Fighting Anxiety, Part 1
Don’t be anxious about anything; instead, pray about everything (Philippians 4:6a).
In Paul’s mind, God is the answer to putting away our anxiety. That’s why he says pray. But what about God moves us from stress and worry to complete confidence and assurance? Why is it that anxiety tends to disappear like the morning fog when the light of God bears down on our hearts?
Imagine with me you’re lost in the woods. You don’t know which way is north or which way is south or which way is west. The sun is going down and you’re thinking to yourself, “Oh, no.” You start to hear the coyotes howl. Your stomach starts to growl. You don’t know what to do. With food scarce and direction lost and safety uncertain, anxiety is hitting you pretty hard. What is going to help you here? Well, for starters, I think we could agree that adding a person to this story would help. Having a companion—someone in the struggle with you—a person close by you can communicate with—would lower the level of anxiety.
But presence wouldn’t be enough. You would want someone who has both the knowledge and power to get you unstuck. For example, you would want someone who knew the woods like the back of their hands. Yes, you would want a person that knew every hill and valley, every fox hole and birds’ nest, every deer trodden path and every snake burrow. But not only that, say they had a special set of skills like fire building and arrow shooting needed for just this occasion.. If you had a person like this to hang close to, you wouldn’t go hungry or grow cold. Knowledge and power would also lower your level of anxiety.
But I think you need one final thing in this illustration to completely put away anxiety. Knowledge and power are important, but how do know you if this person is for you? How do you know that in his or her heart, they want to help you and not harm you? I mean alone in the woods is also the perfect opportunity to get away with murder and no one ever find out. To be totally confident, you would need to know that his or her intentions toward you are good and that he or she has your best interests at heart.
And if you put all this together—presence, knowledge, power, and kindness—you would not fall into a crippling anxiety over being lost. In fact, you wouldn’t worry at all.
The reason why Paul exhorts the Philippian Christians to prayer is because this is what we have in God. We have a benevolent, mighty, ever-present help in our trouble who is committed to our well-being if we trust him in faith.
Worrying is what we get when we think about the future apart from God. Confidence is what we get when we think about the future praying to God. Don’t let the first thing we should do in our fight against anxiety be the last. Pray to God. He’s waiting to meet with us in our time of need.
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