Have you ever been stuck between a mattress and box spring with someone sitting on the mattress? Could you imagine what it would feel like? You couldn’t get out. Everything was caving in and you couldn’t breath. Anxiety is a lot like that isn’t it?
Anxiety makes you feel like your heart is going to pound out of your chest. You think, I’m going to be in this position forever. I’m trapped. Everything caves in and any light around you goes dark. Hopeless fear sets in.
Each year over 3 million people in the U.S. are diagnosed with anxiety. It doesn’t take any blood work or imaging to diagnosis anxiety. The world of anxiety looms large and is getting larger. No matter how hard we fight, anxiety is constantly bullying its way and getting the best of us. It is stealing our life and impeding the normal functions of our day.
Anxiety is not a new condition. The feeling of mental suffering, distress, sorrow, and great pain have been around since Adam chose to rebel against God. In the garden, the first oppression came as Adam and Eve took covering under the trees. They were worried about their state of being exposed. They hid themselves from God.
Anxiety is an uneasiness or perpetual thinking about an event or circumstance that has an uncertain outcome. Anxiety can be intermittent or persistent. It is probably well said that not a single individual has not had a run in with anxiety at some point in their life.
Is there a remedy for anxiety? Is there a state of being totally, 100% free from anxiety? What does the Bible say about anxiety and how to deal with it?
Jesus Had Anxiety
“And being in agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground.” Luke 22:44
The word agony in this verse means “the brand of struggle that emphasizes felt pressure, i.e. experienced in an intensely personal way”.
Jesus had anxiety. He felt the pounding heart beat. He felt the pressure from his own thoughts, his circumstances, and the outcome.
What was Jesus doing when he had this great agony? He was praying. Verse 45 begins, “when he rose from prayer”.
If the very incarnate God dealt with anxiety, we as mortal men will encounter anxiety.
Jesus’ anxiety did not interrupt his daily life. He did not sit down in a numb, immoveable state.
He actually got up and told his disciples to pray. The disciples were overcome with weariness at the sorrow and distress they were encountering. Instead of praying like Jesus, they had chosen to sleep. Jesus fought back against his anxiety with prayer. He communed with God. He left his “outcome” in the hands of “Father in Heaven”.
Jesus Said “Don’t Be Anxious”
Jesus taught there are many reasons we should not be anxious. Matthew 6:28-34
- You are much more valuable than the birds that God takes care of.
- Your life is not any longer by excessively thinking about it.
- God’s got you “covered” with the beauty He provides.
- People who don’t have a relationship with God worry.
- God knows exactly what you need.
- God will provide everything you need.
- Tomorrow’s concerns will be there tomorrow.
When Jesus was anxious in the minutes before His betrayal, He was in communion with His Heavenly Father. The feelings were real. The distress was definite. However, His countenance was not distraught by the agony. Jesus was not “torn apart” in hopeless darkness. He had His eyes focused on God, His Heavenly Father. Jesus remembered the principles of Matthew 6.
Jesus remembered in the midst of the anxiety He was experiencing the following:
- God had said about him “this is my beloved Son”.
- All the days of His life were written in God’s book before one of them came to be.
The anxiety of the hour of trouble did not overwhelm Jesus, but instead caused His gaze to become more centered and directed toward His Heavenly Father.
Alternative To Anxiety
Anxiety is real and affects us in all in a variety of ways. We saw that Jesus had anxiety, but He did not give in to it in a way that debilitated Him. He even had the anxiety while praying. Yet, He remained in prayer and encouraged others who had fallen asleep, because of their overwhelm, to pray.
Philippians 4:6 says, “do not be anxious about anything”. It doesn’t stop there. If it were to stop there with no way out, we would be stuck. We would be in perpetual overwhelm. We would be in hopeless fear.
The verse continues, “but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.”
Anything & Everything. If there is anything that is oppressing you, anything that is keeping you from your normal daily duties, anything that overwhelms you, anything making you hide in fear; stop being anxious about any “one thing”. Instead, present “everything” to God in prayer. Let your needs be made known to Him. Be thankful God is ready and willing to listen and care about what concerns you.
Often it is in the multiplicity of thoughts that anxiety overwhelms. We are instructed in this passage to not let even one of those thoughts get us distracted. We are to be a channel. We should not let the worrisome thoughts to compound. But we should channel them through and present them to God. There shouldn’t be one thought we allow to “sit” on us.
David’s Dealings With Anxiety
Psalm 56 is titled in one version, A Song for the Distressed.
The backstory for this Psalm is David has been captured by the enemy and held hostage. He is daily being oppressed by the enemy. He has no break, no way out, and is truly trapped. The incessant taunts of the ones fighting against him are wearing him down. He is afraid, distressed, and anxious.
So what did David do? What was David’s solution to his very real fear of his situation. He was uncertain of the outcome. He was in the hands of people who were irrational and brutal.
David first looked to God for mercy. He needed the compassion of the Lord to help him. David understood that only the Lord could help him. Without God to assist, there would be no help.
The fears and distresses of David’s circumstance and the anxious thoughts he had were listed before God one-by-one: I have been trampled upon. Every day it is a fight against these people. They are harsh and burdensome to me. There are many who fight against me. I am afraid.
David exalted God and declared, “When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.” (Psalm 56:3)
David’s circumstance did not change. He was afraid. The tormentors didn’t go away. David was still fearful. What changed was David’s channel to not be anxious about anything. He didn’t take on the anxieties himself and keep them. Instead, he was a channel and presented every one of them to God.
The Psalm states David chose to praise the word of God. He chose not to fear what man could do to him. He trusted God knew about this day in his life before it even happened. David recognized that nothing came as a surprise to God. God had everything under control. David admitted he knew God was for him. (Psalm 56:9)
David determined to praise God. This is his thought process in the last verse was “God if you’ve redeemed me to take me to Heaven, you will rescue me out of this current circumstance.” David could trust God to get into Heaven, and David could trust God to take care of the people and circumstances in his life that were overwhelming him.
Is There Hope For You?
You may be thinking, “you don’t know about my anxiety.” You are so right. I do not know about your specific anxiety. I do not know how long it has been going on. I don’t know the pressures you experience day in and day out. I do not know how long it has been since you’ve been able to take a deep, relaxing breath.
What I can share with you is that there is hope. God doesn’t want you to be unable to function in your day to day routines because of anxiety. He wants to free you from the burden. He longs to hear your mouth in praise to Him. He yearns you to trust His love and care for you. He desires you to recognize that if He’s provided eternity for you, He’ll provide help in the midst of the people and circumstances that oppress you right now.
God may not change your circumstance. He may not change your hostile environment. But what He will do is give you peace. He will give you wholeness. He will pull you together so that when you are afraid, you will trust in God.
Try practicing the following steps today:
- Asking God to show you His compassion.
- As anxious thoughts come to mind, let them flow (as in a channel) to God.
- Confess to God you are afraid.
- Give God praise and thanksgiving knowing God is “for you”.
- Remember you trust God for your eternal home, you can trust Him for your temporal circumstance.
The definition of practice is “habitual or customary performance”. If you currently suffer from anxiety that steals your life, you may not see an immediate change. Be encouraged to practice this daily for 21 days. Make it a habit. Watch God transform you and empower you to deal with anxiety in the way He teaches.