Breaking Anxiety’s Grip: An Interview With Author Dr. Michelle Bengtson
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Dr. Michelle Bengtson discusses her book, Breaking Anxiety’s Grip: How to Reclaim the Peace God Promises. As a neuropsychologist with over 25 years of experience, she shares a biblically-based prescription to get to the root of anxiety and live a life of peace.
How can spiritual weapons be used to combat anxiety?
When I was writing this book about anxiety and dealing with some of my own anxiety, I really went back to God and said, okay, so you haven't given us fear and worry and anxiety. So when it's there, what do we do about it? He pointed me back toand He says, “I’ve given you power, love and sound mind.” And those are three tools, three weapons.
There is power in our words, so we have to be very careful about what we say and what we say to other people, what we speak over our children. Instead of claiming things and speaking negative and anxious things, we need to be speaking God's promises over us. There's power in speaking His word out. There's power in Jesus. Scripture says that there is no greater name than the name of Jesus, and that every name has to bow to the name of Jesus Christ. There's power from God's presence. There's power in prayer, especially praying God's Word.
This the second weapon is love. If we can really get that deep down and in our heart and our soul and really understand how much God loves us, then we wouldn't fear because we would look at Him as a protective father who's told us that He will protect us, He will take care of us, He will defend us. Part of accepting His love is recognizing that God's love is always good and it's always trustworthy.
The third weapon is that God has given us sound mind. I think about when Jesus was getting ready to start his earthly ministry, but beforehand the Holy spirit led him into the wilderness for 40 days and 40 nights where he was tempted by the enemy. Jesus responded by speaking the truth of God's Word back. And when we receive Jesus Christ as our personal Lord and savior, we are given the mind of Christ, the same mind that fought back against the enemy.
When we're in the midst of a crisis, how can we kind of take a second to recognize what we're feeling and work through it?
In the midst of a crisis, breathe and pray. It is our natural normal human tendency to ask why is this happening? What I've found is that's not typically very helpful because even when we get the why, we're not usually satisfied with the answer.
But if we will just shift that perspective just a little bit and ask God, “Lord, how are you going to get me through this and what do you want me to learn?” it keeps our focus on Him instead of our circumstances in a crisis. The best thing we can do is to keep our focus on God and not on the situation. The enemy loves to use our situations to get us down and discouraged and doubt God's Word, but if we will maintain a steadfast focus on God instead, we'll be able to see, as we look back, how He supernaturally got us through the circumstances.
What is the most important thing we can do when hit with worry, anxiety and fear?
Recognize where it comes from. I tell my clients all the time, talk back to fear. Tell it no, you are not the boss of me. God never gets tired of us coming back saying, “Okay, I was trusting you but I'm struggling.” Scripture even tells us the story about where a man says, “I've got faith, but help my unbelief,” and God will do that. And that's where anxiety really comes from—we trust on a little bit, but maybe not 100%, and when we will turn that over to Him and say, “Help me trust you more,” He loves to answer that prayer. That's how we get the courage that He tells us about all the time. He's always telling us in the Word, be strong. Be courageous. Do not fear.
Sometimes it can be hard to trust. How can we practice trusting God more?
We can look in an acronym to help us really understand better how to trust God. And the acronym is the same letters in the word “trust.”
And the first thing would be is to Take God at His Word. God never breaks a promise. He never lies.
The second letter is R. We have to Rest in His Presence and His Promises. He tells us to come to him when we're weary and heavy-laden. Anxiety will tell us we don't have time to rest, but if we will rest in Him, He won't break a promise that helps us trust Him.
The letter U is for Understand the Outcome Doesn't Depend On Us. This is where so much of our anxiety comes from because we think it’s [dependent on us], but that's not biblical. God tells us when we're weak, He is strong. If we will do what He's told us to do and understand that the outcome is his responsibility and not ours, that will help us so much.
The letter S is for God is Sovereign, meaning that He's in control and He promises to work all things together for good, and He has a purpose and a plan for our situations. We don't go through it alone.
And then the last letter is T: Turn to the Testimony of Previous Experiences. Scripture talks about how we defeat the enemy by the blood of the lamb and the word of our testimony. We can look at other people's situations where God has gotten him through that, and that will bolster our ability to trust. But it's also powerful to look back at our own previous experiences and recognize God has gotten us through 100% of the difficult trials in our life. There's no reason to think he's not going to get us through the current crisis.
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