Most of us get worried or anxious in times of difficulty. When the ripcord of life snaps, we panic and often make decisions that are not the best for us. How do we remember that God is always in control?
How Do We Deal with Worry and Anxiety?
I am going to share a little practical advice here, so this article may not be as theologically heavy as others I have written. The reason is that this question is one of practicality.
How do we maintain our cool when it looks like we are not going to be able to pay the bills this month, when the car breaks down and we have no viable means to get to work and back, or when we get a frightening diagnosis from our physician?
These are down-to-earth issues that demand more than cute epithets or theological terminology thrown at them. Worry and anxiety are probably two of the most serious and widespread problems we face today.
The Center for Disease Control reports that between August of 2020 and February 2021, the percentage of adults experiencing symptoms of anxiety and depressive disorder increased from 36.4% to 41.5%. The increases were most notable in those 18 to 29 years of age.
Clearly, we are worrying and growing anxious at increasingly high rates. Christians are not immune to these issues, since we all live in the same society, share the same workplace and home concerns, and are constantly assaulted with a barrage of negative news from social media and mainstream news outlets.
There just doesn’t seem to be any rest from it all. It can be easy to feel helpless. As Corry Ten Boom wrote: “Worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow. It empties today of its strength.”
As someone who has dealt with these issues myself, I want to share what I have found works for me and those with whom I am associated.
1. Unplug. Take time away from all media each day. Turn off the computer and television, shut off your phone, and simply unplug from the matrix for a while.
I do so for about two hours each day, but your time may be different. Anything from one hour to a whole day will be very beneficial to decrease your intake of negativity, stress, politics, and work-related data.
2. Creation time. Take some time away from media to enjoy the Lord’s creation. A long walk through a quiet park, a stroll down by the lake, or just sitting on a bench at the riverfront enjoying the relative silence is helpful.
When you do so, be mindful of nature. Notice everything from the sounds of the breeze through the trees, the birds singing, the various textures and colors, etc.
While you are there, remember what our Lord Jesus Christ said about the birds and other creatures (Matthew 6:26-30). God takes care of each and every creature and plant in His creation, and you are much more important than they, so let the worry go.
3. Journal. Keep a journal of those issues that you worry about each week. Pray about each of them, and then when the Lord helps you resolve those issues, go back and write how each worked out.
Then the next time you worry over some problem, go back and look over the old entries and how each one resolved itself as a reminder that the Lord has brought you through so much already, and that your worrying is really you just ignoring or forgetting the Lord’s track record.
4. Challenge your worries. When you find yourself thinking negatively in any situation, challenge those thoughts immediately. Do not allow yourself to buy into the false notion that if everything is not perfect, then this equals failure and disaster.
Do not get caught up in rash generalizations, such as if “I did not get (fill in the blank), then I never will!” Avoid seeing impending doom where there is no evidence of such. Never catastrophize. When you feel anxious give yourself some positive self-talk (Psalm 94:19).
5. Positive self-talk. The best positive self-talk is based on Scripture. Memorize verses like Isaiah 48:10 and Psalm 46:1.
Repeat them to yourself when anxiety threatens to overtake you, and then remind yourself that you are okay, that the Lord is in control, loves you, and is going to work everything out for your good.
Repeat to yourself the Bible verses and positive reinforcements throughout the day, whether you’re feeling anxious or not, to keep them in your mind, since we already have so much negativity coming at us.
6. Get active. Do not allow yourself to sit and stew over the negativity that assaults your mind and spirit. As soon as it starts, engage your body and mind in some other activity.
Clean the house, do some yard work, volunteer to help a neighbor — anything to get your mind and body engaged in other activities than negative thinking.
As you do so you can sing a worship song that you find particularly comforting, repeat the verses you memorized for positive self-talk, etc. The key is to engage both body and mind in positive action.
7. Prayer and thanksgiving. When you sense the negativity coming and the anxiety building, pray and thank the Lord for all the things He has brought you through in the past.
Repeat them in detail to the Lord in prayer, noting how in each situation He proved faithful to bring you through it (Philippians 4:6-7). Remember that anxiety is a form of fear, and you have nothing to fear when you allow God to have control of your troubles and cares (1 John 4:18).
8. Talk to someone. Talk to your pastor or another trusted believer about your struggles. Never keep things bottled up inside but turn to those in the church who you know have demonstrated spiritual maturity, wisdom, and care for their fellow Christians, and be willing to accept their positive biblical input.
This is one of the vital aspects of the Body of Christ — that we support each other and encourage each other in Christ during the most difficult times of life. Ask them to pray for you, and if you feel comfortable enough doing so, ask that the entire congregation lift you up in prayer.
You need not state the specific need for everyone to hear but simply ask for prayer for an unspecified need. God knows what you need. You will experience some very powerful blessings in your life from just this one simple thing, which unfortunately most do not avail themselves of.
Remember Who Is in Control
I am confident that with these basic responses to anxiety you will begin to understand more the provision of the Lord and grow in your trust and confidence in His loving care in all your struggles.
“Knowing that God is faithful, it really helps me not to be captivated by worry. But knowing that He will do what He has said, He will cause it to happen, whatever He has promised, and then it causes me to be less involved in worrying about a situation” (Josh MacDowell).
The Lord is indeed in control, my friend. I promise you this, as I have experienced it first-hand. He loves you, guides you, and wants the highest good for you and your family. So instead of allowing worry and anxiety to overtake you, give it to Him, since He always knows what is best for you.
For further reading:
What Does the Bible Say about Anxiety?
How to Overcome Anxiety with God
Is it Biblical ‘Where God Guides, He Provides’?
Is it True That God ‘Works Behind the Scenes’?
Photo Credit: ©iStock/Getty Images Plus/zimmytws
J. Davila-Ashcraft is an Anglican priest, Theologian, and Apologist, and holds a B.A. in Biblical Studies and Theology from God’s Bible College in Cincinnati, Ohio. He is a recognized authority on the topic of exorcism, and in that capacity has contributed to and/or appeared on programming for The National Geographic Channel, Discovery Channel, and CNN. He is the host of Expedition Truth, a one-hour apologetics radio talk show.