Have you ever stood at the edge of a cliff, looking across a vast landscape? Except, the full view is partially hidden behind clouds and you couldn’t quite see the full vista in front of you?
That’s what I felt like at that moment – like someone about to bungee jump off a cliff for the first time. I didn’t know what it would feel like to let go of everything that felt secure and familiar. Or, what I would find if I leap into the unknown. This is crazy! Why did I decide to do this? I thought. With uncertainty raging, heart pounding, and knees shaking, I stood there straining my eyes to see where I was going. Can I really do this, or am I fooling myself, I wondered?
Have you ever felt this way? Have you ever faced a new situation or pursued a new goal, but the road ahead seems unclear? Answers to plaguing questions seem just outside your grasp. You desperately want things to go as planned and are doing everything in your strength to ensure a good outcome, but uncertainty torments you at every turn?
If you’ve lived long enough in this world, chances are you’ve faced some hard moments. Perhaps it was starting a new job, breaking off a toxic relationship, moving to a new city, or navigating a deeper loss. As you agonized over that important decision, anxiety gnawed inside you, and nothing you did to ease the angst lasted for long. But deep inside you knew that there was no going back. You had to find the courage to take that step and trust that you would be okay. Then, you closed your eyes, took a deep breath, and jumped!
Now, looking back on that moment, you smile, shaking your head in disbelief. You did it and survived. You realised that you’re stronger than you think.
All too often, when we face the trials and tribulations that are a guaranteed part of life in this world (John 16:33), a common response is to escape to safety. You want to return to your comfort zone – that place where everything is familiar. There are no risks or surprises to catch you off guard.
Life in the comfort zone may not always be easy, but you’ve figured out ways to navigate the hard times found there and learned how to survive them. Now, faced with the challenge to leave that place and step into the unknown, stirs a fear that clenches your heart, and swirls around you like a murky cloud.
You tell yourself, ‘where I am is not that bad, I can make it work’. Yet, deep down you know, that if you stay there, nothing will change. You’ll never move towards the things calling to you and become all you were meant to be and do.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you, and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you, when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you -Isaiah 43:2
Isn’t it a comforting reminder that there is someone who knows how hard it can be for you to face uncertainty and hard times, and assures you that you’ll be okay? God gives you enough strength to endure trials. Scripture calls it the testing of your faith, which serves a specific purpose. Your trials develop perseverance that leads to maturity and completion until you lack nothing (James 1:2-4).
But how exactly do you ease the anxiety that often accompanies your trials? How can you navigate tough times? Below are five suggestions.
Five Ways to Ease Anxiety when Facing Challenges
- Know that you’re not alone.
The good news is that God does not expect you to face your trials alone. That is why He sent us the Holy Spirit to be with us, always.
- Draw closer to God.
Press in daily, seeking guidance and direction, reassurance and strength that God is with you. You don’t have to do anything in your own strength. Withdraw to a quiet place to pray as Jesus did in Luke 5:16, where you will experience still waters and the restoration of your soul (Psalm 23).
- Understand the purpose of trials.
Know that with each trial you overcome, you develop perseverance that leads to maturity (James 1:2-4). Each time you step outside your comfort zone to do something new, even if you do it afraid, you grow in confidence and skill. The next time you face a challenge, draw on your resilience (the strength you’ve cultivated during previous difficult times). God assures us that we will be okay because all things work together for the good of them that love God (Romans 8:28).
- Guard against catastrophic thinking.
Instead of focusing on the worst possible outcome, imagine the opposite. What if it all works out better than you ever imagined it could? Adjust your inner self-talk from doubt and expected failure to faithful and hopeful expectations for a good outcome (Philippians 4:13). Build your confidence through positive self-talk and imagining and proclaiming the outcome you expect.
- Know where your strength comes from.
Remind yourself that you can do all things through Christ, who gives you strength and grace to mitigate your human efforts and limitations (Psalm 30:1-3; 2 Corinthians 12:9-10). For in Him, you live and move and have your being (Acts 17:28). Cultivate regular practice to reduce anxiety through breathing exercises, taking regular breaks in nature, and mindfulness exercises that bring your focus back to the present and enjoy the things going well in your life right now.
If you need more inspiration, see the Resources page for practical tools to cultivate deeper spiritual growth.