Our fall favorites are here! 🍂

“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7).

This is a wonderful piece of scripture, an encouraging reminder that God is not surprised by our circumstances, a road map for faith in the midst of crisis. It’s also one of the most misused and misinterpreted passages when it comes to the Christian and anxiety. 

I’ve struggled (suffered) with anxiety my entire life. Really, all of it. I wake up most mornings struggling to breathe because my body is so seized with panic. I require medication to be an effective mother, a functioning person. Even with the help of doctors and medication and therapy and my own counseling degree, sometimes it’s just too much, and I collapse in a heap of gasping and tears.

I have severe anxiety, but I also love Jesus. 

I love Jesus with my whole heart, my whole mind, my whole body, my whole soul. I know and trust that He is good, able, holy. I have served in full-time ministry alongside my husband for every day of our 15-year marriage. I pray, I study my Bible, I worship God in earnest and praise all He is . . . and yet I still suffer, daily, with anxiety. 

RELATED: ‘She’s Not Broken’: To The Husband Whose Wife is Struggling with Anxiety

I make no secret of my struggles. I know I’m not alone, and I know anxiety is rampant, and if my own voice can help another suffering in silence, then I refuse to remain quiet. I will happily and honestly share my experiences and encouragement with anyone who needs it, which means I’m frequently sharing openly about it. I’m not ashamed, I’m not weak, and I’m no less of a Christian for it. 

I said before that the verse “Be anxious for nothing . . .is so often misused, and I meant it.

Even the most well-meaning person can twist this scripture into a dagger, a weapon meant to attack or shame the anxious Christian, rather than encourage them.

People point to this passage as proof that Christians shouldn’t deal with anxiety, even taking it a step further to question the suffering Christian’s faith. The belief stems from the interpretation that to be anxious for anything means to not have faith in God . . . and this belief is really, really wrong. 

“Be anxious for nothing . . .” we’re instructed, telling us instead, how to bring our worries to God and trust in Him, find peace in Him. The belief that this rebukes the anxious Christian comes from a fundamental misunderstanding, a truly simple ignorance, of what anxiety actually is. 

So many people who have never dealt with anxiety think it’s really just boiled down to worry. I can’t tell you how often I’ve been told that I’m too young to have anxiety, that I don’t really have anything to worry about, that with faith in God I shouldn’t have any anxiety.

Well, friend, anxiety is not simply worry. 

Sure, there’s worry involved. Worst-case scenarios manifest in your mind with no trigger or control. OCD and social anxiety disorders carry with them a hefty amount of worry. There is absolutely worry within the experience of anxiety, but there is also so, so much more. 

RELATED: To the Mom With the Anxious Soul

Anxiety is irritability. It’s a racing heart, shallow breaths, sometimes hallucinations. Anxiety is feeling your body leap into fight or flight mode with absolutely no reason. It’s shaking hands, bouncing legs, a tingling face from not getting enough oxygen as you hyperventilate. Anxiety is stomach aches, headaches, eye twitches. It’s vomiting, diarrhea, anger. Anxiety is a whole-body experience, something that can be triggered by anything or can appear out of nowhere. 

Anxiety is not worrying, it’s a biological response. Anxiety is a neurological, biological difference. A hormonal imbalance, a misfiring brain.

It is a medical condition that is not born from lack of faith or reaped from seeds of worry.

Anxiety is not in defiance of God, and a Christian does not lose eligibility with Him because of it. 

I can have anxiety and still love Jesus. 

Because anxiety is not a lack of faith or a statement of my trust in Him. 

Because anxiety is not always cured with fervent prayers.

Because anxiety is not simply worry. 

It’s a condition, a chemical reaction, an overwhelm of the stress hormone, not a lack of faith prayers. 

Still, I’m asked frequently by others who feel ashamed to struggle with anxiety how they can be Christians and struggle with this condition.

They feel guilty, often because of how misunderstanding scripture and mental health can result in shaming and harming our brothers and sisters who are already hurting. They feel isolated, singled out, made to question their faith because of this condition they did not cause and can not help. How can someone say they love and trust in Jesus while still carrying the burden of anxiety?

RELATED: Through the Doubt of Anxiety, God is Faithful

The same way the diabetic can. The same way the anemic can. The same way the arthritic, the cancer-stricken, the blind, the infertile, the sick, and the well can. Because this condition is not a result of lack of faith, and having more faith cannot alone heal it. 

Yes, God can heal. Yes, God can deliver. Yes, we are to take captive every thought and make it obedient to Christ. And someday I may see myself delivered from this anxiety. But in the meantime, the anxious Christian is no less of a Christian because their body is in a state of panic, and especially not because someone who is wholly misunderstanding of their condition says so. 

I can have anxiety and still love Jesus.

I didn’t choose anxiety, and I’m not holding on to it, but I did choose God and cling to Him daily.

I am not filled with fear that weakens my faith, my body is in need while my soul trusts in Him. I have anxiety while serving God not because I have two masters, but because I have a medical condition and a Savior, and there is nothing in our Bible that tells me I can’t.

So God Made a Mother book by Leslie Means

If you liked this, you'll love our new book, SO GOD MADE A MOTHER available now!

Order Now

Jennifer Vail

Jennifer is married to the very handsome man she's loved half her life, with whom she juggles 3 hilarious, quirky, sometimes-difficult-but-always-worth-the-work kids. She is passionate about people and 90's pop culture, can't go a week without TexMex, and maintains the controversial belief that Han shot first. She holds degrees in counseling and general ministries, writes at This Undeserved Life, and can often be found staying up too late but rarely found folding laundry.

All I Could Do Was Make It to Church Today

In: Faith, Motherhood
Close up of man holding baby in his arms in church pew with kids in background

All I can do is make it to church today. It was the final thought that shut the door on all the other thoughts this morning. The thoughts that said I don’t look good enough. I should put on makeup. I should wear something nicer. I should find a way to paint my nails without them getting smudged up from holding a baby before they dry. The thoughts that said I am not doing good enough. I should have made supper last night. I shouldn’t have used that glass pan that shattered in the oven while trying to steam bake...

Keep Reading

It’s Time to Talk about the Crushing Weight of Motherhood

In: Faith, Motherhood
Mother and three children, color photo

As millennial women and mothers, we have been making waves in the sea of mental health. We have unashamedly and unapologetically shared our postpartum depression and anxiety stories so that future generations won’t feel as though they’re drowning in the weight of it all.  I remember sitting in my living room, staring at my newborn, crying in frustration and fear that I was already failing him.  I remember the pain of trying to use the bathroom for the first time after labor, to have family suddenly stop by, and feeling so embarrassed I screamed and they left, ultimately leaving me...

Keep Reading

Kids Need Grace and So Do Their Moms

In: Faith, Kids, Motherhood, Toddler
Woman touching child's forehead

We were having a hard morning. Our house was overrun with toys, I hadn’t had a chance to get dressed, and my stress level was increasing by the minute. To top it all off, my 3-year-old was having a meltdown anytime I spoke to her. Even looking in her general direction was a grave mistake. It was one of those days that as a parent, you know you’re really in for it. I was quickly losing my patience. My frustration began to ooze out of me. I snapped orders, stomped around, and my attitude quite clearly was not pleasant to...

Keep Reading

A Mother Doesn’t Have to Be Prepared to Be Sustained

In: Baby, Faith, Motherhood
Mother cuddling baby on a bed

I feel the warmth radiating from my weeks-old baby girl’s body onto my lap. She sleeps soundly. But I can’t. My jaw is clenched, my forehead is wrinkled, my body is tense. I’ve been in complete survival mode. Our baby girl unexpectedly made her appearance one month early due to some placental deficiencies and was born at three and a half pounds. I wasn’t prepared.  When I saw my sweet girl, my heart was instantly taken over by immense love and immense fear. Fear grabbing me with every thought, every breath. I wasn’t prepared.  She spent some time in the NICU but not...

Keep Reading

A Love That Will Never Leave You

In: Faith, Living
Cover art of book Pilgrim by Ruth Chou Simons

My firstborn spent a semester abroad in his junior year of college. Like any mom who’s separated from her child, I knew the exact distance between him and me those months he was away. It felt like a million miles, but it was actually only 4,533, including one very large body of water. While he was away, we weren’t even on the same continent, and truthfully, I hadn’t expected the ache to be so overwhelming. Thankfully, our weekly chats on video eased the sadness and served to remind me that, in spite of miles and time zones, there was no...

Keep Reading

I’ll Always Be the One Who Loved Them First

In: Faith, Motherhood, Teen
Family with three small boys standing in kitchen, color photo

I’m no longer the last person he says goodnight to. That’s a hard pill to swallow. Here we are, just raising these boys, hoping and praying things over their futures, watching them grow, teaching them independence and other life skills, hoping they have heard the things we have said, and praying they make our faith their faith and choose to follow Jesus. And then, just like that, without any warning, without asking my permission, there is someone special in his life. Someone he spends hours on the phone with. Someone he wants to spend his time with. Someone who isn’t...

Keep Reading

Thank You God for Everyday Heroes

In: Faith, Living
Firefighter in gear walking, black-and-white photo

Tonight, our family watched a movie together. It was an action-adventure movie where, against unbelievable odds, the good guy saves the day. At some point during the movie, I turned to my husband, and said, “You’re that guy—the guy that is good in a crisis, who saves the day.” Once, when my husband and I were out for dinner, a woman seated near us fainted and was lying on the floor. The waiters and waitresses ran to her aid but didn’t know what to do. My husband is a firefighter/EMT. He had gone outside to grab a sweater, and when...

Keep Reading

Dear Daughter, about That Other 4-Letter Word

In: Faith, Kids, Motherhood
Portrait of a beautiful little girl in blue shirt

As my kindergartner came bounding through the door back from the park, she seemed ecstatic to tell me all about her adventure, but what came from her sweet mouth was not the usual tale of making friends or playing make-believe. Instead, she stared up at me and said, “A little boy called me ugly.”  As I tried to assess her thoughts on the matter, her big brother was quickly confirming the story and acknowledging to me that it was not a very nice thing to say. As I looked at my husband coming in the door behind them, I could...

Keep Reading

Let Them Have a Bad Day, and Other Wisdom on Raising Teens

In: Faith, Motherhood, Teen, Tween
Mom comforting teen girl with head in hands

I’ve made a lot of mistakes, but I have nearly four teens now, and I’ve learned a lot the hard way. I see other parents around me who are just getting to that stage make the same mistakes I did, so I want to share what I’ve learned:   If you want to teach your kids to walk in the way of God, you better not leave out teaching them about forgiveness. That’s a big deal to God. It’s pretty central. I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately, and the heaviness that comes when you have teenagers, and they...

Keep Reading

My Baby is Going to Kindergarten and God Will Go With Him

In: Faith, Kids, Motherhood
Little boy with green backpack walking to school

My baby is going to kindergarten, and I am not going to cry. Yep, you read that right.  My blessing baby (aka surprise addition) is going to kindergarten in seven days, and I am not a weepy crying mess. My kind quiet 10-year-old is starting his last year of elementary school, and I am not going to cry about that either.  And my firstborn—the tiny, five-pound baby girl who made me a momma—will be in eighth grade. Her last year of middle school before high school. It all seems like big changes and big moments. But I am not going...

Keep Reading