In addition to combating the errors in the conventional “wisdom” that smoking, drinking, and doing drugs can help with anxiety, we need to equip our teens with healthy coping skills for the anxiety they experience. Whether their personality tends toward fearfulness and panic, life will certainly provide opportunities to become gripped by such powerful emotions. By God’s grace, and by fighting wisely, they can “get a grip” on those emotions in a healthy way.
Biblical and Scientific Bases
Romans 12:2 connects the idea of a transformed life (one exhibiting spiritual fruit and God-honoring behavior) flowing out from a renewed mind; God’s Word teaches us that our thoughts fuel our actions. Among other New Testament passages, Colossians 3:1-17 provides many examples of areas in which we as believers are encouraged to replace sinful and damaging behaviors with good ones; some refer to this concept as the “put off/put on” principle, rooted in the wording of that passage.
In the secular world, CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) is based on a similar principle, believing that identifying and replacing problematic or unhealthy thought patterns with positive, helpful ones is key to achieving emotional stability and desirable behavior.
Fighting Fearful Thoughts
In the face of fear, we’re called to resist anxiety by replacing it with prayer, thanksgiving, and meditation (Philippians 4:4-8). Prayer is more than saying words; it’s humbly trusting in the God of Heaven who cares about us (Matthew 10:29-31). It’s tossing our troubles into His unfailing arms (1 Peter 5:7), knowing He truly cares. It’s submitting to His plan when it’s far different from our own (Matthew 26:39-42). It’s letting go of our felt need to have guarantees and see how everything will work out, and resting in faith (Hebrews 11:1).
Thanksgiving describes the kind of prayer, as well. As with the Lord’s model prayer (Matthew 6:9-13), our prayers should not be mere petitions; they should include praise directed heavenward and thanksgiving for all the gifts He gives us (Philippians 4:4-6, James 1:17). We really can’t fret about something while we’re thanking God for it — can we? The result of that kind of fear-fighting is peace — peace that doesn’t even make sense (Philippians 4:7). Instead of focusing on possibilities or “what ifs,” we can choose to focus on what is true and lovely in our lives and in our world (Philippians 4:8).
Resisting Fearful Behavior
In addition to our thinking, God’s Word addresses our behavior. Fear can feel crippling and we can tend to focus on our fears and analyze them, even staying in bed where we feel safe. However, we can’t trust our feelings (or even our deeply ingrained self-protective ones) at such times. We need to trust God enough to obey Him. That involves connecting with others and doing good — even when that’s the last thing we feel like doing (Ephesians 2:18, Hebrews 10:23-25).
God’s grace enables us to do what God commands us to do. In Scripture, we see love for others as superior to self-protection and in opposition to fear (2 Timothy 1:7, 1 John 4:18, Philippians 2:3).