“4 Rejoice in the LORD always; again I will say, rejoice. 5 Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; 6 do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
I don’t know about you, but I am super good at reading this passage and reminding myself of how important it is to release my anxiety to the Lord, and then go about my day...anxiously.
For several years of my life, I was truly paralyzed by my anxiety. I got anxious about EVERYTHING. Which, if we read verse 6 above, is the actual opposite of what I should be anxious about. And honestly, I still struggle with anxiety on a regular basis. I can be anxious about getting up on time; I can be anxious about whether there’s enough coffee left for a cup; about spending enough time reading my Bible (but not too much time, which would make me late for work). I can be anxious about the traffic I might experience on my 6-minute commute (really, Katie?). I can be anxious if the students in my classroom are too quiet. I can be anxious if they’re too loud. I can easily be anxious about just about every part of my day. And many of you can relate.
Of course, I feel different levels of anxiety, based on the situation, but overall, I simply feel anxious almost incessantly. And friends, I have news for us—especially for me—I’m doing something wrong. However, it wasn’t until I attended the Biblical Counseling Training Conference at Faith Bible Church in Lafayette, Indiana in February 2017 that I even realized that I was doing something wrong. For the first time in my life, someone got real with me about my anxiety and its effect on my relationship with Jesus. And that is what I want to do with you in these next few minutes. Please note that much of what I am sharing with you here is based on my learning and my notes from the conference described above. It opened my eyes, and I hope it helps open yours, too.
Anxiety—also known as worry, and sometimes fear—is repeatedly forbidden in God’s Word. We see this in Matthew 6:25-34; John 14:27; 1 Peter 5:7; as well as in the passage above. What we see in all of these verses, and others concerning worry or fear, is God telling us not to worry. He will be sure to take care of us.
But for some of us, that’s just it. For some of us, the belief that God cares for us is distant—maybe it even seems far fetched. But the Bible repeatedly reminds us that He does care for us. And when we believe that truth, we will begin to see His antidote to worry: peace.
John 14:27 says, “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you…” When we believe that God cares for us, we can experience the peace Jesus promised! This peace is not one that is comprehensible to the human mind. Like Philippians says, it is peace “which surpasses all understanding”.
Now, is all of this to say that there are not real reasons to fear or worry or feel anxious? No, not at all. We live in a fallen world where all of these things are reality. However, we have the opportunity as Christ followers to take steps to overcome our worry and fear Biblically. Doing so requires us to:
- Distinguish between right concern or appropriate worry (such as the safety of your kids or the health of a family member) and sinful worry or fear (such as the overactive thoughts of “what might happen”).
- List our thoughts, feelings and actions that fit into these categories and analyze them in light of Scripture.
- Confess and repent (YES...you read that correctly) of any/all habits of worry and doubt. These confessions may bring us to a position of greater confessions, opening our eyes to other areas of our lives that are not God-honoring.
- Acknowledge the temporal nature of many of our fears and worries.
- Reflect on the faithfulness of God and His provision.
- Rejoice in our identity in Christ
- Learn to draw near to our sympathetic Savior to find grace and help in the very moment of anxiety.
- And recognize the truth that worry does not accomplish anything.
Friends, when we can walk through these steps—when I walk through these steps—in both big and small worries, we will more fully experience the peace of God. When we lay down our burdens, we will more fully experience the rest He promises in Matthew 11:28.
Let’s lay down our burdens together, and pick up the rest and peace He alone can offer us.
In His Grip,