I get it. Anxiety is real. Life gets tough, trials hit, pressure mounts, and our flesh takes over. Before we know it, we’re overwhelmed with worry. In fact, that is exactly how the dictionary would define anxiety.
Thankfully, for those of us who trust in Jesus, we don’t have to wander aimlessly when it comes to anxiety. If you struggle with anxiety and worry, you are not doomed to a life without answers. God’s Word holds the key to your anxious heart.
First, we need to see how the Bible defines anxiety, and one of the best places to start is Philippians 4:6-7. Paul writes, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God…” The word anxious is the idea of being deeply concerned, worried, completely occupied with, or showing obsessive interest in that which is weighing heavily on our hearts. With this understanding, it becomes clear why we miss the mark when we expend our mental energies and emotions on being anxious. When we allow our hearts to do this, we are essentially telling the Lord, “I don’t trust you fully, you can’t handle my situation, and I don’t genuinely think you are powerful enough to carry this burden, Lord!” You may think that is an exaggeration, but deep down, our worry and anxiety are rooted in a lack of trust. Worry and anxiety can even be rooted in our selfish motives as we think, what if God doesn’t work this out the way I want or give me what I want?
If we are clear and honest about the wrestling match going on in our hearts, the natural questions become: So what do I do? Am I just a victim of my emotions? The Bible helps us answer those questions.
Here are three initial steps to take if you struggle with anxiety:
Recognize the Onset of Anxiety
Mark the moment when circumstances overwhelm you or when you begin to doubt God’s sovereign power. Recognize it. Acknowledge it. This may be the hardest step in the process, but it is where victory over anxiety begins. Psalm 56:3-4 says, “When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. In God, whose Word I praise, in God I trust; I will not be afraid. What can flesh do to me?” Why does David feel this way? Because he knows the truth about what God has done for him! The final verse of Psalm 56 says, “For you have delivered my soul from death, yes my feet from falling, that I may walk before God in the light of life” (v. 13). David is reminded that circumstances don’t matter in the light of God’s eternal plan! Regardless of what is happening in life. And if anyone had the right to be anxious, it was David at this moment. He had just been captured by the Philistines, and those guys were bad news. They were like wild pirates who lived to inflict horrible pain and death on people. But in the moment, David recognized his heart’s desire to be anxious, and he fought against it. And what was the tool that he used in the fight? He ran to the Lord in prayer, and He trusted in God.
Run to the Father in Prayer
Like David, when we recognize our heart falling into the snare of anxiety, we must run to the Father in prayer. Prayer is the natural and immediate response to our worry because we are called to place our faith in God—our full and complete trust. When we worry and embrace our natural emotional response to be overly concerned with our circumstances, then we are by nature denying the complete and perfect trust that we should have in God. To rob God of our trust in Him is to tell Him that He is unworthy to be our God.
So, run to the Father in prayer! In fact, we are commanded to do so in Philippians 4:6-7. Not only that, verse 7 promises us the divine blessing of doing so! Verse 4 tells us not to “be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and supplication (or humble worship), with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.” The promised result in verse 7 is: “and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” This peace will guard our hearts against falling into fear for those of us who love the Lord Jesus Christ and trust in Him for our salvation.
Rely on God’s Family for Strength
So, we must recognize the onset of anxiety, and in that recognition acknowledge the weakness of our flesh and our need for our Father in heaven through prayer. But also, we run to each other for support, fellowship, the building up of the body, and safety in faithful numbers. Galatians 6:2 says, “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” Did you hear that? When we lift one another in prayer and strengthen each other in our weaknesses, we actually fulfill the purpose that Jesus gave to us! We are called to lean on each other for strength, as well as for the reminder that it is God who is our strong tower, as we learn from Proverbs 18:10.
The family of God is an incredible gift. We are all designed to function in God’s family to the benefit of one another, so when we see a brother or sister in Christ fall into anxiety, then it is the responsibility of the rest of us to build that individual up in love, strengthening their faith with the truth about God from the Word of God!
When you find yourself dealing with anxiety, or if you have suffered through it and are now dealing with the after-effects, take this with you to help find your strength and your heart’s peace in God. Recognize the onset of anxiety, and when it is there, run to the Father in prayer! And finally, rely on God’s family for strength to help get you through the storm.
Questions for Reflection
- According to Scripture, how is anxiety addressed, and what relief is offered?
- Is anxiety something that can be identified purely as an emotional response? Or is it something deeper?