By: Grant Bowman
We are living in an age that some have referred to as, the age of anxiety. It seems that worry has become the watchword of the day. Ask seemingly anyone and they can provide you a laundry list of things that they are currently worried about. For a recent sermon, I made a list of things that I had personally worried about in the last month. I stopped counting at 50. Health, the economy, family challenges, a new job, our government and foreign relations, an ailing friend, and on, and on. This was by no means an exhaustive list, but the very act of compiling it was itself exhausting. It seems that we have a never-ending supply of issues, both large and small, to be concerned about.
According to a recent survey released by the American Psychiatric Association, Americans are more anxious today than they were a year ago, with 39 percent of people surveyed reporting feeling more anxiety, compared to just 19 percent in 2017. The survey found Americans are mostly anxious about five major things: health, safety, finances, politics and relationships. Sixty-eight percent of Americans are extremely or somewhat anxious about both keeping themselves or their families safe and their health. Just less, 67 percent, worry about paying their bills or expenses. A little more than half, 56 percent, worry about the impact of politics on their daily lives, and 48 percent are extremely or somewhat anxious about relationships with family, friends and coworkers. Without getting bogged down in the details, suffice to say we are an anxious people.
I am constantly amazed at the conundrums my mind can conjure that only ever play out in my mind, and never in real life. Mark Twain once said, “I have worried over a great many things in life, the most of which never happened.” We all have been there. We fret, lose sleep, and even stress-eat, only to have that thing never come to pass. We passed the test and finished the course. Forgiveness was offered, and a friendship was saved. The deposit was just in time, and our bank account stayed in the black. You would think that we would learn from our wasted mental effort, but like our favorite shampoo instructions, we rinse and repeat.
In his book, Anxious for Nothing: Finding Calm in a Chaotic World, Max Lucado admits, “The news about our anxiety is enough to make us anxious.” However, he invites readers to study Philippians 4:6-7, the most highlighted passage of any book on the planet, according to Amazon.com: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, 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.” Here are 3 suggestions for dealing with anxiety from a biblical perspective.
1. Ask the Lord to guard your mind. Romans 12:2 states, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” Our minds are the seat of our intellect and reasoning, and where all our behaviors are birthed. The objects of our consistent thinking will determine how the months and years of our lives play out. For us, everything starts in the mind. This is why the writer of Romans challenges us to renew our minds, so that we will be able to know and produce His will in our lives. Because we are human anxiety will come, but through our mind’s continual renewal, we will not be paralyzed by it.
2. Declare the Word of God over your mind. Last year, a friend gave me a list of daily scriptural declarations to include in morning routine. It was a simple addition that only added a few minutes, so I did not argue. After a few weeks I noticed that I had less anxiety and my faith was increased. Instead of hearing the voice of anxiety, His clear words speak to me. If you are not declaring His Word over your mind daily, I challenge you to start today.
3. Replace self-focused thinking with a God-focused mindset. After asking the Lord to guard your mind and daily declaring the Word of God over your mind, you have a choice to make. Will I train my mind to focus on the things of God, or will I let it be consumed by anxiety and the cares of this world? Let me be clear, this takes work. It’s not easy. If I don’t take decisive action to set my mind on Jesus Christ, then my mind can wonder into places it should not go, and that’s never good. Paul admonishes us in Colossians 3:2 to “Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.”
Our greatest challenge is often to recognize that worry strips us of our faith in a God that has our greatest interest at heart (Romans 8:28). Trusting in the Creator isn’t a part-time activity; either we trust Him, or we don’t. God’s Word challenges us to “Trust in the Lord with all our hearts and lean not on our own understanding; in all our ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight (Proverbs 3:5-6, NIV).” When the winding road of life begins to weigh on you and you are overwhelmed with fear for what lies ahead, I challenge you to throw your energy into trusting Him to straighten the path before you!