“When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought me joy.” Psalm 94:19 NIV
An Anxious World
Anxiety is a real emotion for most of us at one time or another.
According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, "Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S., affecting 40 million adults in the United States age 18 and older, or 18.1% of the population every year." ADAA
Anxiety is very real. According to the Webster’s Dictionary, anxiety is described as "a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease, typically about something with an uncertain outcome." It can lead to apprehension, excessive uneasiness, and panic attacks.
When your child, spouse, or loved one struggles with addiction, anxiety becomes our constant unwanted companion. Worry is part of everyday life. We obsess about our loved one's safety and the dangers of their risky behavior to the expense of our own sanity.
Anxiety takes worry to a whole other level. It physically brings us to a place of constant unrest. Our head may hurt and we may feel pain in our back or neck or anywhere else in our bodies. Nausea and ulcers may develop. A host of diseases are associated with anxiety and elevated stress levels.
As I thought about my own struggle with anxiety, this verse seemed to almost over-simplify the "fix" for anxiety. I mean. Is it really possible to cure anxiety "just" by spending time with the Lord?
The following verses give us some idea of what to do when anxiety is taking over our physical minds and bodies.
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” John 14:27
"Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you." I Peter 5:7
"But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble." Matthew 6:33&34
"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
Reading these verse we see that they are not simply "pray it and say it" instructions. Instead, we are encouraged to take action outside of "just praying". I say that loosely because listening to someone say that when we "just pray", we really aren't doing anything, is like nails running across a chalkboard. It makes my skin crawl.
All battles are first one or lost in the spiritual realm because we are engaged in a spiritual battle. Running out to the doctor or therapist before we take time to pray and ask for wisdom on what action to take is useless and can be even counter-productive.
Here are some instructions we can glean from these verses.
The Lord gives you peace...receive it.
How? Receive a different kind of peace than the world gives, a peace only God can give you through time spent with him being filled with his comfort and presence.
Do not let your hearts be troubled. Do not be afraid.
Fear can steal your strength, your peace, and your health. When we are afraid, the only solution is to look to the Lord and remember his promises. Focus on his word and know that you know that you know that he is watching over your loved one when you are not with them.
Cast your anxiety on Him.
Why? Because he cares for you. That's why! Not because you are paying him to talk to you or to fix you. Just because he loves you. He wants your burdens. He can handle them.
Do not worry about tomorrow.
Keep your focus on today. What do you have to worry about right at this moment? Absolutely nothing! Excuse me! That is not what that verse says. Oh, yes it does.
"But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness..."
When we put our thoughts on the Lord, his promises and his will for our lives, our minds become transfixed on Him. He takes our immediate worries from us so we have nothing to worry about.
“Do not be anxious about anything…”
Easier said than done, right? So how do we cure our anxiety? Pray, give our concerns to the Lord, be thankful, and wait for that promised peace to come.
These are very clear instructions about how to take action beyond "just praying". As we seek the Lord, He will lead us and guide us. Now, please don't think I am saying any of this is easy or that if we "name it and claim it", our anxiety will simply go away. This takes work on our part.
If your anxiety or panic attacks are paralyzing, definitely seek medical attention. A physician can be very helpful in treating anxiety, especially when it is caused by a chemical imbalance, mental illness, or life-altering event, such as is the case with post-traumatic stress disorder or grief. It is important to remember, though, that while medical attention may be necessary, it is meant to compliment, not replace, the true inner healing that comes through prayer and time spent in the presence of God.
Meeting with an experienced biblical counselor is priceless as you are seeking freedom from your anxiety. Not only do they understand the physical, emotional, and mental aspects of anxiety, they can also recognize any possible spiritual roots and causes. They are trained to disciple you, pray with you, and give you biblical guidance.
Life can be hard and very unpredictable, especially if you are affected by a loved one's out-of-control behavior. None of that behavior catches God but surprise. He has a plan and a way out of constant worry, fear, and anxiety.
Sure, most of us will struggle with it now and again, and for some of you even more than that, but He promises that if we use it as a catalyst to cause us to run to Him, His infinite peace will be there to comfort and console us.
“Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times and in every way. The Lord be with all of you.” 2 Thessalonians 3:16 NIV