I Feel Anxious
By Pastor Jeff
When I bring up anxiety it seems to hit a chord in almost everyone’s life. Concerns about the future & worrying about what might happen can be paralyzing, especially in times like this. So how do we overcome that? For most people in our culture the answer is to use some type of prescription drug, or supplement (which are not always wrong) to anesthetize, or to just accept it as a part of life. The Bible has a better answer.
Phil. 4:6-7 says, “Do not 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 your minds in Christ Jesus.”
So the first question we need to answer is, “what’s the difference between a prayer and a petition?” A petition is a request we make to God to take action on our behalf. Example: “God please help me overcome my anxiety.” Prayer, on the other hand, is any communication with God. All petitions presented to God are delivered as prayer, but there are forms of prayer (praise, confession, thanksgiving) that are not petitions. So a petition is a kind of prayer, but it is not the only kind of prayer. That’s an important distinction. The Bible tells us not to be anxious. If you think about it, for so many people the thought of death is not their greatest cause of anxiety…living is.
So what is anxiety? Well, for most of us, anxiety is when we feel uneasy, worried and nervous about a future event, or something with an uncertain outcome, or a current stressful situation like the issue we are all facing right now with this virus.
It’s an emotion characterized by a state of inner turmoil over anticipated events. Anxiety is not the same as fear. Fear is a response to a real or perceived immediate threat. You’re on vacation and the plane starts going down, or you’re fishing and a bear starts to chase you. Anxiety is the expectation of a future threat. It’s often an overreaction to a situation that is only subjectively seen as dangerous or menacing. Anxiety can cause physical and emotional problems and that can have a devastating impact on your life. Here’s the good news. We can all learn to manage our emotions by understanding what the Bible says about them. Ok, so why do we get anxious? Most of the time we get anxious because life is often out of our control. I like this quote I read from Hugh Jackman, “There is anxiety, but it comes after you’ve finished filming because it’s out of your hands; people are editing it, they’re cutting it, marketing it. Part of your career sort of rides on that.” He’s fine until it’s out of his hands…out of his control. Anxiety comes from a lack of certainty and control over the future. It often comes because of past negative experiences. We want to control the future because we’ve been hurt in the past. And we want to do our best to avoid a repeat of those past events. No one can control all of the events in life. All we can do is control how we spiritually and emotionally respond to those events. So how do we minimize anxiety in our lives?
Phil. 4:6-7 tells us we need to pray about the things that concern us.
First, we need to Ask God to Take Action on Your Behalf…petition Him.
Some of you are being kept awake by your anxious thoughts. So how can prayer help with that? Before you go to sleep, bring to mind the things that are keeping you awake and pray about each one. It may be helpful to write them out. Ask God to help you, if it ever becomes necessary to deal with them. Most of the things we worry about never happen. Studies show that 85% of the things we worry about never actually take place and 79% of people said that they handled the 15% of things that did happen, a lot better then they thought they would.
Five hundred years ago, Michel de Montaigne said: “My life has been filled with terrible misfortune; most of which never happened.”
If your anxious thoughts become realities you need to remember to give it over to God and trust Him. Also, in your prayer ask God to remind you of how He has rescued you in the past, often without you even asking.
Next you need to Control Your Mind
We need to learn to control our anxious thoughts.
Proverbs 4:23 says, “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.”
The “heart” includes the mind and all that proceeds from it. When the anxious thought comes into your mind stop it before it gets too far.
Understand how your mind works and ask God to help you control it.
Let me give you an example. God designed me to be able to think through a lot of options very quickly and to see how those options connect to other ideas. So, if there’s an opportunity, I’m able to process through a plan of action very quickly to try and seize the opportunity. My mind will quickly ask and answer, “who can help me, how can I find resources”. The problem is if someone tells me about a possible problem that could affect the church my mind goes through a similar process. “What’s the issue and how do I solve the problem? What are the options?” Then it continues on to other possible outcomes. Finally, “how do I deal with those possible outcomes?”
Can you see how that creates anxiety? I will no longer allow my mind to take its natural, genetic course. I will not entertain those thoughts. You can come to my house, but that doesn’t mean I want you there, or that I will entertain you. In most cases if I don’t entertain you, you’ll leave.
Our country is going through a crisis and your mind is probably running through all the worst-case scenarios. Instead of panicking and becoming anxious follow God’s encouraging Word. Fear and stress will get you nowhere.
Proverbs 4:25 says, “Let your eyes look directly ahead and let your gaze be fixed straight in front of you.”
Don’t allow your mind to wander. Deal with what happens, not what might happen. God is in control of “Might” or “Could,” or “What If.”
Next, we need to find our Security in Christ
Anxiety is often proportional to our feelings of security. If your life is playing out the way you planned then you naturally worry less. If not then our anxiety increases. When we feel threatened, or insecure, or we don’t get the desired result, it causes our minds to drift down a negative path. When that happens we need to follow 1 Peter 5:7, “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” Remember what Phil. 4 says…we need to pray and leave our worries with Christ.
Next, Keep an Eternal Perspective
Our anxiety only increases when we focus on earthly concerns, temporal things.
Matthew 6:19-21 reminds us, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
Matthew 6:25-27 says, “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?
Listen friends, you can’t worry yourself out of a problem. Charles Spurgeon wrote, “Anxiety does not empty tomorrow of its sorrows, but only empties today of its strength.”
So the Bible is saying, why worry?
Col. 3:2 says, “Set your mind on the things above, not on earthly things.”
God teaches us to deal with each day’s problems when they occur and not be obsessed with future concerns that may not happen.
Matthew 6:34 says, “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”
Luke 10:38-42 gives us another good example. It’s the story of Martha and Mary. Martha was running around taking care of all the details and feeling overwhelmed in the process. Mary, on the other hand, chose to sit at the feet of Jesus and learn from Him. Martha got upset and wanted Jesus to tell Mary to follow her lead but Jesus said to her, “you are worried and anxious about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better and it will not be taken away from her.”
What’s the one thing that freed Mary from the anxiety and worries experienced by her sister? Mary didn’t get caught up in all the chaos and self imposed demands of the day, but instead chose to focus on Jesus. The Bible doesn’t say Mary was being lazy or irresponsible, instead she chose to put Jesus first and fulfill her duties later. Mary had her priorities straight.
Sometimes we create the stress in our own lives. We over schedule our lives and the lives of our family members. We create stressful situations through our poor choices. We put ourselves in legal trouble, financial trouble, and we all know people who’ve been affected physically, if not died, because of poor choices. We need to make choices in our lives that help us eliminate stress, not cause it. We need to have the discipline to walk in His ways. If we put God first, and walk in His way, He will free us from worries.
In closing I just want to encourage you to reach out to the people around you and talk. When we’re faced with a stressful situation, it helps to process our feeling with those we love and trust. They are probably feeling the same way. As we share our anxious thoughts those thoughts begin to lose their power over our hearts and minds. Most importantly, talk to God. Cast all your anxiety on Him, leave it at the cross, because He cares for you.