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For When You Feel Anxious
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.
We live in a completely stress saturated world. Our culture demands us to be efficient, proficient, and fast paced. Our own expectations drive us to be perfectionists and control-oriented. Even our family and friends demand that we be the perfect balance of loyal yet un-clingy. We strive to reach perfection. We’re reaching for the gold. We want to be everything for everyone, all the time. And, you know what? That’s okay. It’s ok to want to be great, successful, and well-liked. What isn’t okay is thinking we can do so all on our own. God never meant for you to reach perfection using only your own ability. He knew you wouldn’t have time for it all and that you would slip up and need help along the way. In fact, we really think about it, stress doesn’t come from failure, or even fear of failure, rather it comes from the anxiety of having to face difficult things all alone. The thought that something is coming that we can’t control, and that could work completely against us, and possibly destroy us, is what ends up actually destroying us. At this fear of the unknown, even the strongest fall into the endless cycle of stress and anxiety. It’s in this cycle that stress causes health issues, unhappiness, and fear, that in turn only cause more and more stress and anxiety.
I love Philippians 4:6 because, to me it simplifies stress. It says, “hey people, we need God.” We need His help, His protection, and His guidance. Along the way if things happen to make us anxious, or unsure, let’s take it to Him and let Him sort it out. I consider this a win-win. After all, I can’t handle the unknown and I really don’t know what’s best for my life anyway. Why not, then, just hand it over to the one person who does: God? This verse tells us we don’t need to make sense out of the mess we may find ourselves in, we don’t have to be perfect, or find a way to make sure everything turns out ok- that’s God’s job. All we have to do is let Him know what we’re going through and be grateful in advance that He’ll hear us and supply our need. The way I see it this verse is saying: change your point of view. Stop seeing things that happen in your life as obstacles that produce fear and anxiety, and start seeing them as requests that you can present to God as you ask him to be a part of your life. And because everything the bible says about God points to the fact that he wants to be a part of your life, you can trust Him to come through with His side of the bargain.
You have the choice whether or not you are going to be anxious. If you didn’t, the word of God wouldn’t command it so simply: “do not be anxious about anything.” Honestly, I am just as guilty as anyone else of thinking, “what do you mean? I can’t help it if I worry!” But that kind of thinking will never allow you to be free from stress. Stress is more than a physical condition or a response mechanism. Stress is the result of dozens of anxious thoughts about things you can’t control but are unwilling to lay at God’s feet. It’s the opposite of faith when we subconsciously assume God is going to fail or not show up. When I first began to study this verse, I memorized it. Anytime I received bad news, or experienced a setback I would repeat to myself, “DO NOT BE ANXIOUS!!!” (Yes, I mentally added all those exclamation marks and the all-caps drama) In those instantly said a silent prayer about whatever was bothering me. “In every situation, by prayer and petition, present your requests to God...” This became a habit that I still continue today. I used to tense up, and remain so tense throughout the day that I’d get a headache and at one very stressful point in my life, chest pains. But a change in point of view taught me to pray instead of worry.
This doesn’t mean I never feel worried or afraid about anything in my life. That would make me super-human. It simply means I make the choice not to allow it to grow into panic or anxiety. It’s a decision. I decided there is nothing in the world that I should give enough power over me to make me anxious. There is no point; if I’ve already presented my request to God, He will be the one to work it out. If anything bad is going to happen I trust that in the end, it’ll work together for my good (see Romans 8:28) and because I have that confidence, I can present my requests to God with a thankful heart: “with thanksgiving”. There is so much peace in knowing that I don’t have to know for sure that everything is going to go according to plan. I just have to do the best I can on my end and trust that things always go according to God’s plan!
If you struggle with stress or anxiety, I encourage you to memorize this verse the way I did. I wrote it out on a post-it (I usually do this when a verse sticks out to me) and carried it everywhere I went, trying to change the habit of worry, to a habit of prayer. In only one week I felt more at peace and less moody. If only our culture knew that there is a God who loves us, who doesn't want us to be destroyed and tortured by stress. He is willing to help us in our every need!
Thoughts for Meditation:
What’s going on in your life right now that you can’t control? What are the thoughts that come up that trigger anxiety in your day to day?
List some things that you often try to do in your own strength, and forget to take to God and ask for help?
How could you present those things as petitions to God? What could you take off your worry-list, and trust Him to sort out?
Take some time to give thanks in advance for what you believe God could do in your life. Make a praise list for things he has already done!
Lord, I make the decision today to stop being anxious. Instead, in everything, I will bring you my requests. I will trust that you know what is best for me, and that you will never let me down. Give me the strength to resist the temptation to stress when I don’t know how things are going to work out. Holy Spirit, when things get rough, remind me to pray, so that difficult situations bring me closer to you, instead of further away.