I want to start with a Biblical word in the Greek text of the New Testament. It is merimnao, μεριμνάω, which is translated (in Philippians 4:6) as “be careful” (KJV), and elsewhere as “take thought”, “be worried”, etc. It comes from the word merizo (pronounced meridzo), which means to divide, to part, to be disunited, and nous which means mind.
It has the idea of a divided mind.
Merimnao divides the individual in every dimension of mind.
Merimnao divides the feelings leading to unstable emotions, fears, panics …
It divides the understanding, leading to shallow, changeable convictions.
It divides perceptions leading to faulty and false observation.
It divides judgment leading to attitudes and decisions that are unjust.
It divides the faculty of determination leading to plans and purposes being scrapped or not fulfilled.
It leads to abulia, which means no power to decide, to will, a state of mind which is often referred to as a “nervous breakdown”, in which the victim’s responses are depressed and passive, in which the victim is unable to struggle with his or her problem.
James 1:8 uses a different Greek word, dipsuchos, which is derived from two Greek words, dia (two) and psuche (mind). Literally, therefore, in two minds, vacillating, double-minded
This state of mind (merimnao, or dipsuchos), has many consequences.
It divides husband from wife, parents from children …
divides the wife from “another woman”, even the wife from her husband’s mother …
or the wife’s preoccupation with her children to the neglect of the husband himself,
or the husband’s preoccupation with his job or ambition to the neglect of his wife and children.
The person who has a condition described by these words, merimnao and dipsuchos) is unstable in all his ways (James 1:8): his emotions, his thought processes, his decisions, his judgments.
What he or she can’t to is to say with Paul “This one thing I do” (as in Philippians 3:13).
Php 3:13 Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, …
f I were to stop there, it would only put you “under the law” in relation to merimnao. It would only add “Thou shalt not worry” to the code of laws you “must” observe, and you might find yourself trying to cope with it by using other means that do not do away with the divided-mind syndrome!
The majority of worriers, the majority of those who suffer from panic attacks, try to destroy their vicious enemy merimnao … with ineffective tactics. Here are some of these (I’m listing six of the most important). Read through this teaching, and take what applies to you now, and leave those which don’t apply to you at this time. You may still find them useful in counseling others about their problems.
The tactics listed here are used by immature personalities. When we use them, we are, to that extent, being immature. So by looking at these tactics in perspective you will be taking a significant step towards maturity.
Tactic 1: Flattery
I am not implying that you would resort to this; this is a general study to put things in perspective, equip you for all situations, and alert you against false starts!
Fact: flattery is a device used by many to compensate for worry. Many worriers try, by flattery, to win large numbers of friends who will be loyal to them. They try to immunize themselves from danger by building around themselves this wall of friends. Social networks like Facebook are among the means that are used, and attaching friends and stroking them (or poking them, or whatever) are often an attempt not only to avoid loneliness, but also to achieve “protection” from danger. This is based on the belief that “there is safety in numbers”. Worriers think that, if the dangerous possibilities (or probabilities) that they fear become fact, they will be shielded by their wall of friends.
But flattery does nothing except to give a temporary (and false) security to the flatterer.
Flattery is mentioned more then 30 times in the Bible. As an important example, take Psalm 12:2, which links flattery with a double heart (in Hebrew, lêb lêb, from lêb, heart).
Psa 12:2 They speak vanity every one with his neighbour: with flattering lips and with a double heart do they speak.
3 The LORD shall cut off all flattering lips, and the tongue that speaketh proud things:
Tactic 2: Criticism
There are three reasons why people criticize.
to lift themselves up in the eyes of others;
to project on to others their own misery;
to divert attention to other people and away from the very thing of which they themselves are guilty, the thing that tempts them and troubles them the most
Romans 2:1 Therefore thou art inexcusable, O man, whosoever thou art that judgest: for wherein thou judgest another, thou condemnest thyself; for thou that judgest doest the same things.
Tactic 3: Excessive Activity
Through excessive activity, worriers try to conquer their worries. But this is a temporary escape. Worriers only postpone their misery by a kind of intoxication that their excessive activity generates. Feverish activity triggered by escapism (rather than a desire to produce) solves no problems. It simply distracts the mind, for a while, of the fearful thoughts that cause the anxiety. In fact, such activity usually creates more problems, and so intensifies the problem which the worrier is trying to conquer.
Some forms of excessive activity: addiction to watching tv, addiction to Facebook, Orkut, and the like, listening to music, reading books as a distraction from worry or fear, intense involvement in social work, attending meeting upon meeting (including church meetings), etc., etc.
People who indulge in excessive activity of the above types cannot stand their own company for thirty minutes without such props.
To counter the tendency to excessive activity, consider and act upon the Lord’s words in Mark 6:31.
Mar 6:31 And he said unto them, Come ye yourselves apart into a desert place, and rest a while: for there were many coming and going ….
Tactic 4: Alcohol and Narcotics
People who suffer from the hyperactivity syndrome often try to cope with it by taking a tranquilizer (calming agent) or an anxiolytic (anti-anxiety or anti-panic agent) or a soporific (sleep-inducing agent). Or they make take drugs such as uppers, downers, psychedelic, ecstasy, etc. Some use alcohol, which makes them feel a temporary exhilaration and forget the anxiety while the effect lasts, forgetting that in the long term drinking heavily produces depression, which requires a greater quantity of drinks to suppress and ultimately leads to alcohol addiction. In fact, all of these chemical means of dealing with anxiety, fears, panic, etc., are temporary solutions, while the real condition is being treated or dealt with in parallel (for example by cognitive-behavioral therapy). In themselves, chemical means only palliate; they do not cure such conditions. They only postpone the problem, and ultimately increase the agony.
The best route is to avoid chemical means (unless there is a sound medical reason like hormone imbalance or similar), and then such chemical means must be taken under supervision, and within prescribed limits.
The proverb that refers to wine and strong drink applies equally to other chemical means taken without sound reason and without proper medical supervision.
Proverbs 20:1 Wine is a mocker, strong drink is raging: and whosoever is deceived thereby is not wise.
Tactic 5: Positive Thinking
Many try to overcome worry by positive thinking. In itself, positive thinking is good, since a person cannot have positive thoughts and fear-producing thoughts at the same time. But there are dangers here too:
Some try to overcome their feelings of inadequacy and worry over lack of money by imagining that they have plenty of it, and by spending accordingly. Such spending produces a temporarily relief, a feeling of fulfillment. But the reality soon catches up, as the bank balance gets depleted.
Gamblers are usually “positive thinkers”. They believe that the next throw of the dice, the next horse-race, the next lottery ticket, will bring them the success they crave. They believe that their “ship will at last come home”.
Some follow positive thinking programs, listen to positive thinking tapes, read books on the subject … and find themselves lost in “New Age” or occultic thinking.
The only source of positive thinking that does not deceive is the Bible. The Bible has positive and negative thinking, each in the right place, at the right time, in the right proportion. There is power in positive thinking and also power in negative thinking (such as in the Ten Commandments and other negative commandments such as “Fear not”). However, it is one thing to know what we must be and do (or not be and not do), and another thing altogether to meet the requirement.
The erroneous concept behind much positive thinking is that a person, in his or her own strength, can create the kind of mental attitude that will banish fear and worry. Such a concept is contrary to fact. One’s self-inspired, self-produced positive mental attitude is not sufficient to conquer the big issues of life.
In God alone is the solution:
2Ti 1:7 For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.
Tactic 6: Self righteous Resignation
Self-righteous Resignation says, “My cross is heavy, but I am determined to take it valiantly.” This is most blasphemous.
Wherever the Bible tells us to “take up thy cross”, the phrase refers to death to sin and death to self. It never refers to any pain, or grief, or distress, or problem, as a cross that some are called to bear.
The one who really bears his cross is the one who knows no worry, no fear, no panic because he has already died to sin and to self, and so does not feel any such destructive fear, or negative emotion. Such a one has peace because his mind is always stayed on Christ, and because he trusts in Christ.
Isaiah 26:3 Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee.
Jesus never complained about the weight of His cross. He bore a cross, a real cross, for you and for me. His disciples rejoiced .
“that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for his name.” Act 5:41.
The six tactics listed above are like toy guns that cannot destroy the worry habit or the panic tendency.
What you need is a one-two punch
The Power of Negative Thinking in a form calculated to get the toy guns out of the way
Then you’re ready to Fire God’s Great Cannon Guns on your worry habit or panic tendency and totally eradicate them.