Anxiety is defined as a feeling of distress, unease, and worry or being troubled due to future uncertainty.
There is something about the human experience that causes us all to look deeply into the future and set our minds on what might be there. We tend to make a big deal about tomorrow and its problems instead of basking in the moments and issues of today. I am an avid daydreamer; I’m always envisioning things that could happen in the future. I do this so often that I struggle to distance myself from what I’ve created in my head, causing anxious thoughts and fear to set in when things don’t go according to the plans I’ve made. Anyone else with me on this?
People our age suffer from anxiety more than any other generation before us – we’re told to plan for the future but not to worry, because “it’ll all work out”. We make plans for the future, seeing bright possibilities in front of us, only to be disappointed or frustrated when they don’t work out. We’re attempting to manage how we’re perceived, trying to take control of a world that seems to be consistently spiralling out of control, and still look fabulous while doing it. We’re trying to make ends meet in a difficult economy while still longing to pursue the dreams we’re passionate about. We live in a world that’s in a constant state of distress, there is opportunity to worry around every corner, and the future seems more cloudy than ever before! No wonder the anxiety epidemic is on the rise!
So what do we do?
Are we powerless in our battle with anxiety and fear?
“…do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7 (ESV)
These verses are an invitation to check our hearts. Notice how we’re not rebuked or berated for our anxiety or fear, we’re redirected. Paul is saying “instead of being anxious or fearful about your present circumstances, lift your eyes and your perspective to the one who is ultimately in control.”
When anxiety and fear set in we offered an opportunity to examine where our trust is placed. Are you trusting in yourself in this situation? Are you busy trying to control outcomes? Do you have faith that God is as good as he says he is? Do you trust that God is a good Father who loves his children?
You see, I’ve learned that unbelief is the perfect breeding ground for anxiety. When we lack faith, we’re inviting fear into our hearts and asking it to take up residence. But this isn’t something that’s fixed by sheer willpower; it comes from spending time with our Father. This change from anxiety to belief, from fear to faith, only comes through the Holy Spirit, who transforms our hearts and minds.
Paul didn’t write in Philippians 4 that when we pray God will magically fix things. Instead, he wrote that God’s peace would flood our hearts and minds, an impossible level of calm will surround our emotions and our thoughts. When our minds and hearts are in a state of chaotic, anxious fear, God’s peace supersedes it. God’s peace destroys chaos.
When anxiety and chaos surround us, it’s my prayer that we would set our minds on the things above (Col 3:2) and come to God with our problems and our worries and our fears because he cares for us (1 Peter 5:7). It’s my hope that we would begin to understand the things that are in our control and exert our authority over them and give the rest over to God. This isn’t easy, giving everything over to the Lord, but he is a professional at showing up in places where you actually give Him room to work. Let’s choose to submit and surrender today!