We’ve probably all read the most popular verses on anxiety:
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” (Philippians 4:6)
“Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” (Matthew 6:34)
Maybe we’ve even written them on notecards to carry around in our pockets. Or posted them to our bathroom mirrors on sticky notes.
These passages are excellent (after all, they are the inspired Word of God) and helpful to use in our battle against anxiety. But too often I have isolated those texts and made them into a law in my mind.
I knew the Bible said I wasn’t supposed to be anxious, so it became another set of dos and don’ts. If I could check it off my list and say, “Ok, I wasn’t anxious today”, then I had done well. If I broke the rule and had anxious thoughts, I would give myself a mental slap on the wrist and think, “Man! I need to do better tomorrow!”
This way of thinking only caused me to be anxious about having anxiety! When I would lie down at night or wake up in the morning (my most typical times for anxious thoughts) I would start to dread getting anxious. Which, of course, meant that now I was anxious! I had begun to fear the fear! It became a vicious spiral.
Maybe you have done the same. So how do you get out of it?
I could give you “seven steps” or “ten tips” on how to overcome anxiety. But I won’t. I’m only going to give you one.
Does that seem too simplistic? Too cliché? Too much of a “Sunday school” answer?
I say it because it is practically and theologically the best answer I could give you.
Anxiety stems from not trusting God’s character and promises.
Some may think I am being too audacious or judgmental by telling people they don’t trust God. It is not meant to be a spiritual slam. And remember, I am including myself in this.
Let’s truly think about this. What do we worry about? Money, health, marriages, children, family, jobs, provision, what people think about us, messing up, getting hurt, dying . . . the list could go on.
But if we trust that God is who he says he is —good, loving, kind, sovereign, true, wise, all-knowing, all-powerful, just, unchangeable, holy—and that because His character never changes, He always keeps His promises and has the power to carry them out, then what do we really have to fear?
Let’s take just a couple of those examples:
Let’s say you are worried about losing your job and therefore not having enough money to provide for your family.
If you trust that God is good and kind and loving, you will trust that he wants to take care of you and your family.
If you trust that God is truthful, unchangeable, and all-powerful, you will trust that he will keep his promise to provide for your needs (Matt. 6).
If you trust that God is wise, all-knowing, and just, you will trust that he knows what is best for you, already knows and has a plan for your future, and will always do what is right and fair.
Next, let’s take the fear of dying.
If you trust that God is sovereign and all-powerful, then you trust that He has the ability to protect you.
If you trust that God is good, loving, wise and holy, then you will trust that if, in his sovereign, perfect wisdom, he has ordained that it is your time to die, it will only be for your ultimate good and his glory when he brings you to his loving side.
When we trust that God is in control of every situation, and not only in control, but ordained every single one of our days for us (Psalm 139:16), and we also know the goodness and holiness of his character, then there is absolutely nothing in our lives that should cause us to fear, worry, or be anxious.
Let’s look at a man who exemplified this in his life.
If any of you have ever lost sleep because of anxiety, you know it is no joke! David had plenty of reason to lose sleep from anxiety! In 2 Samuel 15 we read that his own son was usurping his throne and was now seeking David’s life! The setting of Psalm 3 is David hiding in a cave because at any suspenseful moment, his son Absalom might show up and kill him!
And yet in verse 5 of the third Psalm, David says, “I lay down and slept; I woke again, for the Lord sustained me”.
I have lost sleep over much smaller things! I can’t imagine trying to sleep if I was literally afraid for my life!
So how was David able to sleep?
He trusted God.
He knew that not only was God his shield and protector, but that God also sovereignly controls all things for his glory, which is also what is best for us.
If God wanted David to live, he would ensure his safety by his omnipotence.
If it was God’s will for him to die, then David trusted that even in his death, God would be glorified and it would be for his ultimate good.
David trusted in a God of infinite wisdom, love, goodness, holiness, and power who always carries out the best possible course of action as He writes the pages of his redemptive plan—what we would call “history”.
What about you? Are you trusting in the good and sovereign God of the universe to write out your story? Can you, with David, say, “In peace I will both lie down and sleep; for you alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety” (Psalm 4:8)?