A friend once wrote a book titled “Down with Anxiety.” The contents were excellent and the suggestions were helpful, but I teased him that the title was a real downer!
Scripture has two primary texts dealing with anxiety, that I know of. Doubtless there are many others, but these two have meant a great deal to me, personally…..
First, the lesser known of the two…
“Return to your rest, O my soul, for the Lord has dealt bountifully with you” (Psalm 116:7).
That’s self-talk. And it comes highly recommended.
The Psalmist knows about anxiety. He is saying: “Get back down there, anxiety! Go back to bed! Quit worrying! You’ve been blessed far more than you deserve. So, how about being strong and stopping this needless worrying.”
Anxiety, they say, is worry in search of a reason. Or perhaps, fear in search of a cause.
“The Lord has dealt bountifully with you.” And what exactly has the Lord done for us? The Psalmist gives us his list….
–He has rescued my soul from death.
–He has rescued my eyes from tears.
–He has rescued my feet from falling.
And so, he asks, “What shall I render to the Lord for all His benefits to me?” (That’s verse 12). He answers…
–I will take the cup of salvation
–I will call upon the name of the Lord.
–I will pay my vows to the Lord.
Notice he does not spend a lot of time analyzing his anxiety, arguing with it, reasoning with it, or “welcoming it as a friend.”
He gets rough with it. “Get back in your hole!” Then, he gets on with what he knows he should be doing.
Second, perhaps the best-loved text for dealing with anxiety…
“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made know to God. And the peace of God which surpasses all understanding shall guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7).
The standard outline for this passage goes like this:
1. Worry about nothing. 2. Pray about everything. 3. Thank God for anything.
Perhaps the operative phrase in this passage, the one that clobbers the anxiety, is “prayer and supplication with thanksgiving….”
Praying “with thanksgiving” means to tell the Lord the things He has done for which you are grateful. As the song puts it, “Name them one by one.” That would surely involve enumerating the times the Lord has come through for you in the very area in which you are feeling anxious.
Okay. Confession time for me.
The single thing that has given me more anxiety than anything else has been flying in planes.
The funny thing about that–the weird thing even–is that I have no trouble with the actual flights. I have flown all over the world, to countries like Singapore and Italy and Israel and Egypt. If we count up every flight over my lifetime, the number would surely exceed 500. So, why am I anxious?
Good question. My guess is it goes back to my youth and early adulthood. I was 30 before taking the first ride in any kind of plane. By then, I had managed to work up a healthy dose of anxiety about it. So, when we were sitting around in the fellowship hall one morning during revival, and a member who flew crop-dusters for a living suggested that he rent a plane at the airport and take the preachers up for a quick look-see at our city, I had to face my fears. Over the next two years, I had several trips in small planes, and then, at the age of 33, I was belted in to a jet about to fly to Detroit for a revival across the river in Ontario. “Lord,” I said, “My life is in your hands.” Just so clearly came back His message: “And where do you think it has been all these years?”
The Lord has dealt bountifully with me, no question about it.
It’s important to note that anxiety does not yield to logic. Tell the worry-looking-for-a-place to land that airlines have an incredible safety record, that flying is many times safer than driving the interstates, and the anxiety ignores you.
What helps more than anything is praise. That is, praising God for all the times in the past when I have flown to various cities and countries in working for the Lord, and thus, this flight will likewise be a blessing. And it always is. In all these years, I have never had a bad flight. Not one.
“Return to your rest, O my soul. For the Lord has dealt bountifully with you!”
God is not pleased when His children let their worries, fears, and anxieties paralyze them. But to go forward in spite of these honors Him and shows courage.
Let us go forward, never giving in to fear. Whether my anxieties ever completely disappear is no longer the issue. Obedience is.
Obedience is always the bottom line.