I have received quite a lot of positive feedback from last Sunday’s message on anxiety. I, myself, have dealt with anxiety, and the greatest and most hopeful thing to know is that God says, “Cast all your cares upon me” (1 Peter 5:7).
Have you ever felt as if you were being pulled in opposite directions at the same time? If so, you have experienced an internal terrorist known as anxiety. If you have, you’re among the many. 18.1% of American adults, or 40 million, suffer the effects of anxiety disorders. Living in our world can be uncertain, messy, and complicated to say the least. Decisions can be hard to make in our present environments. We fear we will make the wrong call and the negative outcomes begin to flood our minds. When anxiety strikes, our thinking is irrational and often follows a confusing back and forth. The conversations we have with ourselves go something like this, what do I say, or do? Do I go there or should I stay here; how do I know which path to take? It is the unknown outcomes of our decisions that we try to predict. Should I take this job offer? What if I do take it will it really be better? It is this inward war of thinking that holds us in a mental tension as if we were about to be quartered. This is the tension of anxiety. It’s the fear of the unknown or the worry of what if.
The narratives of our lives are laden with past fears, present fears, and the fear of the future. Ed Welch has said, the future is the preferred time zone of anxiety. The reality of ultimately not knowing the future has debilitating power over us. So how do we cope with anxiety from a biblical perspective?
Be Wise: To be clear, I am not saying there is never a time for professional psychiatric treatment for anxiety. Many Christians resist the use of professional treatment or medications when dealing with depression or anxiety. These well-meaning Christians often make a moral case for not using professional treatment or medications. I would rather make this a question of wisdom; not a right or wrong issue. Wisdom would seek and gather information to make appropriate decisions based in the facts of biblical, medical and psychological information available. I don’t think we should quickly run to medication for a fast fix. I also don’t think we should use the Bible as a magic pill. The decision is not a moral matter: is it right or is it wrong to take medication? It’s a matter of wisdom. But as Christians we always start searching for answers in Scripture.
Go To God First: As I have stated above are search for healing is to seek it from the Lord and his word. The scripture says, “God is our present help in times of trouble” (Psalm 46). “If we lack wisdom he will freely give it to us” (James 1:5). We have a tendency to run to the nearest quick fix, a friend, drug, or a self-help book. It’s not that I do not recommend these, but we should first seek out the source that has a real solution. Every place we look outside of God has the same limitations as we have; they lack knowledge of the future. God knows all things, nothing is hidden from him and he is willing to lead you through the mess and chaos of life. He is the friend that sticks closer than a brother (Proverbs 18:24).
Admit God Is In Control: We constantly live under the illusion that that we are in sole control of our circumstances, but this does not line up with the teaching of scripture. Both the Old and New Testaments reveal a God who is in control over all things, God is sovereign. “For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust” (Matthew 5:45). Again in (Matthew 6: 25-27) “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?”
We often feel anxiety because we feel God is not concerned about our life. We may feel unworthy of his help or hopeless and alone.
Realize You Are Not Alone: When we feel anxiety and fear we often feel we are alone and most likely will stay this way. As humans we need relationships to feel whole, it’s the way we are wired. Anxiety not only confuses our thinking but also distorts it as well. In our stressed and worried moments we often feel God is silent or too busy for us and our need. This is the furthest thing from truth. God has plenty to say to us through his word. The Bible is filled with communication from God to give us hope, guidance, courage, and wisdom to escape the paralyzing effects of anxiety.