Everybody feels fear. It’s normal. When the smoke alarm goes off, fear causes you to quickly move to determine if there is a fire, and if necessary, to get out of the house. Fear saves your life! Anxiety is a cousin to fear built more around possible threats than actual ones. “What if,” looms large in the mind of the person who is anxious. Fear rises quickly and abates when the crisis is past. Anxiety hangs on like a bad cold, stealing the ability to sleep soundly, destroying the appetite for food, and sometimes causing secondary problems like depression or an obsessive need to take control. Fear is a healthy emotion. Anxiety is an emotional disorder that is related to spiritual needs.
Here’s the good news. A Christian enjoys a gift of God called peace. While he will experience fear in times of crisis he does not have to allow anxiety to take over his life. As He was preparing to leave the disciples, Jesus told them that His peace was theirs for the asking. “The Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. 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 14:26-27, NIV)
If you are not peaceful today, the first question needing an answer is this: “Am I afraid or anxious?” If you are experiencing real fear, you can take steps to deal with the cause. Define it, understand it, and find the right resources to deal with it. If you are anxious, the solution is complex and simple at the same time. To simply say, “I won’t worry anymore,” is not all that effective. If I told you not to think about pink elephants, what image forms in your mind immediately? (Yes, you are picturing pink elephants right now, aren’t you?) Finding relief from anxiety requires that we learn to think differently. So, all you have to do is pray, right? Not so fast! Anxiety cannot find relief in superficial responses. The peace of God grows in us as we cooperate with His Spirit. While it is a gift to all Christians, we must accept it by faith.
First step is to get honest and admit to yourself, to a trusted friend, and to God that anxiety is an unhealthy part of your life. “But, my husband really might leave me!” “But, my parents both did get cancer so I need to worry about that.” Life is full of uncertainty. Jesus asks a pointed question of worriers: “Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?” (Matthew 6:27, NIV) That’s not an excuse for irresponsibility, it is an invitation to faith! “People who don’t know God and the way he works fuss over these things, but you know both God and how he works. Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don’t worry about missing out. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met. “Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes.” (Matthew 6:31-334, The Message)
The second choice is to build a solid foundation on God’s Truth. The person who builds his life on the Lord’s acceptance and promises, that centers himself squarely in the center of God’s purposes, is much less susceptible to being controlled by anxiety. This is the guiding principle that keeps him at peace in a turbulent world: “For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.” (Colossians 3:3, NIV)
The third choice is an ongoing one of daily discipleship. Spiritual health which takes away anxiety is not maintained in fits and starts, in running to church when the crisis looms, in trying to find God when the future looks dark. A strong, vibrant faith comes from walking with God. The Word reminds that “Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.” (Galatians 5:25, NIV)
Here’s a word from the Word. As you receive it, may you experience the peace of God.
“The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters,
he restores my soul.
He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, (Psalm 23, NIV)
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”