Spiritual Anxiety Relief: What We Can Learn From Birds

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "Battlefield of the Mind" by Joyce Meyer. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

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How should a believer deal with anxiety? What do birds teach us about spiritual anxiety relief?

Christian author Joyce Meyer argues that, if our minds are full of anxiety and worry, it’s a sign we’re under attack from the devil, who uses anxiety and worry to torment us and consume our thoughts with negativity. According to Meyer, worry and anxiety are unproductive emotions that rob us of the present moment, which is a gift from God. She says that birds offer a practical lesson for us all.

Keep reading for Meyer’s perspectives on anxiety.

Spiritual Anxiety Relief

To find spiritual anxiety relief, we must first understand where anxiety comes from and what it’s really about. Meyer explains that worry and anxiety may begin with seeds planted by the devil, but they are habit-forming. People can get so accustomed to worrying that their minds are constantly looking for something to worry about. Of course, if we’re looking for something to worry about, we’ll certainly find it, even if it means worrying about someone else’s problems.

Can Worry Sometimes Help Us?

Meyer’s characterization of worry as a “useless” emotion may be too narrow. Dan Harris provides a different view of the utility of worrying in his book 10% Happier. He proposes that worry can be productive if it alerts us to something we need to address or prepare for. However, like Meyer, Harris cautions that if worrying causes us to ruminate about the same thought over and over, it becomes unhelpful and a waste of energy. 

Similarly to Meyer, Harris suggests policing our thoughts to avoid wasting the present moment worrying. When we catch ourselves worrying, he advises asking ourselves whether the mental energy we’re spending is helpful—is it moving us closer to our goal? If it’s not, it’s time to move on.

Meyer explains that worry can sometimes be a symptom of pride, which also originates from the devil. Pride can make us feel like we have to solve our own problems without help. When we feel like we have to (or should be able to) deal with insurmountable problems by ourselves, our minds can quickly become negative. In contrast, a humble person doesn’t worry because she trusts that God will never give her a problem that she cannot handle with His help. Because of this faith, a humble person can maintain a positive mindset in situations where others succumb to negativity.

Our Ego in Our Way 

Another way that worry can work with pride to hold us back from a positive life is that, as Ryan Holiday discusses in his book Ego Is the Enemy, when we experience setbacks, our egos, fueled by pride, worry that those setbacks reflect a personal character failure that will lead to permanent and complete failure. This worry can occupy us, filling us with negative emotions, making it difficult for us to think with calm, clear minds, and preventing us from seeking solutions to our problems. This can lead to a negative life not only because we are filled with negative, pride-induced worry, but also because our problems then become permanent.  

Like Meyer, Holiday suggests that humility is an antidote to pride. Successful people, he notes, can control their pride so that they don’t get in their own way. One way he suggests keeping pride in check is to stop thinking so much about ourselves. If we can get our mind off of how great we think we are, he argues that we will have more time to actually do the things that will make us successful.

Meyer suggests engaging with the natural world to help manage our worry and anxiety. She explains that, if we observe nature, we’ll see how well God cares for His creation. For example, she notes that birds don’t know where their next meal is coming from, but they don’t seem to be filled with worry about it. Like the birds, she says we should not be consumed with worry about what our future holds or what we have or don’t have because God will provide everything we need to live the life that He intends for us. 

Nature as an Antidote to Stress

Meyer’s suggestion of engaging with nature to help manage worry is backed by a growing body of research. Enjoying nature can lower blood pressure, stress hormones, anxiety, and aggression. It can also calm overactive nervous systems, improve immune system function and self-esteem, and even reduce the time it takes to heal from illness or injury. 

A recent development in this area of research suggests that two hours per week is the minimum amount of time that it takes to experience measurable benefits from immersion in nature.
Spiritual Anxiety Relief: What We Can Learn From Birds

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Like what you just read? Read the rest of the world's best book summary and analysis of Joyce Meyer's "Battlefield of the Mind" at Shortform.

Here's what you'll find in our full Battlefield of the Mind summary:

  • How the Devil makes it his mission to corrupt our minds with negative thoughts
  • How to recognize the signs that Satan is attacking your mind
  • How to thwart Satan’s attacks and find happiness and fulfillment

Elizabeth Whitworth

Elizabeth has a lifelong love of books. She devours nonfiction, especially in the areas of history, theology, science, and philosophy. A switch to audio books has kindled her enjoyment of well-narrated fiction, particularly Victorian and early 20th-century works. She appreciates idea-driven books—and a classic murder mystery now and then. Elizabeth has a blog and is writing a creative nonfiction book about the beginning and the end of suffering.

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