A friend recently said “I struggle with anxiety.” Those words are familiar and my friend is not alone. Using struggle and anxiety together in one sentence is more common than any of us imagine. I’ve been in that pit before and know the surrounding slippery slope makes it difficult to climb out of and easy to slide back to. The causes of anxiety are vast and individual, defying specific cause or even symptoms, but these were evident in my anxiety of the past: worry all the time, always expecting the worst or stressing over what was going to happen next, frequently exhausted, but unable to sleep, found no happiness in participating in activities, panic attacks with sudden overwhelming anxiety and fear, irrational fear of circumstances that caused deep sadness, fear of being embarrassed or criticized, and if I thought about it long enough I could probably add a few more manifestations of life lived inside my skin. If you’ve been there, or if you’re there now, you don’t want to stay there. I know you don’t want to stay there, and am confident that you don’t have to.
I don’t have the answers for the plague of anxiety. I can tell you that the debilitating effects of anxiety are real, but so is the peace and optimism of a life escaped from anxiety. I have learned through my own stubborn nature and many derailments, that the only way to spiritual calm is consistently and persistently opening my fist and giving my fears to the Lord. I’m guilty of taking them back, then realizing what an insane act that is. Why do I want that burden back again, when I gave it to God? Listen, God gets to decide anyway, so give that circumstance to him, and forget it. The enemy of your soul will tempt you to take it back again, but repeat the process. Throw it into your worry box and slam the lid shut. Turn it over to God, then do what it says in Philippians 4:4-7 “Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice! The Lord is at hand. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”
Remember the slippery slope. For someone who so easily slides toward the pit, it takes more momentum than human strength to climb out of the danger zone. Is that you too? In those times all I can think about is how badly I crave peace. Psalm 63:1 is a good reminder: “You, God, are my God, earnestly I seek you; I thirst for you, my whole being longs for you, in a dry and parched land where there is no water.” That’s how it is with anxiety – it spiritually drains us. Think about how it feels to be really thirsty, parched from lack of water. Panic. That’s what worry and anxiety do. We open our fists and give a burden to the Lord, then open our arms and take it back again. Why is that? We become emotionally drained, then spiritually parched. Anxiety, then fear, then panic.
I don’t know about you, but I need to get a lot better at practicing what I just read this morning in 1 Peter 1:5-7 “Make every effort to add to your faith excellence, to excellence, knowledge; to knowledge, self-control; to self-control, perseverance; to perseverance, godliness; to godliness, brotherly affection; to brotherly affection, unselfish love.” What does this have to do with anxiety and fear? Interestingly enough, it has everything to do with finding peace and turning around when we’re careening back into the worry pit. Verse 8 explains it this way “For if these things (faith, knowledge, perseverance . . .) are really yours and are continually increasing, they will keep you from becoming ineffective and unproductive in your pursuit of knowing our Lord Jesus Christ more intimately.” You know what that sounds like to me? Spiritual feeding.
The best remedy for worry and anxiety that I know of is attitude and total reliance on God. The path to peace is knowing the Lord Jesus Christ personally and then staying intimately connected to Him while that relationship grows in faith and trust. What does it take to grow something? Feeding. When we are spiritually parched from being in the worry and anxiety pit, what does it take to revive us? Spiritual feeding. God desires a relationship with us. He wants his children to trust him with their worries and anxieties. I think of it in this way. When I put my creativity to work and make something with my own hands, I’m proud of it and I take care of it. God does that for each of us. Remember that knowledge we read about back in 1 Peter? Knowledge is one of the building blocks of relationships with God. , we can begin and end our day “being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” Philippians 1:6