In the first part, we saw that God is mindful of our human condition. This means he understands us better than anyone else—and that we are in his hands. We can trust him with our feelings of anxiety.
Your world feels out of control; you’re afraid something bad might happen; and you are trying to control your world to keep that bad thing from taking place. I like what Chuck Swindoll has written about this:
Stop reading only the grim sections of the newspaper. Watch less television and start reading more books that bring a smile instead of a frown. Locate a few acquaintances who will help you laugh more at life. Ideally, find Christian friends who see life through Christ’s eyes, which is in itself more encouraging. Have fun together. Affirm one another.
Are You Anxious?
An average person’s anxiety is focused on (by order of precedence):
- things that will never happen (40%)
- things about the past that can’t be changed (30%)
- things about criticism by others, mostly untrue (12%)
- health, which gets worse with stress (10%)
- real problems that will be faced (8%).
Are you an anxious person? Anxiety is a very real part of many people’s lives and can be very debilitating to live with.
So what can we do about it then?
1. Overcome anxiety with prayer and right thinking
The Apostle Paul says in Philippians 4:6-7: “Don’t worry about anything, but pray about everything. With thankful hearts offer up your prayers and requests to God. Then, because you belong to Christ Jesus, God will bless you with peace that no-one can completely understand. And this peace will control the way you think and feel”.
Do you want peace in your life? Then hand you worries and anxiety over to God in prayer. We are told, in another translation of the same verses, that the peace of God will guard our hearts. The word ‘guard’ was a military term that described a Roman soldier holding his weapon, walking back and forth in front of an open gate so that no-one could enter. Paul is saying that this is how God will guard your hearts and give you his peace.
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In the next verse (Philipians 4:8) we are told to think about things that are true, right, noble, excellent. The trouble with anxiety is that it is irrational and we think all these negative thoughts and convince ourselves that the worst is going to happen. Although I know that it is very hard to not allow your mind to dwell on these anxious thoughts, God says focus on the positive, great, good things—not on the negative.
It’s about a sense of self-discipline (nothing wrong with that) and being intentional. Ask Jesus Christ to fill your mind with good thoughts—you need to be careful where you park your mind. Deal with each days problems when they occur. Don’t be obsessed with the future.
2. Know that Jesus has carried your anxiety
In Isaiah 53:4-5 we read: “He suffered and endured great pain for us, but we thought His suffering was punishment from God. He was wounded and crushed because of our sins; by taking our punishment, He made us completely well.”
How amazing is that! Jesus has carried our anxieties for us, he has voluntarily carried the weights that weigh us down, he has released us from those burdens. Why then do we take them back and still carry them with us?
3. Give your anxieties over to God and stop trying to fix them yourself.
Our God can release us from anxiety and fear, and help us to deal with daily life in a realistic way. The psalmist in Psalm 94:19 said: “When I was burdened with worries, You comforted me and made me feel secure”. Why don’t we realise anxiety cannot change situations or outcomes—but what we can change is ourselves.
The Apostle Peter says in 1 Peter 5:7: “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” Our work is to cast care—God’s work is to take care. The idea of the word ‘cast’ is to throw something, to release it, to discard it. So often we take our burdens to God and then pick them straight back up again. Instead we are to leave them with God and to trust that he does care.
So many verses in the Bible tell me that God is in control and I am not. He knows how to care for us, and we can trust him. We are not left alone to struggle through life somehow. King David from the Old Testament prayed: “Search me O God and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts” (Psalm 139:23).
Sometimes we have to be more realistic, and focus on today and take one day at a time. Talk to someone you respect. Tell them how you’re feeling—don’t hold all your anxious thoughts inside. It can be a big relief to share your fears and worries with someone else.