Part 3: The Cure for Anxiety

Anxiety - Stress ... Time management vital for...
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A couple of days ago I started a series of posts dealing with the issue of anxiety.  The response to these posts have been overwhelming and goes to show how great an issue this is in our society.  As I shared on Monday, according to Dr. Robert Leahy, “The average American child today exhibits the same level of anxiety as the average psychiatric patient did in the 1950’2.”   In the first two installments of this series we looked at how:

  • Part 1:  The Soul Corroding Acid of Anxiety – In this post we looked at how anxiety is caused by a limited worldview, a low theology, an overestimation of our own ability and underestimating God’s love.
  • Part 2: The Curse of Anxiety – In yesterday’s post we looked at how anxiety traps us in a vicious cycle that never ends up resolving the underlying problems.  It erodes our faith, causing us to trust more in our own abilities than in God’s providential care and how it isolates us from the people who love us the most— including God, our families and our fellow church members.

Today, I would like to turn our attention to the cure for anxiety.  How do we manage and overcome the issues of stress, anxiety and worry in our lives?  I would like to suggest that the Bible points us to at least three steps we can take to counter anxiety in our lives:

  1. Learn to trust God by getting to know Him better this my seem simple but the truth of the matter is that often anxiety in the life of the believer is a sign that we don’t know God as well as we should.  The better we know God the more we will understand His ways and His purposes.  But even more importantly, the more we know Him the better we will learn to trust Him.  Specifically, I would suggest that we focus on understanding His knowledge, His providence, and His ways.  We need to know that God knows what we are going through.  In Matthew 6:31-32 Jesus says, “Therefore do not be anxious saying ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all of these things, and Your Father knows that you need them all.” I underlined that last phrase because it is a key to overcoming anxiety.  God knows where you are, what you are going through and what you need.  No matter what is happening in your life right now, GOD KNOWS!  But these verses also teach us that GOD CARES.  He cares for His people by providing what they need in life.  Jesus says in Matthew 6:30, “But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you…Therefore, do not be anxious…” God knows, God Cares, and God provides.  Learn to trust Him by getting to know Him better and you will be able to overcome the issue of anxiety in your life.
  2. Make the things of God the number on priority in your life– far too often we experience anxiety simply because our priorities are out of line with God’s will and purposes.  As human beings we have a tendency to focus an inordinate amount of our attention and concern on the temporal things of this world, and not on eternity.  I have heard people say that someone is “Too heavenly minded to be any earthly good” but my experience is just the opposite.  I have served as a Pastor for nearly twenty years in three different churches and my observation is that far too many Christians are “too earthly minded to be of any heavenly good.”  If we would start setting our hearts and affections more on the things of God, I am convinced that our levels of anxiety would decrease.  That is why at the end of this passage in Matthew 6:33 Jesus says, “But seek first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.  Anxiety will always fill the heart of the person who is trapped in the temporal concerns of this world, but peace and contentment will come to those who “seek first the Kingdom of God.”
  3. Remember who holds tomorrow– One of the most important lessons that every believer needs to learn is that God is in control!  There is no reason to worry about the future when you know who holds the future.  So much of our anxiety is caused by a fear of the future.  I shared with you in one of the earlier posts that last month I spent several days in the Intensive care unit with issues relating to my blood pressure.  When I went into the hospital I was having stroke like symptoms — my entire left side went numb and I could not control my hand or leg.  My speech was slurred and for a moment all I could think about was “This is it!”  My older brother had a series of strokes before he died last year and I was certain that things were going to go very badly.  Honestly, while I was laying on the bed in the emergency room waiting for the ambulance to come and take me to Western Baptist Hospital in Paducah, KY all I could think about was what it might be like if I did not recover my speech and control of my left side.  I had watched my brother struggle with similar issues and suddenly my future was looking bleak.  I was very scared about what the next days, weeks, months and years would hold in store. The tests showed that this was not a stroke and that the entire problem was created by my blood pressure, which is now being controlled by medication.  But for those few days that I was in the intensive care unit, I learned first hand what anxiety about the future means.  But I also developed a deeper level of trust for the one who holds my future.  The key is this, “None of us can control our future, so we must learn to trust the one who does.”  God is in control and He holds all of our tomorrows.  The more we learn to trust Him today, the less anxiety we will have about tomorrow.

These three posts have attempted to lay out what Jesus has to say about anxiety in Matthew 6:25-34.  I am certain that there is much more that could be said about this subject and would like to invite you to share some of your thoughts and ideas in the comments section.

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Part 2: The Curse of Anxiety

storm cloudsAnxiety is a curse that slowly weighs us down, eats away at our soul like a cancer and corrodes our joy like acid.  The curse of anxiety will eventually steal your life, your ministry and your testimony if it’s insidious effects are not stopped.  Yesterday, we looked at the  “The Soul Corroding Causes of Anxiety” from Matthew 6:25-34.  Tomorrow, I will share with you the cure for anxiety, but today I would like to talk about the curse of anxiety.  I want us to see vividly what anxiety will do to the human soul if left unchecked.  Let me show you four results of the curse of anxiety:

1.) Anxiety traps us in a vicious cycle.

The simple truth of the matter is that anxiety has never fixed a problem.  In Matthew 6:27 Jesus asks, “Which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?”  The answer is not a single one of us.  You can worry and fret a problem all you want, but worrying will never change the situation.  Worrying only makes the problem worse because it traps us in a cycle of trying to take care of the problem ourselves, but never being able to actually fix anything.  In fact, anxiety usually paralyzes us to the extent that we end up doing nothing.  When someone comes to my office trapped in the vicious cycle of anxiety, I will say to them, “While God is working on that issue in your life, you need to be doing the things that He has clearly commanded you to do.”  Then I will lead them through a process of making a list of the commandments they know that God has given them to do.  By doing what they know to do, they will be able to move forward and learn to trust God to take care of the other issues in their lives.  Worry will paralyze you by trapping you in a vicious cycle.  It is a curse of anxiety and the only way to break free is to trust God by carrying out the clear commands that He has already given you.

2.) Anxiety erodes and dissolves our faith.

A second curse of anxiety is that it will erode and dissolve your faith.  If you worry about a problem long enough you will eventually get worn down and think that you must fix the problem yourself.  This is a dangerous position because you will be prone to depending upon your own wisdom, strength, and resources to fix the problem.  This will almost always result in devastation.  At it’s very root anxiety is connected with unbelief.  Notice in Matthew 6:31-32 Jesus says, “Therefore, do not be anxious saying ‘What shall we eat? or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.”  Notice that last phrase again, “your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.”  When we get anxious or worried about something we start thinking that we have to provide for our own needs or to take care of ourselves.  We start to trust in ourselves or something else rather than God.  Faith combats anxiety by reminding us that God knows exactly what we need and will provide it at the right moment we need it.  Until then our job is to simply trust and obey.

3.) Anxiety isolates us.

When I get worried or anxious about something, I end up withdrawing into myself and isolating myself from other people.  I have seen numerous other people do this same thing.  The third curse of anxiety is that it tends to isolate us.  It isolates us from our families.  A few weeks ago I spent several days in the intensive care unit and experienced first hand the corrosive effects of anxiety.  The more I worried about my physical health and condition the less that I wanted my family to be around me.  That may seem strange, but I found that I was withdrawing further into myself and had a difficult time trying to relate to them.  The anxiety that I was feeling was isolating me from the people that I love the most.  Anxiety not only isolates us from our families but it also isolates us from God.  In moments of intense anxiety King David wrote, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?  Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning? O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer, and by night, but I find no rest.” (Ps 22:1-2)  In this Psalm and many others, David is expressing the deepest emotions that come from anxiety.  Like so many others have experienced, David felt as if God had abandoned him.  Of course, this was the anxiety talking.  The reality is that God never leaves us nor forsakes us, but anxiety is a great curse that will sometimes make us feel abandoned.

The curse of anxiety is all to real for those who have experienced it.  Tomorrow I will share with you the cure from anxiety.  Until then I would like to invite you to share some of your own stories or experiences with the curse of anxiety.