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Antidote for anxiety

July 2004 | by Jack Sin

‘For thus saith the Lord GOD, the Holy One of Israel; In returning and rest shall ye be saved; in quietness and in confidence shall be your strength: and ye would not’ (Isaiah 30:15)

We are living in a hectic world of stress and strain. More and more people are seeing psychiatrists and counsellors for stress, depression, phobia, and anxiety disorders.

Christians have their fair share of worries and daily anxieties as well, but the Bible guides us with directions on how to manage our anxiety.

In Matthew 6:31-33 Jesus said, ‘Therefore take no thought, saying, “What shall we eat?” or, “What shall we drink?” or, “Wherewithal shall we be clothed?” (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek): for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things.

‘But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.’

There is much blessing, comfort and joy when we honour God first and he rewards us with comfort, peace and joy. Having the right priorities in life helps us rid ourselves of unnecessary burdens and worries.

Sinful distortion

Believers should not be overwhelmed by undue care and the burdens of temporal matters, but be endowed with strength and confidence for each day.

Do we worry about work, health, children, physical provisions all day long? Christ forbids us to do so, for excessive anxiety shows a lack of faith in God and has an adverse effect on both mind and body.

Worry is a sinful distortion of a good emotion called ‘concern’. The latter should not simply be turned off, but should be prayerfully managed in the light of God’s Word.

That is, worry must be replaced by a proper manifestation of concern, and this we achieve by prayerful dependence upon God: ‘Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee. Trust ye in the Lord for ever, for in the Lord Jehovah is everlasting strength’ (Isaiah 26:3-4).

A sovereign God

Worry may arise when a right concern is focused on the wrong day – tomorrow or the future – over which we have no immediate control. Mobilising energies that cannot be released productively for the Lord (because tomorrow is not here) may lead to tiredness and dissatisfaction, feelings that are counterproductive and unedifying.

This can be overcome by refocusing our minds and efforts on the tasks God has given us for today. This will release our energies productively – for example, in the worship of the Lord and service to others. This will lead to a faithful contentment in our spiritual life and a real sense of accomplishment.

Anxiety is eliminated when we recognise God’s sovereignty, grace and strength. We will make our plans prayerfully, in dependence on God, and submit them to him – leaving the outcome entirely in his hands (James 4:13-17).

Anxious care should be cast at the feet of our Lord in prayer, trusting him wholly. Prayer is the place where burdens change shoulders (Philippians 4:6-7).

God cares

We should, therefore, live according to God’s priorities and plan our lives sensibly. Do not depend on feelings, which are often unreliable, but on God’s sure and infallible Word.

If we cultivate a spirit of godly responsibility – avoiding fruitless and fearful thoughts and actions that drain our energy – we shall live one day at a time in the grace God gives daily.

Let the Almighty and Sovereign God take charge, ‘casting all your cares upon him for he careth for you’ (1 Peter 5:7).

Philippians 4:6-7 adds, ‘Be careful for nothing; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus’.

Thought-life

It is both possible and necessary to cultivate a healthy thought-life. Do not let your mind wander listlessly, but live each day prayerfully and fruitfully for Christ.

Discipline yourself with Christian temperance and, by the help of the Holy Spirit, manage and control your mental life fruitfully, to the glory of God (Galatians 5:22-23).

To help us do so, Paul counsels in Philippians 4:8, ‘Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things’.

Again, 2 Corinthians 10:5 pictures the believer ‘casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ’.

The devil tries to distract us with worldly snares and preoccupations. Be watchful not to be ‘derailed’ but to stay on track – not being ‘conformed to this world but [being] transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God’ (Romans 12:2).

Legitimate concern

There is a place for legitimate concern – for safety, family, children, health, ministry, and much else. But if such matters cause fear or inordinate anxiety – or rob us of our peace, joy and hope in the Lord – that is a sure sign that we have strayed from the will of God.

Therefore, do not be hindered by worldly cares and excessive burdens. Instead, prioritise your time and use your talents to honour and serve the Lord first in your life.

Follow David in 1 Samuel 30:6: ‘David was greatly distressed, for the people spake of stoning him, because the soul of all the people was grieved … but David encouraged himself in the Lord his God’.

Remember that God’s grace is sufficient for each passing day, for his strength is made perfect in our weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9).