Learn from Valerie’s journey with anxiety and how Scripture helped her find God’s peace. Her story is unique, but she hopes her experience can benefit other women in ministry.
Valerie is not alone. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, “Anxiety is a normal reaction to stress and can actually be beneficial in some situations. For some people, however, anxiety can become excessive, and while the person suffering may realize it is excessive they may also have difficulty controlling it and it may negatively affect their day-to-day living.”*
Anxiety may be a reaction to a project or performance. We may even feel anxious about something that may or may not occur. In Philippians 4:6–7 (NIV) we read, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
Anxiety disorders, on the other hand, may need medical attention, and a Christian should not fear seeking professional help when it is needed.
1. Tell me about your anxiety.
Anxiety had loomed over my life for a long time because of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The anxiety was controlling more of my life than I could stand. Usually I felt that it was “just my cross to bear,” but this attitude was detrimental because I was accepting something that God wanted to transform.
My thoughts were under assault from the enemy almost constantly.
This journey with anxiety had gone on for so long. Any number of things I saw or experienced would trigger anxious thoughts. It was a private and painful journey.
2. Why did you want God to bring healing?
In Experiencing God, Henry Blackaby refers to a crisis of belief, a point that requires faith and action. I was at that point. Surrender took incredible faith, and initiating God’s plan for healing became the action.
I often say the mind is central command, so we want our thoughts to be full of truth. Once I reached the crisis point, I knelt down to give the anxiety and my future obedience to God on this issue. I understood that He had a plan for helping me that would allow Him to heal me.
Up to this point, no one knew about the nature of the anxiety except my husband. So, since no doctor ever heard about it, I was not on medication. The day when I surrendered control over it, I learned that the remedy or medicine that would bring me healing was Scripture. (Sometimes God also uses medicine to help with symptoms of anxiety as well as godly counselors to help people understand the causes of anxiety or to learn some ways to deal with it.) God spoke to my heart and led me to get the truth about my life onto index cards and read them several times a day.
Truly it was like taking a dose of medicine each time.
This one application of Scriptures caused the thoughts to lose their power! That was just the beginning. The Lord directed me to a few Bible study resources and helped me discipline myself to meditate, memorize, and hide His Word in my heart.
God was loving, and if I was going to heal, it would have to be done His way. Sometimes people may think they don’t have time for spiritual disciplines. I was a church planter’s wife (with all that goes with that role), substitute teaching, and serving in the community. Still, the time needed for me to devote to my personal healing was always there. God honors those who honor Him (1 Samuel 2:30). Immersing yourself in the Scriptures is such a worthy investment!
3. How did you use Scripture to find God’s peace?
Have you ever experienced thoughts that scare you and threaten who you know you are in Christ? Our thoughts can be powerful. The mind is central command to living life free and at peace.
Until we gain control of our thoughts, we don't have control of our lives
The only way I’ve ever found success after a lifetime of struggling through anxiety is practicing various disciplines using Scripture. Let me outline those for you here.
I use a couple of things:
- Truth cards. I use index cards on a spiral. I fill out each card with one or two Bible verses or meaningful quotes. The ones that jump off the page or seem to apply to the situation at the time are a good beginning. As I start, the Holy Spirit will show me verses not only from the Bible, but also from Bible studies, great books, or a sermon. I record these treasures on Truth cards. After making a set of cards that are portable, they are ready to go over at any time, almost anywhere.
- Scripture writing. I use a one-subject notebook. Plans for Scripture writing can be found on the Internet. Or I can choose a chapter or passage in the Bible to write. Psalm 119:11 says, “I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.” Writing Scripture puts a peace into my life almost immediately. The struggle with the flesh also seems less.
There are a couple things to remember as God changes your life with Scripture. Usually an unchecked mind has to heal over time. These new practices in your life require commitment. I’ve been doing these for several years and have no plans to stop. Whether your anxiety is rooted in a traumatic event or a lifetime of unpredictable circumstances or both, I’ve found that massive doses of Scripture is the one thing to truly make a difference for me.
When one is in the angst of anxiety, self-talk is not going to help. God’s Word is powerful and we need more of it to combat any irrational thoughts and lies from the enemy.
Filling your mind with the Word is like a redecorating project.
Maybe you think you don’t have time. If you want peace that only God can give, you will find the time. We are weak and frail as humans, and I can’t say that all anxiety is out of my life. But the quality of my life has vastly improved since living out these spiritual disciplines with the Word. I continue to depend on Him. Psalm 119:165 says, “Those who love your laws have great peace of heart and mind and do not stumble.”
4. How does anxiety keep women from experiencing joy in their ministries?
Anxiety is a joy killer. So, if a woman in ministry has debilitating, life-controlling anxiety as I did, then it will certainly keep her from joy. Her perceptions of people and circumstances as well as the ministry itself will be tainted by this lack of joy and the overwhelming nature of anxiety.
Anxiety lies to you. One of the lies is that you will always struggle like this. Accepting this lie will hinder a woman from reaching her potential. It will also keep her from hearing God’s voice and direction for her personally and for her ministry.
It takes courage to admit our weakness and to take God at His Word.
If you will do this, you will know God in more ways than you thought possible. And to know Him is to love Him. I had a great relationship with Him at the time; this wasn’t a recommitment to Him. This was my taking spiritual responsibility for an area of my life that I had never addressed. He was and is good, gracious, and quick to reward me for earnestly seeking Him. (See Hebrews 11:6; Jeremiah 29:13; Proverbs 8:17.)
5. What advice would you give to a woman in ministry who seems to be anxious about many things?
God’s Word is your best friend. The more of it that you can get, the more peace you will experience. More peace will translate to more purpose because your mind will be clear: not empty, but clear to discern God’s will for your life.
Romans 12:1–2 speaks of our minds being renewed. The only formula for this is spending time in the Word. You don’t have to carry your Bible, but you also don’t have to sit idly while you wait somewhere. Use waiting times to look at a Bible app. Carry your index cards with Scriptures on them.
Take in the Scriptures when you’re waiting on someone, waiting in traffic, or waiting in the carpool line. Read them when you can’t sleep. Snatch extra minutes and take them in.
If you will take the opportunity to add Scripture into your schedule, you will be amazed at how you feel, the ideas the Lord gives, and the way you carry on throughout any given day with greater peace.
Truly, Hebrews 4:12 proved itself over and over to me. God’s Word is that powerful.
Much of what we can be anxious about is flesh-driven: we seek approval from people who ultimately don’t determine who we are in Christ. Get your approval from God. This takes effort, of course, but the transformation is freeing. Serve Him alone and much of your anxiety will disappear.
This journey that brings personal healing is really about Jesus.
When we get our emotional life under Christ’s control, we are able to fulfill His greatest commandments of loving Him and loving our neighbor because we are not consumed by ourselves and distracted by our brokenness.
Jesus accepts us as we are, but as daughters of the Most High God, He wants us able to serve Him to our fullest and best. Complete healing may not be the result, but we don’t worship the result. We worship Jesus. You may not see complete healing, but you will know Him in a powerful way. It is worth the journey.
Valerie Rumfelt and her husband are co-directors of Buried Treasures Home, where they live on site. Buried Treasures Home is a 24/7, biblically-based, Christ-centered transition home serving women coming out of prison and/or addiction.
*"Any Anxiety Disorder Among Adults." National Institute of Mental Health. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, n.d. Web. 20 June 2017.