"If anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things."
"Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things."
The Apostle Paul, in Philippians 4:8 (NIV)
Out-of-control anxiety can be the worst experience of a person's life. It can lead to depression, serious relationship problems and even real, physical pain. For people who experience severe chronic anxiety, the fear, hopelessness, and despair can become unbearable. And for many people with chronic anxiety, following the usual advice to get more exercise and more social support does not relieve the symptoms, leading them to feel even more hopeless and constantly think "What is wrong with me?"
Exercise and social support are important tools for fighting anxiety, but for most people they will not provide full relief. The same goes for medication, cognitive therapy, and dietary changes. Apart from a miraculous healing, there is no "magic bullet" cure to anxiety. An anxiety recovery program should instead contain as many techniques as possible that help a given individual relieve anxiety. One of these which is often overlooked, but provides relief to most people, is meditation.
While Eastern meditation techniques involve emptying the mind of the cacophony of thoughts, Christian meditation involves filling your mind with the things of God. These might include prayer, Scripture, or reflections on your blessings. Upon focusing your thoughts, managing your breathing, and devoting the time necessary, you can discover the grace of God transforming your anxiety into hopefulness.
Though it's possible that significant results will be experienced almost immediately, most people require more time than that. However, with persistence and faithfulness, the full benefits can be seen. Especially for anxiety-prone people, early setbacks can cause a sense of failure or defeat. An important reminder for anxiety sufferers trying meditation for the first time is that it is the effort that counts, not the result. Any attempt to focus one's thoughts on the things of God, whether successful or not, will improve one's ability to focus in the future. This ever-improving focus will help not only future meditation, but also perspective and productivity in day-to-day life.
When starting a program of meditation, it is important to remember that it is an exercise. Just like physical exercise, effort and time will produce results over the long haul. As one practices, it will become easier to accept both successes and failures while cultivating an acceptance of oneself and the world.
As people spend more time meditating, they can find themselves better engaged with God while gaining more hope for the future. Hope is an essential resource for anxiety sufferers, as it lays the foundation of joy, peace, energy, and healthy relationships. The cultivation of hope critical to any anxiety recovery program.
Unlike physical exercise and diet changes (which decrease anxiety so gradually it is hard to tell if they are even working), meditation can provide a relatively quick change in general mood and spiritual perspective, thus giving anxiety sufferers immediate hope for the future.
That said, Christian meditation is not a miracle cure. Sure, God may choose to heal immediately and completely, but more often than not recovery takes place slowly over time. Such meditation is simply an effective tool in anxiety recovery, which is always a long and difficult healing journey. With enough tools and effort, however, combined with the grace and mercy of God, no anxiety exists that cannot be overcome.
"O Lord God, do not destroy Your people, Your inheritance, which You have redeemed through Your greatness, which You have brought out of Egypt with a mighty hand. Remember Your servants, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Do not look at the stubbornness of this people or at their wickedness or their sin. Otherwise, the land from which You brought us may say, 'Because the Lord was not able to bring them into the land which He promised them and because He hated them, He has brought them out to slay them in the wilderness.' Yet they are your people, Your inheritance, whom You brought out by Your mighty power and by Your stretched-out arm."