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.

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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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