Pastor Levi Lusko on living out God-given purpose, managing anxiety in a year of 'testing'

Levi Lusko is the lead pastor of Fresh Life Church, a multi-site church in Montana and Utah. | Fresh Life Church

In a culture defined by anxiety, toxic habits, and information overload, Pastor Levi Lusko is urging Christians to quiet the noise and take ownership of their God-given purpose.

In an interview with The Christian Post, Lusko, the lead pastor of Fresh Life Church, a multisite church in Montana and Utah, said he believes the COVID-19 pandemic is forcing millions to confront fissures in their lives — and most don’t know how to do so in a healthy way. 

“This time is exposing what maybe was already there all along: Toxic habits, unhealthy patterns of thinking, numbing medications, living on adrenaline and coffee, two hours of sleep,” the 38-year-old pastor said. “We’re chronically overloaded, overwhelmed, and lack a margin lifestyle. In this cultural moment, we’re overstimulated by screens and stimulants.”

“Soldiers don't get PTSD when they're overseas; they get it when they get home because everything settles down and then their body starts to feel the miles and the physical and psychological abuse they've been put through,” he continued. “The reason there's such high divorce rates right now, anxiety is through the roof, online pornography is rampant, is because a lot of us have lived at unhealthy levels for years. We just haven't slowed down long enough to feel our feelings.”

Lusko speaks from experience. The bestselling author, husband, and father has for years battled anxiety, night terrors, and panic attacks — tendencies he told CP he’s had to “declare war on and fight through,” with God’s help. 

“These feelings and thoughts are normal and understandable,” he said. “We have within all of us, at different times, storm clouds of emotions that are powerful and challenging. But the Bible says we've never been given any temptation that we can't win in, and that includes the battle of anxiety and panic.”

“It’s not going to be easy or instant, but [it is possible] if you're committed to bettering yourself and trusting God and leaning into some positive choices,” Lusko said. “It’s like a muscle: It may take some time, maybe even counseling, perhaps even seeking medical help, definitely leaning into the community of God's people at church in a small group, but you can win this.”

In his new book,Take Back Your Life: A 40 Day Interactive Guide to Thinking Right So You Can Live Right, Lusko challenges readers to identify their internal battles and offers practical, Scripture-based tools to help them practice self-control and embrace the unique role God has created for them.

“The first book I ever wrote was about grief and hope and finding peace in the most difficult things you face,” Lusko said. “My third book was about self-management and emotional intelligence. This book is an interesting nexus between the two. Whether it's an external circumstance or an internal battle, we all at times can feel like we've been swept downriver by things we have no power to control.”

Fresh Life Church

According to Lusko, Take Back Your Life is an “interactive, devotional, journal-type book meant to be read through 40 days, whether individually or with a small group.” The book includes both Bible teaching and what the pastor described as a “breathe, think and live section,” where readers can “take a deep breath, take inventory, ask difficult questions, and pray through guided prayers.”

“If you take the right steps, you can take back your life and live right so that you can be the best version of yourself that you were born to be: Like Christ, the light of Jesus shining in your eye, healed and healthy, so you can help heal other people,” he said.

A huge part of living right is thinking right, Lusko told CP, adding: “I get a lot of pushback when I talk about that, because I think there's such an overreaction in Christian circles because of positivity, or just ‘mind over matter.’"

"Look," he added, "I’m not saying the solution to every problem is mind over matter; I’m saying that the Bible says time and time again that what happens in your mind really does matter.”

The Through the Eyes of a Lion author said that our minds are “a little bit more like TVs than we may realize,” explaining: “If I'm sitting on an airplane and the flight movie is something that's toxic, I don't have to watch it because I have a remote control attached to the armrest and I can change the channel.”

“A lot of people end up unnecessarily in a victim mentality because we watch whatever is on the channel in our mind when we really can change the channel. And the Bible says not only do we have permission to change the channel, we actually have orders to do so,” he said, citing Colossians 3:2, Philippians 4:8, 2 Corinthians 10:5, and Proverbs 23:6-7.

“We can acknowledge the thought happened, and then change the channel. We can’t delete thoughts, but we can replace them,” he told CP. “So I’m going to put in something positive and praiseworthy. I’ve found that, when it comes to anxiety and panic, it’s helpful to ask: ‘Where did this come from? What triggered it? Was it a feeling before it was thought, or was it a thought before it was a feeling? That helps you to understand how best to attack it.”

In his book, Lusko identifies ways to “deal with different temptations differently.” He explained, for example, that thoughts that originate in the mind must be handled differently than thoughts that originate in the feelings. 

The pastor added that sometimes, it’s necessary to “thought block” and “pray the blood of Jesus over it.” However, that practice isn’t as helpful for thoughts that originate in the feelings, he said.

“If you wake up overwhelmed with fear, it’s not necessarily the best to try and combat it with truth when it's a wave of emotion,” he said. “You have to start by saying, ‘That's a real fear, that's a real feeling. I'm going to let that pass. It’s a fight or flight response triggered in a part of my brain that can't be rationally communicated with, so I'm just going to deep breathe, relax my muscles. I'm going to believe that God's peace is going to overwhelm me as I keep my thoughts stayed on Him.’”

Lusko explained that there’s a difference between taking inventory and assessing feelings versus allowing those feelings to control you.

“I have a friend who likes to say, ‘Feelings are tremendous indicators, but terrible dictators,’” he said. “We need to use feelings as an indicator light. So if I feel overwhelmed and overloaded and overtaxed that should be an indicator light that tells me, maybe there's something wrong.”

This year has tested everyone, Lusko told CP. He noted that throughout Scripture, the number “40” refers to testing, adding, “I don't think it's a mistake that 20 plus 20 — which is the year we're in — is 40.”

“I'm hoping that this book will help people to pass that test,” he said. “Take Back Your Life is all about coming to a place where you have self-control, where alcohol, online spending, or whatever vice you have, isn’t controlling your life. It’s only when you have self-control that you can actively offer control of yourself to the Holy Spirit.”

“We have one short life that is racing by us,” Lusko concluded. “We need to do everything Jesus wants us to do so that we can hear Him say to us, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant’ at the end.”

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