Stress, Worry & Anxiety
You’ve been caught off guard by any of a thousand unwelcome circumstances.
A frightening diagnosis.
A financial setback.
A deadline you can’t meet.
A relationship you can’t repair.
A global pandemic disrupting every aspect of life.
The possibilities are endless. The result is the same. Stress, worry, and anxiety overtake you. Perhaps they have paralyzed you just when you most need clear thinking or decisive action.
But you are frozen in fear.
Regardless of the source of anxiety you face, the Bible offers followers of Jesus some simple, yet profound advice.
What Can You Do?
ADMIT YOUR FEARS
Once we are honest with ourselves about a source of worry, we can bring that concern to God. Paul wrote that we should talk to Him about everything through prayer.
Everything includes obvious and hidden concerns. It includes fears that are easy to admit (like a child’s illness or a lost job), those that are embarrassing to confess (like the fallout from a dumb mistake or consequence of a wrong choice), and those that we may not understand (like the cause of lost sleep or panic attacks). Whatever you feel, admit it.
Prayer involves speaking (or journaling) to God in an honest, heart-felt manner. Paul knew that the more time we spend with God, the bigger He becomes. And the bigger He becomes, the smaller our problems seem.
Once we admit our fears, we can move on to step two.
ASK FOR ACTION
Make a specific request for God to act.
The Bible is filled with examples of people who asked God to intervene in a specific situation. Sometimes He chose to act in a clear, dramatic manner. At other times, a greater purpose was at play.
Jesus Himself asked His Father to take away His cup of suffering. But He knew that enduring the cross would bring about a greater good, our redemption. That’s why Jesus’ most anxious prayer included the words, “Yet, not as I will, but as you will.” (Matthew 26:39)
Elsewhere, the Apostle Paul wrote “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28)
Like a child who asks a loving parent to meet his or her need, we can boldly ask our Heavenly Father to act. At times He will give us what we request. At other times, He may have something even better in the works.
It’s practically impossible to feel truly thankful and discontent at the same moment. That’s why something powerful occurs when we give thanks, especially when we may not feel grateful. Stress, worry, and anxiety rob us of joy as they focus our hearts and minds on what is wrong or missing. How much better to follow Paul’s advice by giving thanks for three things.
1) Give thanks for what He has done. He has given us life. He has met our needs. He paid the penalty for our sins and gave us the hope of eternal life. Thank Him for these and the many other blessings of life.
2) Give thanks for what He is doing. We know that He is able to use the present circumstances in ways that we may not see. Give thanks for what He is doing in the world and what He is doing in us.
3) Give thanks for what He will do. Perhaps most importantly, give thanks for what God will do in coming days, confident that He will work all things together for our ultimate good.
THE PEACE OF GOD
We may not understand it, but we can still receive it.
We don’t only pray because we know God can change our circumstances. We also pray because doing so changes our perspective. In Paul’s words the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Spending time honestly admitting our fears to God and asking Him to act in a spirit of thanksgiving fosters a mysterious peace.
Stress, anxiety, and worry nurture internal and external conflict.
Prayer, on the other hand, guards us in two ways.
1) A Calm Heart as we sense God’s loving care.
2) A Clear Mind as we remember that God is much, much bigger than our circumstances.