Religion/spirituality is a topic that I don’t usually write or talk about… not because it makes me feel uncomfortable or because I’m afraid of offending or being judged by others… but because I’m afraid of marginalizing others or not being inclusive enough of those who may be of a different, minority affiliation or those who may not be religious/spiritual all. But the fact of the matter is, most people in this world are religious or spiritual in some way, shape, or form, and, for many of us, faith is a very important topic that permeates life. Therefore, it deserves attention and acknowledgement. Also, no one should feel like they have to hide their own faith just to make others feel comfortable.
Personally, I am a non-denominational Christian woman, and I sincerely and whole-heartedly try to live my life following the example of Jesus, who loved everyone unconditionally regardless of their background and faith. I am, of course, not perfect at this, but I strive for this every day. That is where I come from when I discuss the topic of faith, but my goal today is to speak about faith in a way that can still be applied to any religious/spiritual orientation.
In my life, I’ve been to churches of various denominations, and I have consistently received the message that anxiety is “bad”- that experiencing anxiety is somehow in conflict with faith. In other words, if you experience anxiety and doubt, then your faith and trust in God is weak… Because of this, I have seen many clients struggle with both anxiety and faith. This adds a whole new level of distress because then they feel guilty and ashamed for feeling something that is completely natural and involuntary!
This is the hard thing about faith.
In my earlier blog posts, I discussed the origins and purpose of anxiety- that anxiety has been hard-wired into our nervous system for as long as we have existed in order to enhance our survival in the face of danger.
Therefore, in my heart of hearts, I believe that God (who can be regarded as the ultimate scientist) designed anxiety within the human body and experience for an even deeper purpose than survival. God knows that we don’t grow in our comfort zones. God knows that we don’t reach our full potential when we’re “certain” about everything. God knows that, if we embrace it, anxiety, doubt, and struggle can be a vessel through which we discover our purpose and full potential, thereby strengthening our relationship with God, not weakening it.
Anxiety is not an ailment, but a gift and a blessing from God.
I know there are many who may feel pained to hear me say this… And I say this still, even though I know many who have severely suffered from anxiety- even though I myself have had my own struggles with anxiety. I say this because I have witnessed many come out the other side and grow from anxiety. I have witnessed and experienced the power of anxious courage.
So I challenge you to re-examine your definition of faith…
You know how I always say, “Courage is NOT the absence of anxiety. Courage is having anxiety and doing it anyway.”
Well, faith is also NOT the absence of anxiety, doubt, and uncertainty. Faith is having anxiety, having doubt, having uncertainty and believing anyway.
When I say “believing,” I mean, not only believing in thought, but believing in action– living and behaving in a way that is in line with your morals and values. This can be accomplished even in the midst of anxiety and doubt.
That’s why they call it, “taking a leap of faith,” right?… Leaping even though you’re unsure of where you might land.
Every worthwhile venture you’ve ever embarked on in life probably started with taking a leap of faith. And you probably grew and learned things about yourself and perhaps your relationship with God that you wouldn’t have learned otherwise.
This week, begin the practice of seeking what there is to learn from anxiety, doubt, and uncertainty every day. Practice faith.
Until next time,
Have courage and kind wishes!
Tannah E. Chase, Ph.D.
The Anxiety Counseling Clinic, P.L.L.C.