Spiritual Rumination by Julia Phillips

“I will not leave you as orphans, comfortless; I will come to you.”

John 14:18

 

The human body is a miracle. As a surgical technologist and first assistant in the operating room I enjoyed the most exciting job of my life. Our bodies are miracles.

Today I’m going to share about one tiny part of your body that you could not live without—your amygdala. Your amygdala – two tiny almond shaped structures – are located within your brain and are responsible for detecting fear and preparing for emergency events you face in life.

Your amygdala is your processing system involved with your emotions and other reactions to stimuli. It receives incoming messages from your senses and your internal organs. When stress makes you feel anger, aggression, or fear — your fight or flight response is activated. Often it results in a sudden, illogical, and even irrational overreaction to the situation — literally hijacking your response to and ability to control stress.

I looked up conditions regarding this amazing little body part in the annuls of the American Medical Association and other medical schools. I was very surprised that a secular advanced educational center used a line from a popular movie most of us have seen — Lion King.

In a list of steps regarding how to manage an overactive amygdala it said, “Realize you’ve been triggered; let go of the story, release the tension,” and “Remember who you are,” a line in the movie when the spirit of his father encouraged his son Simba when he was afraid. A person could write books on these small suggestions if applied to our spiritual man.

Thanks to your amygdala, you would swerve to miss a moose before you even saw it. You’d step back on to a curb when you heard a car honk — before even seeing a car. You’d duck if you heard noises like a tree falling. It operates like an alarm system, alerting you to danger before you even have time to truly think about a potential danger — prompting you to action before you know it’s needed.

It’s an amazing part of the brain, but what we don’t want is a hyper-sensitive amygdala. We would live in a constant state of perpetual anxiety.

What would perpetual anxiety manifest like?

You suddenly notice a mole on your arm? It must be cancer.

Your teen suddenly acts irrationally while battling a difficult day — you automatically think they’re doing drugs.

You start coughing — and you think you might have been infected with the Corona virus while at the airport.

Anxiety is a meteor shower of what-ifs. It’s an epidemic in our nation and sadly with many Christians. And it’s contagious. But the worst part of perpetual anxiety, the spiritual root of it, is a fear of falling short of or failing to receive God’s care and love.

Somehow our belief in His truth and promise that we have been adopted eternally by our Heavenly Father is hijacked by the lie that we are actually just His foster children, and only our perfect performance will earn a permanent spot in His family.

Remember our studies on Joseph, Paul, and Jesus Himself?

Sometimes when it feels we are being troubled on every side, it’s not that we are failing somehow but rather we are right in the center of God’s will and purpose. Anxiety can hit when you falsely believe God is watching and grading your performance on a curve. How quickly we can doubt His unfailing love and care.

The truth is, when you gave your life to God, He took full responsibility for you. And He is a good Father. 

“You are no longer a slave but God’s own child. And since you are His child, God has made you His heir.” Galatians 4:7

The word anxious defines itself. It’s made up of two words: angst which means a sense of unease, and xious — a sound that can be heard when you exhale after hyperventilating from something scary.

It actually comes from the Greek word “merimnao” and is translated, “to care; to worry; impatient; worrying; to worry such as to pull oneself apart; restlessness; disquietness; concern; unrest; solicitousness; regret; fear; feeling inadequate to cope with the world around you; or dread of any potential evil or failing.” Now that is a mouthful.

And as if that isn’t enough, the dictionary adds: “taken from ‘meris,’” meaning “to distract; to draw one into a different direction; apprehension; leading to undue concern or alarm regarding the future or possibilities not yet realized.”

That just about says it all.

When those two tiny almond-shaped organs called our amygdala are over-worked — these effects can hijack our lives, starting with robbing us of our peace. Anxiety can twist us into emotional pretzels if we allow it.

It robs us of our sleep, raises our blood pressure, gifts us headaches, and makes us twitch or shake. I Googled this topic just out of curiosity and one of the first sites was titled, “America’s use of tranquilizers such as Xanax has doubled in past 5 years.” Why? What is causing all this anxiety?

The Apostle Paul exhorts us in Philippians 4:6, “Be anxious for nothing.”

The presence of anxiety is unavoidable, but the prison of anxiety is optional. Anxiety is an emotion. The problem enters when people find themselves in a state of perpetual anxiety and they try and self-medicate to escape it or find a temporary reprieve from it.

Some will escape by alcohol. Others will binge on sports or dramas on television. The list of choices is endless. Drugs, entertainment, excess exercise, or even withdrawing into their own reclusive “by invitation only” world. All to medicate anxiety and worry.

Worry has a fascinating etymology that I shared in an article this past fall. It can be traced back to the German word, “wurgen,” which means “to strangle; to choke; to harass by biting, tearing, or snapping especially at the throat.”

God created us in the most miraculous, astounding way. We are spirit, we have a soul, and we live in a body. We are molded in such a way that all three parts are in constant contact — and like mirrors reflect our minds, emotions, and hearts between them. We experience it day in and day out.

Jesus spent a lot of time teaching us about the importance of keeping our thought life in check and about receiving the unconditional, total agape love He has for us for a reason. In order to live the abundant, joyful life He intended we need to obey what He teaches, or we will be robbed.

“Rejoice in the Lord always. Again, I say rejoice! Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding (your amygdala), will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:4-5.

As I continue to study these amazing tiny structures in our brain, I’m getting so excited it’s difficult to type fast enough! I have read about a dozen articles written by the AMA as well as renowned neuro-physicists. What I’m learning is that these amazing creations can become “clogged” or stunted due to fearful experiences in our lives — even back to childhood.

For instance, one study showed mice who were subjected to a certain tone or sound right before they were given a shock. What happened was every time they heard the sound, they became paralyzed with fear — even before any shock is even administered. Years later, the mice still reacted with fear even though they hadn’t received the shock for a very long period.

The journals explained it is now believed that memories are consolidated here and can even cause dread of potential fear, regardless of how irrational or plausible the fear — like Chicken Little’s fear of the sky falling.

It reminded me immediately of the verse, “Perfect love casts out fear; for fear hath torment.” 1 John 4:18.

God’s love doesn’t just bury fear or trauma, or cover it, it casts it out. It clears our spirits of fear and clears our physical body as well by healing our amygdala, so we are no longer tormented by triggers we don’t even comprehend or recall. No more FEAR (False Evidence Appearing Real). Anxiety is not your portion my friend.

Remember, the contagiously calm person is the one who reminds others, God is in control. Be that person.

“For I know who I have believed in and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed unto Him against that day.” 2 Timothy 1:12.

Ruminate on that.