Every one of us gets anxious from time to time¹. Family problems, health issues, tensions at work, even disputes with other church members – all these can lead to anxiety. So can severe weather (e.g. hurricanes and blizzards). And here are two growing source of anxiety: influences from a Godless society that make living a Christian life difficult for us as individuals and parents; and threats from terrorists and active shooters.
Sin can lead to anxiety. “ For I confess my iniquity; I am full of anxiety because of my sin.” Ps 38: 18.
Some anxiety attacks can have minor impact, but others can keep us awake at night, divert our focus, or cripple our daily functioning by sapping our energy. Our precious time is wasted, hours and days of our lives that we will never get back to use for Godly purposes.
Of course, there is a difference between genuine concern, which is biblical, and anxiety, which is not. The difference is not easily defined, but here are some criteria: concern will most likely be other-focused, while anxiety may be self-focused; concern can lead to positive action, while anxiety may cause paralysis or negative action; concern acknowledges God’s role, while anxiety shuts Him out. To be Biblical, we will say, “I am concerned about my son’s addiction, and I want to be a positive influence; God help us” rather than “I am so anxious about him that I don’t know what to do. God seems far away.”Although it’s hard to find a precise definition of Biblical concern, most Christians will “know it when we see (or feel) it.”
God does not want His people to be anxious. The Bible tells us that over and over again.
One critical reason is that anxiety usually is – are you ready for this? – a sin, for at least two reasons. First, if we’re anxious we aren’t trusting God to take care of our needs, but letting pride control. Second, being anxious directly violates Godly commands that we should not be anxious.
Fortunately, He offers unconditional forgiveness for the sins, and guidance in dealing with anxiety. To find out how His Word will help us, we are going to study two of the most-quoted Biblical passages on anxiety: Philippians 4:6-7, and Matthew 6:25-34 (the latter from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount). This article will focus on the Philippians passage, and the next on the Matthew scripture. Philippians 4:6 says:
Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.
Notice that Paul did not say, “be anxious for some things,” or “just the huge things” or “the things God seems to have forgotten to take care of.” But be anxious for nothing. Notice the sharp contrast of absolutes: be anxious for nothing but in everything by prayer… . (The Amplified Bible reads: “do not fret or have any anxiety about anything, but in every circumstance and in everything, by prayer and petition (definite requests) with thanksgiving, continue to make your wants known to God.”)
God’s direction is clear. But we must concede that we can’t keep anxious thought from entering our mind. Verse 6 tells us what to do when anxious thoughts confront us: pray. Bring our requests to God, and do so with a thankful heart – thank Him for His faithfulness and for His answer to prayer, past, present and future.
Verse 6 says that we need to let God know what we are requesting, those things that are sources of anxiety. For example, we may need a job, or healing from a health problem, and we are anxious about those thing. God says: “pray about it.” Replace the anxiety with prayer, requesting that God meet our specific needs. What if we are anxious but can’t identify the cause of our anxiety? We should ask God to reveal the source – or that He should just get rid of the anxiety
“So if I would just pray God will remove the anxiety. That’s easy to say.” Easy to do? Often, no! It seems that there is resistance when we try to push the anxiety back with prayer. We should pray against the sources of that resistance: especially the devil.
What do I tell my friend who says, “I am too scared (anxious or fearful) to pray. How can I focus on prayer when my stomach is tied in knots?” How about a short, humble prayer – “God help me” or “God forgive me for being anxious,” or “have your way” or “ I admit that I can’t do it myself.” These brief prayers may open up the “prayer waves.” Romans 8:26 may be an encouragement if we’re having difficulty finding the right words:
In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words;
We will lose the battle sometimes – at least for the time being. But we must not get discouraged. We need to let “anxious for nothing” be our goal, and let “more victories over anxiety” be our objective as we mature in the knowledge and grace of God and His ways.
“Cast your anxiety on Him because He cares for you.” 1 Peter 5:7
The incomparable, incredible, incomprehensible peace of God comes with victory over anxiety through prayer. Ephesians 4:7 tells us that if we are anxious for nothing, “the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
That is, God’s peace, which is beyond what we can conceive or imagine, will protect and keep our hearts and minds (emotions and thoughts) from evil influences.
Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful. John 14:27²
¹ “Anxiety” and “worry” are sometimes used interchangeably. Some experts make distinctions between the two words but such fine tuning isn’t necessary for this article. We’ll pretty much stick to “anxiety” and translations that use that word, recognizing that “worry” is used in some cases.
² Additional relevant Scripture on peace: Is 26:3, Col 3:5, 2 Thess 3:16
The Power of the Holy Spirit -- Words of Encouragement from Elder Doug Blanchard
When I was in the hospital a year ago at my very lowest point and when the cancer was first discovered, I was laying in my bed at the University of Maryland Hospital and an emergency doctor was coming to place a line into my jugular. The rooms where they normally do that procedure were full, so I was laying in my normal hospital room mostly covered up for sanitary reasons while he inserted this thing into my jugular. I remember laying there with great concern and saying to the Lord - I’m not supposed to be anxious for anything right now and your Holy Spirit has to do that in me, because in my humanness I can’t do it.
Great calmness came over me and he anesthetized the local area and inserted two lines down in my jugular.