An understanding of how God made a person can provide extremely helpful tools for managing anxiety. The following truths alone, or in combination, can have a powerful effect on a child’s emotional state. Spiritual solutions for emotional challenges usually provide the deepest change.
One problem, however, is that some children reject spiritual truth or are reluctant to embrace what God has to say about their emotions. Their spirituality quotient is low and integrating God into their practical lives is difficult. Don’t let that deter you, however. Sometimes children become more aware of God’s power and presence during their own personal distress.
Teaching children good theology positions them in a place where they can experience God personally. In addition, your spiritual transparency and desire to teach spirituality to your children can also help increase your child’s willingness to be vulnerable when addressing emotions.
Truth #1: Anxiety has Two Parts
When exploring spiritual solutions for anxiety, we begin with a look at Philippians 4:7 where we read about the mind and the heart. Anyone who has experienced anxiety knows that both are at play. The heart is where we feel the emotional energy. It may start as a knot in the stomach or light feelings in the chest or head, but it quickly moves to the arms and legs. Nervous energy can make a person either fidgety or weak.
The second component is the mind. Racing thoughts about potential problems or the results of current ones start to spin out of control. These thoughts become distracting and hinder normal thinking causing a person to become unproductive.
As anxiety increases the heart and mind work together to feed internal challenges. The mind considers more potential disasters feeding the heart’s racing energy. That high level of energy gets the mind going faster and faster, imagining even more potential danger and disaster.
A combination of solutions is usually most productive. Choosing to think about other things to relieve the mind and exercising to use the energy in more helpful ways can both help the child move in the right direction. Adding to those good ideas the spiritual resources that God provides includes prayer, right thinking, and receiving peace from God can bring about even greater benefit.
Spiritual exercises require work. Laying out a plan for what faith looks like in practical terms when it comes to anxiety can help a worried child practice releasing control. But that work is not done alone. And that brings us to a second theological truth to consider.
Truth #2: The Work of the Holy Spirit
The Holy Spirit is a real person who wants to interact in one’s heart. Take a look at Galatians 5:22-23 and ask your child, “If you could have one of these as a gift to help you manage your anxiety, which would you choose?” They are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
The Holy Spirit is active in the human heart. He’s moving around in there and he’s holding a fruit basket of resources to provide solutions when needed. Peace, for example, is like a sponge to soak up misplaced energy so that a person’s heart is calm and not stormy. Jesus calmed the storm on the Sea of Galilee to illustrate to his disciples how he could calm the storm inside their hearts (Mark 4:35-41).
The Holy Spirit offers spiritual resources to address emotional challenges. These resources don’t just appear however. A person must position oneself well to receive the benefits that God provides. And that takes us to the next spiritual resource.
Truth #3: Receiving God’s Grace
Grace is the spiritual solution that God provides to deal with any problem we face. Paul experienced a “thorn in the flesh.” We aren’t told what that was, but maybe he had a problem with his body or maybe an irritating family member. The reality is that when he asked God to take it away, God said “no” with a caveat. He said, “My grace is sufficient for you.” (2 Corinthians 12:9)
God’s grace is so big that it can help anyone deal with any problem. Just imagine the grace connect to anxiety. But grace isn’t automatic. It’s like a shower that pours down on a person, flowing over their head, down their body, getting everything wet. But, here’s the key: you have to stand under the spigot of God’s grace. He offers it in abundance but you have to position yourself properly in order to receive it.
Imagine the person who has the shower running but refuses to step in. It’s the same way with anxiety. One must be willing to take the step to trust God, release control, change focus, and believe.
Faith may be based on logic, but there’s always a jumping off point. That’s why it’s called faith. Control wrestles with faith and the experiential side of the Christian life empowers a person to trust even in the darkest moments. Trust is practical. It makes choices. It reasons that there are benefits and chooses to receive those benefits even though it’s hard.
Looking at the Scriptures provides tools that feed belief. Those beliefs provide the basis for faith. Faith has a direct impact on anxiety and helps a person manage it daily, hourly, and moment by moment. The process is interactive and the Holy Spirit comes alongside any willing participant in the anxiety reduction process.
In our next post, we’ll share two practical tools for kids and young people that will help them take advantage of the spiritual resources God provides: The Suitcase idea and and the Great Exchange.
If you’d like personalized guidance to help you parent a child with anxiety, you might consider the Biblical Parenting Coaching Program. A trained coach can walk alongside you for eight remarkable weeks to help you address deep-seated issues in your child’s life. Learn more here.
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The Book Motivate Your Child is all about nurturing the spiritual development in children and flows quite nicely with the blog posts in this series.