When I was a young adult, I read in the Bible, “Do not be anxious about anything”—and immediately I felt more anxious! Has that ever happened to you?
I thought, What’s wrong with me? I’m a Christian, but clearly not a good Christian. I’m not supposed to be anxious — and I’m basically anxious all the time.
Probably the most common problem Kristi and I have helped people with over the last thirty-five years is anxiety. In counseling sessions, churches, retreats, and soul care groups, we’ve given care, counsel, and prayer to so many anxious people – including ourselves!
Why all the anxiety?
We try to do too much in a day.
We push ourselves to achieve our goals.
We think multitasking is good.
We don’t know how to rest.
We don’t get enough sleep.
We don’t know the meaning of “enough” or “good enough.”
We want more than we have.
We want better health.
We want to be happier.
We try to make others happy.
Wow! It’s tiring just to read the list of expectations we put on ourselves!
We get “stressed out”, which is really stressed in. It’s anxiety. We may try not to feel distressed, isolate, and go dark.
Anxiety comes as we worry or fixate on troubles, and this anxiety is, at the root, a control problem. Yes, a control problem. When you or I are anxious, it’s because we’re trying to control things: how we feel, what people think of us, or the outcomes of situations in our lives.
So what do we do? First, learn from my mistake. After some “What’s wrong with me?” self-judging, I realized I had committed what I call a “Biblical blunder that bruises and confuses!” I had misinterpreted the Bible and hurt myself.
I began to understand what God was actually saying when I read “Do not be anxious” in context:
The Lord is near. 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 4:5b-7)
The Apostle Paul is not shaming us! He’s not telling us to deny our emotions.
He’s empathizing with our anxiousness.
He’s essentially saying, “When you start worrying, talk to God about how you feel. Ask for what you need. Give thanks for the good things God provides. Then, his peace will surround you like a shield. You’ll be protected from the destructive effects of continual anxiety.”
A second step to help with anxiety is to participate in emotionally honest relationships. Many Bible students miss this, but it’s Paul’s implication in this passage. (Did you notice that Paul isn’t talking to you as an individual but to a community of people?)
Bottom line: God is near. He’s the Sovereign Lord of all things and as we trust him, we experience his peace.
Your Best Life in Jesus’ Easy Yoke tells my story of overcoming anxiety.
It’s full of encouraging insights from the Bible and practical steps.
Listen to: When Listening Triggers Anxiety
(The newest podcast of “Soul Talks With Bill & Kristi Gaultiere”)
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