By Dr. Donald Lynn Hardaway
When you find yourself infected with anxious thoughts it is likely you feel “out of control” of people or events or situations. Because we are descendants of Adam, we have this desire within us to control our world, to force outcomes to fit our will. When we feel like the outcome is beyond our control, our hearts fill with anxious thoughts. Really, we are expressing one of the consequences of man’s fall: the belief that we can be like God; in control of everything that affects us. It is a lie we tell ourselves and, until we can safely and surely leave outcomes to the one true God, we will wrestle with unhealthy anxiety.
Decide to “not care” so much about the outcome and anxiety will calm down. Not caring does not mean you no longer care about the person causing your anxiety; it means you will no longer let the desire to keep them satiated or happy be the driving force in your heart. The formula for applying this strategy is IDC2BA or, “I don’t care to be anxious” about this person, this situation, this problem, this stressor.
The KJV translates Philippians 4:6, “be careful for nothing.” Chand calls this “strategic withdrawal;” it is a psychological distancing which gives us space to reflect and respond rather than reacting in fear, hurt or anger when faced with a person or situation beyond our control.
The gospel writers relate Jesus’ intentional distancing of Himself when faced with moments or events that could have incited great anxiety in His heart. Anxious people approached Him often, but He refused to allow their personal anxieties to affect His calmness.
When the father of a demon-possessed son impatiently insisted on Jesus’ help, He spoke to the desperate dad with calm assurance. The disciples grew anxious over Jesus’ instruction to find food to feed the multitudes who had spent the day under His teaching. His response was clear, level-headed thinking rather than hand-wringing uncertainty. The night scene in Gethsemane caught the disciples by surprise and quickly pushed their anxiety level to a dangerous high, causing Peter to unwisely swing a sword in the direction of a large group of well-armed guards. Some of the disciples ran for their lives; the “fight or flight” mode can do that to you. But Jesus, practicing strategic emotional and psychological withdrawal, answered the anxiety with great calm and wisdom.
I don’t know if Jesus practiced a mental strategy like IDC2BA, but if we are to be like Him, we need to learn not to be so emotionally reactive to stressful situations and individuals that our spiritual wisdom is negated by our carnal cravings to control all emotions and events around us.
The next time you find your anxiety level increasing, try this formula: IDC2BA. “I don’t care to be anxious” about this. I think you will find your pulse rate slowing, your spiritual reasoning returning, and your calmness restored.
Here’s an infographic on What Anxiety Feels and Looks Like: http://www.thebridgenet.org/what-anxiety-feels-and-looks-like-infographic/
[i] Samuel Chand, Leadership Pain, p. 163