Confession: I go to any length to avoid feeling anxious. When I was in class six and all the cool girls in class were getting a lot of attention from boys, I felt left out. So, I did the most logical thing; I made up a story about a senior student who liked me. Now, I’ve stopped making up stories, but the desire to avoid feelings of anxiety remains. When I get an e-mail and I’m concerned about the content, I let my husband read it to me. During my single days, I’d let my sister read out the e-mails to me. If I visit the doctor and am told there’s a problem, I pretend like it doesn’t exist. When I have a fight with my husband, and there’s chocolate in the fridge, it’s soon gone.
As a master anxiety avoider, here’s what I’ve learnt: eating too much chocolate causes weight gain; but you probably knew that. Here’s what else I’ve learnt: avoiding anxiety stunts growth. The problem doesn’t go away, but instead runs the risk of increasing. And finally this is the most important thing I’ve learnt: anxiety stems from unbelief in God.
Matthew 6:30 says, “If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you-you of little faith?” This is how John Piper explains this verse:
“Jesus says the root of anxiety is lack of faith in our heavenly Father. As unbelief gets the upper hand in our hearts, one of the results is anxiety.”
Anxiety can seem like such a normal response to events that we may forget we are doubting God. What we are essentially thinking is that God won’t show up and come through for us. The fact is that we can’t exempt ourselves from feeling anxious, but we can choose our response. Ps. 91:2 “I will say of the LORD, “He is my refuge and my fortress; my God, in whom I trust.” The Psalmist was aware of trouble and anxiety, but he chose to trust God; we have the same option.
Often people throw around the verse, “Do not be anxious about anything…” (Phil 4:6) to encourage others not to be anxious. But why should we not be anxious? The answer lies in the previous verse. “The Lord is near (5b).” We need not be anxious because the Lord is near; we are not alone!
We can win this battle against anxiety by spending time meditating on God’s word and leaning on the Holy Spirit for help. The more familiar we are with God’s promises, the more likely we are to lean on them during trouble. Knowing that God is with us gives us the strength to face our problems and not run away from them. Back in grade six I could have been confident of my identity in Christ and not made up a fanciful story. Today I can turn to God instead of Lindt, knowing that He is an ever present help in times of trouble, and that over consumption of His Word doesn’t impact my weight (Ps. 46:1).
You probably have your own pet ways of dealing with anxiety. What are they? Are you trying to handle anxiety in your own strength or claiming God’s promises? I pray together we may be overcomers, just like Jesus Christ, our brother.
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