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“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7)
Although I may hide it well, I am often an anxious person. At times, my anxiety overwhelms me so quickly that I respond out of my fear without even thinking. My anxiety has caused me to lie, to avoid stressful situations, and at times to act with a lack of integrity and courage, all out of a desire to stuff down my anxious feelings and regain the peace I so desperately desire. I hate the way my anxiety affects me.
What is beneath my anxiety? If I stop and think about it, it is often one of two related reasons:
1) Something I value is being threatened – I want my life to be peaceful. I want to feel secure. I want to have a good reputation. I want to be liked. I want to have enough money to be comfortable. I want to keep my job. I want to be married. If I feel that one of these things is threatened, then I respond with anxiety, and go into protect mode. Everything else – including honoring and obeying God – becomes subservient to the primal need to protect what I value.
2) I’m afraid life is not going to go the way I want – I have a vision of what my life, both present and future, should look like, and when I am afraid it is not going to happen – or that God is going to cause it to go a different direction – I get anxious. I might shut down, go numb, control as much as I can of the situation, or even resort to pleading with God in the hopes that He will see things my way and give me what my anxious heart is demanding.
Certainly there are techniques, strategies, and medications that this world offers to manage anxiety. I can work on my breathing. I can talk through my anxieties with a therapist and work on confronting them head-on. I can take a pill that will calm me down. But the ultimate answer to my anxiety is found in learning to know and trust God. If I truly knew how much He loved me, how good He is, and that He is sovereign over the affairs of this world as well as my life, I could let go of my grip on my life and future, stop placing my value in the things of this world, and find true peace in His care. I could tell Him what is troubling me, pour out my anxious heart to Him, and thank Him that He hears me, that He loves me, and that He will do what is best for me, like the loving Father He is. As Jesus said:
“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened. Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!” (Matthew 7:7-11)
Learning to trust God is a lifelong process. As well as I know Him, I still get overwhelmed daily by my anxieties, and continually feel that I have to protect what is valuable to me and worry about my future. But God is good. He is sovereign. He does love me. And I can trust that no matter what comes my way, He is continually working things together for good for me. And that gives me peace in the midst of my anxiety.
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