Updated: Sep 29, 2020
Anxiety is a feeling that we’ve all experienced at some point in our lives. Often, anxiety is normal in stressful situations like when we have to speak in public or take a test. Usually once the event is over and we realize we’ve survived, the anxiety level drops and we are no longer concerned with the perceived threat. But, what about when anxiety becomes excessive, all-consuming, and interferes with our daily living?
Worries about the future, financial stresses, our health, important decisions to make, the decisions/future/safety of our children, our marriages, jobs, and schedules can get to be too much.
What does scripture teach us about dealing with anxiety? The apostle Paul was well acquainted with anxiety. In fact, when he wrote his letter to the Christian community in Philippi, Paul was in a Roman prison chained to a guard 24-hours a day while waiting to be executed; and this is what he wrote:
“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do no be anxious about anything but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:4-7)
Certainly bringing our worries to God is the single most important thing we can do to ease our anxiety and experience His peace “which transcends all understanding,…” but there are things we can do with the help of the Holy Spirit to reduce our own anxiety. Consider these fours things:
1. We tend to run ourselves into the ground. We often relate “busy” with making progress and adding value to our lives’. We overload our schedules in order to make as much progress as we can, right? Dan Garrick Pittman, an emotional intelligence trainer and coach in Dallas, Texas, suggests we think of time as a non-refundable and limited asset, the currency of being busy. As we start to feel our time currency run low and it seems like we can’t get everything done, we panic just like we do when our actual currency (money) runs too low to pay our monthly bills. The solution is to budget and prioritize our activities just like you would with a financial budget. Get rid of mundane time wasters. Carefully evaluate the tasks that go on your schedule and put them in order of importance.
2. We shut people out. Life is always better together. When we feel anxious, that is the time we should reach out to our support network – church, family, friends, a mentor; anyone who can listen objectively, help us re-focus, and realign our priorities. Keep this in mind when you’re tempted to put your head down and try to “power” through it.
3. We focus on the negative. Our thoughts determine our emotions, so what and how we talk to ourselves, i.e. our “self-talk”, greatly influences the amount of anxiety we feel. “My life is so hard; I can never get it all done.” “There’s just too much!” “I’m always going to struggle.” “We’re never going to be happy.” The more we tell ourselves things like this, the more anxious we’ll be.
4. We forget God. This is our biggest mistake. We try to face our fears while forgetting God. Yet, every moment of time God is present. God is always faithful. God’s power is visible in our world. God’s provision is real. It seems like God’s voice gets drowned out by the things screaming at us and making us feel anxious. Often when we don’t hear God at those moments but it’s not because He’s not there. Instead of screaming, yelling and shouting, God whispers. Why does He whisper? He whispers because…He is always that close.