Personal Journey Through Depression” and its award winning companion “Hope Prevails Bible Study.” Her third book, “Breaking Anxiety’s Grip: How to Reclaim the Peace God Promises” will be available in September 2019 (Revell). She blogs at DrMichelleB.com and maintains a podcast on iTunes called Your Hope Filled Perspective with Dr. Michelle Bengtson. She is a frequent guest on Fox News Radio and speaks at conferences and churches internationally. For more, find her at www.DrMichelleBengtson.com
Ginger’s Facebook Live Interview with Dr. Bengtson
We had an amazing live interview with Dr. Michelle Bengtson on Thursday, September 18 at 5 pm EST. Click here to watch the interview.
Read more posts from Michelle and Ginger teaming up:
Ginger shares at DrMichelleBengtson.com.
Dr. Bengtson’s at GingerHarrington.com
Experience Freedom from Anxiety, Perfectionism, Insecurity, and more.
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