“I worry about the future because sometimes it seems so uncertain.”—Karen, United Kingdom.
“My husband committed adultery and now I am a single mother caring for three children whom I love very much. Sometimes, I just want to be alone, does that make me a bad mother?”—Jennifer, United States.
“I am getting married a second time soon after a failed marriage where my ex-husband was abusive and committed adultery. Is it shameful that I worry my finance might be the same?”—Debbie, Ireland.
We are living at the end of what Paul referred to as the last days. It is a time of great anxiety, as Paul put it, “But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come.” (2 Tim. 3:1) Many are struggling in very poor countries. Many families are falling apart. Many are entering a new stage in their lives and it is seeming overwhelming. Then, there is war, terrorism, deadly disease outbreaks, and natural or man-made disasters. What about the fear of our failing health, death? What about the anxiety of the life we are able to give our children.
We must keep in mind that not all anxiety is bad. (1 Cor. 7:32-34; 2 Cor. 11:28) It is quite normal for us to feel a little stress before a test, our first day on a new job, before getting married, or a job interview. Moreover, a healthy measure of fear over danger can help us to avoid harm. However, extreme or constant anxiety is damaging. In a recent study of around 70,000 adults, it was revealed that long-term anxiety, even mild anxiety, increases the odds of a premature death. Therefore, we should heed Jesus’ words,
Matthew 6:25-34 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
The Cure for Anxiety
25 “For this reason I say to you, do not be anxious about your soul, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they? 27 And who of you by being anxious can add one cubit to his life span? 28 And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, 29 Yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory was adorned like one of these! 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, O you of little faith? 31 Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the nations eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things.
Keep Seeking Kingdom First
33 But be you seeking the Kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
34 “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own wickedness.
But how is that even possible to apply Jesus’ words?
The answer is that we need to apply practical wisdom, developing real faith in God, and building a reliable and realistic hope for the future. Even if our problems are creating mild anxiety, it is best to understand how to deal with severe anxiety as well because we may face that in the future. What is it that has you anxious?
Do you constantly worry about the ‘what if … of life?’ ‘What if my fiancé is like my ex-husband?’ ‘What does the future hold for my children?’
‘I feel anxious all the time. I do not know what’s happening to me, I’m just tired. I get easily irritated especially with children, sometimes I want to be alone and sleep all day, and there are days when I do not want to talk to anyone.’
There is a fact of life that cannot be avoided. We live in very critical times. We are mentally bent toward evil because of our inherited human imperfection. (Gen 6:5; 8:21; Rom. 5:12) Our heart, i.e., inner person is treacherous, and we cannot fully understand it. (Jer. 17:9) If we can channel our anxiety away from being debilitative to being a motivator in our life, it will serve us instead of enslaving us. Let’s look at a minor example first, suppose that you are taking a test at school next week, might not anxiety move you to study and prepare well beforehand instead of waiting until the last moment. Another example might be the wife marrying for the second time, the anxiety might move her to make personal adjustments that improve the marriage. What lie before was not her fault, she was the victim. Even so, let the anxiety move you to work in harmony with the new marriage mate.
There is a fact of life that we need to understand, anxiety can work for you, as long as it moves you to the right kind of action.
But what if anxiety traps you in a maze of negative irrational thinking?
Anxiety might make it seem as though you are trapped in a maze, but someone with a different outlook and perception can help you find a way out.
Anxiety can result in many unpleasant physical symptoms, including headaches, dizziness, upset stomach, and heart palpitations. However, the Bible says, “A tranquil heart gives life to the flesh.” (Proverbs 14:30) What can you do if anxiety appears to be working against you as opposed to working for you?
What can you do”
It is a case of rational self-talk, which is you questioning whether your anxiety is reasonable. Yes, you should be concerned about certain things but being overly anxious is another. It has been said that anxiety is like a rocking chair. The rocking chair [anxiety] gives you something to do, but it does not get you anywhere. Jesus said, “And who of you by being anxious can add one cubit to his life span?” (Matt. 6:27) This means that unless this anxiety is a motivating solution and leads you somewhere constructive or toward a solution, it will only add to your problem, or even become your problem.
Face each morning one at a time. With each new sunrise, you have new opportunities. Will the anxious moments of yesterday carry over into your new day? May that not happen. In time this anxious moment will pass and be nothing but a memory. Jesus said, “do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own wickedness.” (Matt. 6:34) This means it is foolish to worry about tomorrow’s problems when they may never even become a reality.
Understand that there are some things that just cannot be changed until the return of Christ. All you can do is be prepared as best as possible for what comes regardless of what it may be, and realize that some things are outside of your ability to influence or control them. In those cases, learn to be steadfast and endure whatever it is until it passes. The Bible says, “I saw that under the sun the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, nor bread to the wise, nor riches to men of understanding, nor favor to those with knowledge, but time and unexpected events happen to them all.” (Eccles. 9:11) This means that some circumstances are outside of your control, but you do have the ability to control how you view them.
Whatever has you stressed put it into the right perspective. If you take your eyes off of the details of the problem and look at the big picture, you may find your way out of the maze. The Bible says, “so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be sincere and blameless for the day of Christ.” (Phil. 1:10) This means If you place your anxiety in the right perspective, you are less likely to be overcome by it.
Share your burden with a loved one. If you are you, trust a relative, or a mature friend with your problems. If you are married, trust your spouse. As a married person, never take your problems to a person of the opposite sex that is not a relative. Trust someone and speak freely to them, as it will help you to face the next day. The Bible says, Anxiety in a man’s heart weighs him down, but a good word makes him glad.” Prov. 12:25) This means that a relative, spouse, a friend might be able to offer you practical ideas on how to lessen your anxiety.
Some people suffer from chronic anxiety. They suffer from constant headaches. They are unable to focus. They have difficulties with sleep and eating. They view very small problems as though they were a matter of life and death. If your anxiety is prolonged or excessive, it might be good for you to get a mental health checkup.
You have to be actively involved in your recovery efforts. This means that you must apply what the counselor is asking of you. You will have to avoid caffeine, drugs, and even some cold medicines, which can heighten anxiety signs. You will want to have a regular sleep habit, trying to get enough rest. You will also want to see a nutritionist to work out a healthy diet, and a modest amount of exercise. While some have found that therapeutic massages were helpful, some studies have shown that listening to your favorite music is just as relaxing. Then, their kava is the herbal remedy: an herbal medicine made from the dried roots and rhizome of a bush of the pepper family. It is used to relieve anxiety and improve sleep. As is true of everything, check with your doctor before starting any herbal remedy, as some have serious side effects, or they may interact with any medications you may be taking.
Do not fall into religious zealotry, known as religiosity. This is excessiveness in one’s Christian beliefs, such as faith healing. Is modern-day faith healing really from God? We have two answers for you: (1) God does miraculously heal people at times, (2) but faith healing in the modern church is fraudulent. Healings carried out in Bible times were either immediate or accomplished within a short period. (Acts 3:1-8) This is not the case today. When faith healing fails, they tend to blame the victim, saying he lacks faith. Regardless, seek out medical help if it appears that you suffer from anxiety disorder.
You can draw comfort from the Word of God as well. For example, David sang: “Cast your burden on the Lord, and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved.” (Psalm 55:22) How are you to act in harmony with this advice? In prayer, you are to open up your heart to God, throwing your worries of life with him. Undoubtedly, this will give you a calming effect. It is our irrational self-talk that brings about the anxiety. Thus, we do well to heed the words found in Proverbs.
Proverbs 3:5-6 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
5 Trust in Jehovah with all your heart,
and do not lean on your own understanding.
6 In all your ways acknowledge him,
and he will make straight your paths.
When constant, excessive anxiety and worries persist, it is well to recall Jesus’ words: “Those who are healthy do not have need of a physician, but those who are sick do.” (Matt. 9:12) Many Christians believe that faith alone will solve mental distresses, and sadly, they repeat this foolish talk to the sufferers. Therefore, some distressed persons are then reluctant to see a mental health professional. Does the above, “do not lean on your own understanding,” mean that we are to not to use our own powers of understanding? No. It was God, who gave us our mind, which is capable of incredible reasoning, even though scientists say that we only use ten percent of it in our imperfect state. The minds of mental health professionals over the last 100-years have accomplished much in helping those that suffer from mental disorders, between medicine and cognitive behavioral therapy.
We have Holy Spirit, which sustains us in these difficult days. We need to “Live by the Spirit and reject the deeds of the flesh.” If we are to be victorious over our fallen flesh or fallen imperfection, it will be by way of the Spirit. From our first step of entering the path of salvation to the continuation of walking on that path of developing our new personality, and taking on the mind of Christ, that is sanctification, we are in need of the Holy Spirit.
Regeneration is God restoring and renewing somebody morally or spiritually, where the Christian receives a new quality of life. This one goes from the road to death over to the path of life. (John 5:24) Here he becomes a new person, with a new personality, having removed the old person. (Eph. 4:20-24) This does not mean that the imperfection is gone, and the distresses of life are removed, but that he now has the mind of Christ, the Spirit and the Word of God to gain control over his irrational thinking and the anxieties of life.
Irrational thinking about things that worry us, however, can wear us out emotionally, physically, and spiritually, even affecting our trust in God. Paul talks about how a lack of faith is “sin which clings so closely.” Imperfect humans, even Christians with the new personality and mind of Christ, have a propensity for finding themselves in periods of temporary weakness of faith. In these moments, they tend to act contrary to the Spirit’s lead, through deception, human weaknesses, setting their hearts worryingly on other things, ending with their stumbling spiritually.
We need to acquire the mind of Christ by having our own personal Bible study at home, a regular family Bible study, and preparing for and attending Christian meetings regularly, as well as sharing the good news with others. All of this will enable us to align our thoughts and actions with the will of God.
Psalm 104:33 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
33 I will sing to Jehovah as long as I live;
I will sing praise to my God while I have being.
Do Not Be Anxious
We need to appreciate that there are different levels of anxiety and that there are different conditions or circumstances that might bring on an anxious moment. Moreover, we are all different and will react to the same situation in different ways, so we do not want to be indifferent to someone because we feel the situation is not that bad. When the anxieties of life get us to the point that our mind is flooded with stressful thoughts, o the point that we are impaired, appearing to be unable to take care of our physical and spiritual needs, what can we do? We may be embedded in a situation or set of circumstances that are out of our hands to control. Therefore, the initial step may be to look to Scriptural principles to cope with the overwhelming stress that life has thrown at us.
If we have formed a longing for God’s Word prior to any anxiety-ridden set of circumstances, it will only be natural that we would reach for our Bible in times of trouble. It is a guidebook among other things that will help us in our decisions as to what to do and not do. King David himself sang, “Cast your burden upon Jehovah, and he will sustain you: He will never suffer the righteous to be moved.” Psalm
Psalm 119:99, 101, 105, 165 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
99 I have more insight than all my teachers,
for your testimonies are my meditation..
101 I restrained my feet from every evil way,
so that I may keep your word.
105 Your word is a lamp to my feet
and a light to my path.
165 Abundant peace belongs to those loving your law,
and for them there is no stumbling block.
If we are to relieve ourselves of the stress, we must feel comfortable in going to God in prayer, being able to unload in frustration, anger, and crying. He is there to hear us and understands our circumstances far more than we could ever imagine. The apostle Paul wrote: “do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6, 7)
While we cannot fully understand “the peace of God,” it will guard our heart against the stresses of life. You will have noticed by now that this “peace of God” originates in the intimate relationship we have with him. If we are in the throes of our prayer, be it yelling, be it wailing, or crying profusely, sobbing out the issues that lie within, in the end, we will lie on the floor or the bed, wherever we may be, drained of the anxieties of life, knowing we have handed the problem off. We surely have learned in this book, thus far, that we are living out an object lesson, and Jehovah God does not, I repeat, does not step in on every single little problem facing humans. We do know that he gave us his Word, and we have Holy Spirit, and the balanced application of that Word will give us the best chances of enduring whatever the issue is until it lifts, even if that lifting results in death.
Let us illustrate the promises of Scripture this way. Each month your bills are so tight that between checks your cupboards are absolutely bare. When the bills come in the mail, you are fearful and dreading to open them, because if it exceeds a certain amount. If you get a medical condition, you prolong seeing the doctor because you cannot afford insurance. Every month is an emotional rollercoaster ride that causes bile to come up, as you are having acid reflux the last payday of the month. However, there is a one-time period in the year that is pain-free. You fill out your income tax forms, and you know you have $5,000.00 coming back from the US government in a tax return. The bills that come in over that period of waiting do not cause and anxiety issues because you know you have that check coming. The Word of God is the same; we know the promises that lie within are true. Generally speaking, if you do “A” you will get “B.”
However, if we have grown spiritually weak by our anxiety that may have encompassed us for an extended length of time, and prayer and Scriptural meditation, as well as application, has not lifted it, what can we do? You may need to set up an appointment to visit with your pastor, as he is there to help you see the light of Scripture that may have grown dim through your troubled eyes. (James 5:13-16) Listen to Peter,
1 Peter 5:1-5 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
5 Therefore, I exhort the elders among you, as your fellow elder and witness of the sufferings of Christ, and a partaker also of the glory that is to be revealed, 2 shepherd the flock of God among you, exercising oversight not under compulsion, but willingly, according to the will of God; and not for sordid gain, but with eagerness; 3 nor yet as lording it over those allotted to your charge, but becoming examples to the flock. 4 And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory. 5 In the same way, you younger men, be in subjection to the elders; and all of you clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, for God opposes the proud, but he gives grace to the humble ones.
1 Peter 5:6-11 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
Be Humble and Watchful
6 Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you at the proper time, 7 casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. 8 Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. 9 Resist him and be firm in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are being experienced by your brothers in the world. 10 After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself will restore, support, strengthen and establish you. 11 To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen.
Can we humbly admit that God’s thoughts are far superior to ours? Humility means that we have come to understand appreciate the counsel in Scripture is far superior to our imperfect thinking, especially since our thinking is distorted by the anxiety. Thus, we will apply Scripture in a balanced way, reasonably so, even if it goes against our inner heart that wants to twist reality.
Isaiah 55:8-9 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
8 For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways, declares Jehovah.
9 For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.
Keep in mind what Peter said in verse 6, “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you.” Yes, we need to be patient. At the time of writing this book, the United States has been in a deep economic recession for four years, and some people have lost their job and have been searching for another for upwards of two years. Time is the enemy of patience, and we need to possess the quality of endurance. It does not just mean that we understand what the Bible says; it is about putting on the Scriptural qualities, so that these are our new personality. Let us now turn to Jesus’ words. – Ephesians 4:24; Colossians 3:10.
At the time, Jesus was visiting Galilee, addressing an enormous crowd that was from all over. (Matthew 4:25) These would be the common folk, so hardly any of them would have been wealthy. In fact, it was more likely that most, if not all would have been poor. Yet, here is Jesus giving them direction about not focusing on material wealth, but instead to make spiritual treasures their priority.
His audience may have thought that he certainly was handing out misplaced advice. They were of such a working class that they had to work most of the daylight hours of the day, for the family to be able to have just the necessities of life; otherwise, their families would suffer. It is to persons in financial poverty that Jesus reminded them that the birds live from day to day. In other words, God has provided for the animals and nature, for they do not want for anything. The point being how much more valuable are humans, the image of God? Our bodies and our lives are far more valuable in the long run than the substance that we take in to care for them. In other words, if we give all of our time to the necessities of life, and the seeking out of more and more and more, while ignoring the spiritual treasures (i.e., our service to God), we miss the purpose of why we were created in the first place.
Ecclesiastes 12:13 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
13 The conclusion of the matter, everything having been heard, is: Fear the true God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole obligation of man.
We have to keep in mind that Jesus was not suggesting that his listeners need not work, and just wait for handouts from God. Yes, the birds themselves get up early each morning and work to find their food, to feed themselves and their young. Christians are expected to be good workers, who give their best effort every day. (2 Thess. 3:10-12; 1 Tim. 5:8; 1 Pet 2:18) Even the Apostle Paul got up very early in the morning made tents before the shops opened, spent a good part of the day selling those tents, and then went about his ministry in the evening. (Ac 18:1-4; 1 Thess. 2:9) However, what Paul and the first-century Christians did not do was view their work as a means of work as security. They viewed God and his word as their security, which brought them a more stress-free life than those around them.
 I.e. life
 I.e., a single hour
 Gr., zeteite; the verb form indicates continuous action.
 I.e., a single hour
 Or discover; or differing
 Sober Minded: (Gr. nepho) This denotes being sound in mind, to be in control of one’s thought processes and thus not be in danger of irrational thinking, ‘to be sober-minded, to be well composed in mind.’–1 Thessalonians 5:6, 8; 2 Timothy 4:5; 1 Peter 1:13; 4:7; 5:8