What I Wish Christians Understood about Cheer

cheerAre Kind Words Enough to Cheer Up an Anxious Person?

It says it right there in Proverbs 12:25, “Anxiety weighs down the heart, but a kind word cheers it up.” Unfortunately, some Christians believe kind words can serve as the only antidote to anxiety. They can’t. Kind words provide a corollary, but we should never assume that they provide the only or best answer to anxiety.

Some #Christians beleive that kind words provide the antidote to #anxiety. They don't. Click To Tweet

I have a generally upbeat, happy-go-lucky sort of attitude, so it took me awhile to understand our daughter’s bouts of paralyzing anxiety. She would call me in the middle of the night, crying and scarcely unable to verbalize her symptoms. I would kneel by her bed and murmur soothing things to her and pray with her and help her breathe. Eventually, she would fall asleep and I would return to bed and toss and turn for the rest of the night, wondering what we had done wrong in raising her to produce such deep anxiety.

Our routine seemed to work. In hindsight, I should have taken her to a therapist. I come from a background and era where we avoided coffee, tea, alcohol, loud music and psychiatrists. At this point in my life (after coming alongside a daughter with panic attacks and experiencing life with a daughter with bipolar disorder) I understand how my ignorance and attitudes prevented them from finding help sooner.

A quick search on the Internet shows that therapy (and possibly medication) can alleviate panic attacks, anxiety, and panic disorders. Sometimes, the symptoms can have a physiological basis (heart problems, thyroid problems or hypoglycemia, caffeine or illegal stimulant use). Other times, stressful events can bring on periods of intense anxiety (those who suffer often experience the same symptoms of someone having a heart attack).

If you or someone you love suffers from anxiety or panic attacks, take action.

1. Offer kind words such as “Have you ever considered seeing a therapist to help you with your panic attacks? I’d be happy to go along with you if you need mortal support.”
2. Commit to praying for them and with them (scientists are currently studying whether or not intercessory prayer provides healing results).
3. Avoid phrases such as, “What’s wrong with you? You have a nice home and a great family” or, “So and so has it worse than you do, and he or she never seems anxious.” Only God knows how people are knit together. Guilting someone does not bring cheer.
4. Personal faith in God does not provide immunity from anxiety or panic—it CAN make it easier to overcome the symptoms with the help of therapy and medicine.
5. Never assume that anxiety or panic prove that a person’s faith is weak.

Does the Bible lie or contradict itself? No. That verse in Proverbs simply says that anxiety weighs down a heart, and kind words can cheer someone up. Sometimes, those kind words need to come from a professional who knows how to guide a person through the emotional minefields that comprise the knots of heavy anxiety that produce panic attacks.

So be kind. Get help if you need it without shame or self-recrimination or help someone you know get help.

Anita currently teaches English to 7th-12th graders. She describes herself as a 'recovering cancer caregiver' who gives thanks daily that her husband has been cancer-free for ten years.

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  • Great post, Anita…especially the ‘never assume’ bullet point. From the perspective of PTSD, I have had people imply that my faith is weak, and that if I would ‘just say Jesus!’ all would be well.

    The places I’ve been…it was very hard to shake the feeling that God had left there a long time back. He hadn’t, of course, but having my faith questioned by someone who had not taken the express elevator to hell was a bit hard.
    Andrew Budek-Schmeisser recently posted…Your Dying Spouse 160 – Voices {FMF}My Profile

  • There is so much wisdom in what you say- borne by experience and empathy. Sounds like you are an amazing mother as well!
    Emma recently posted…BreathingMy Profile

  • Oh friend, THIS: “Sometimes, those kind words need to come from a professional who knows how to guide a person through the emotional minefields that comprise the knots of heavy anxiety that produce panic attacks.” I wish more people would understand that when it comes to mental health concerns. This is a nice follow-up or addendum to my post here on Monday. I’m in the 7 spot this week.
    Tara recently posted…Where Everyone Knows Your Name!My Profile

  • Would have clicked that like button 100 times if I could. I’ve never suffered panic attacks or anxiety to the extent your daughter has but I take a tiny little pill to help my anxiety that often results in heart palpitations and over emotional reactions. I can become one big cry baby! 😉 It took those palpitations to get me in front of a doctor and decide that kind words and soothing talk from others wasn’t cutting it. You do a wonderful service of spreading the word about mental health. Thank you, thank you, thank you!
    Debby recently posted…Five-Minute Friday: CheerMy Profile

  • We only need to take one look at the Psalms to see that anxiety plagued the only man to be called a man after God’s heart. The need for your Number 5 is sad. Reminds me of someone asking me recently if I was “okay” now, as if I wasn’t when I was suffering from PTSD. Are any of us really “okay”? I don’t think so…we all suffer from the broken bond of sin…and are all being transformed for glory…then we’ll all be “okay”!!

    I actually believe people like your daughters could teach us a lot about faith, about God’s Power working through our human frailty. Thank you for encouraging us so faithfully, Anita.
    Anna Smit recently posted…Cheering God’s Glory in Vessels of ClayMy Profile

  • I LOVE THIS POST!!!!

    I used to experience panic attacks with regularity. In those moments, which seemed to last forever, I did NOT want to be told “everything is okay” or whatever. Yes, I logically know, somewhere in my mind, that everything is in fact okay, but the adrenaline that was flooding my brain and pushing me into “flight or fight” didn’t understand that at all. My opinion is that the best thing anyone can do when someone else is having a panic attack is to just be with them. A calming presence does more than words ever can.

    Therapy, therapy, therapy. Yes and amen. I would be dead if I hadn’t spent a year-and-a-half in counseling. I genuinely believe that. In that process I picked up so many tips and tools that help me cope with the fear and sorrow that God has not seen fit to completely alleviate. Now, when the panic rises, I know to just do the next thing because the pounding in my chest will not in fact kill me.

    When people try to tell me that Christians should be cheerful all the time, I like to point them to Elijah, Jeremiah, all of the disciples, the Apostle Paul and, you know, Jesus in Gethsemane. This world is a broken place and we’re just in denial if we think our minds are affected by that.
    Marie recently posted…Five Minute Friday: CheerMy Profile

    • Amen! I’m so glad you got help and came up with ways to cope. Adam didn’t need a counselor because he hadn’t lived through 6000 years of sin and degeneration. We’re messed up–but when we know that God loves us anyway and that he’ll lead us to the help we need, than we’ve started on the journey to healing.
      Anita Ojeda recently posted…What I Wish Christians Understood about CheerMy Profile

  • As usual, you have great wisdom and I’m so glad you shared it, Anita.
    Many Christians do not understand anything that affects the health of people mentally. Depression, anxiety, often are mislabeled as mindsets. It’s not that God cannot heal, but ignorance leads others to believe that it’s a lack of faith that contributes to a troubled mind. 🙁
    So thankful that you are bringing awareness to this being “normal”, and that we SHOULD pray for those who suffer, but should also not assume we know what they are feeling or going through. Comfort and letting them know they are not alone-these are some of our best ways of helping.
    Love you!!
    -Tammy

    • Thanks for stopping by, Tammy :). If we keep spreading the word, people will start to learn! Prayer has its place, but we should never assume that that’s all it will take to bring someone healing.
      Anita Ojeda recently posted…What I Wish Christians Understood about CheerMy Profile

  • Such truth. I’ve struggled with anxiety and comments of ‘trust God’. Thank you for sharing and educating people on how to support ( as well as things to avoid) when dealing with those who suffer with anxiety.
    Tammy Mcdonald recently posted…Renewed Hope and CHEER: FMFMy Profile

  • I so agree. I worry about some counselors who say that we don’t need anti anxiety drugs because we should conquer our stress and fears through prayer. Some people have real chemical imbalances and need the help.
    Mary Hill recently posted…Cheering Her On : Raising My Daughter for the KingMy Profile

  • Great post! Numbers 4 and 5 are especially helpful to remember, both as a sufferer and a helper. 🙂

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