Dec 4, 2012

The only known antidote to anxiety

Why are we anxious?

Although anxiety can be caused by many things more often than not it’s about the fear of losing control in life and a fear of the future. That could be a specific  fear or a general one.

The mental health charity Mind comments

You may worry about the future. Sometimes, if you feel you are not in control of many aspects of your life, you can start to feel anxious about events beyond your control, such as the threat of global warming, of  being attacked, of developing cancer, or of losing a job. 

After a while, you can start to fear the symptoms of anxiety, especially feeling out of control. This sets up a vicious circle. You may feel anxious because you dread feeling the symptoms of anxiety, and then you experience those symptoms because you are having anxious thoughts.

 What does the Bible say about anxiety?

Paul in Philippians 4 commands (yes, commands) Christians not to be anxious. He writes

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  

The great news for the Christian is that in the gospel God gives us the resources to help us combat anxiety. It is not easy and it is not automatic but Paul tells us that we can live lives as God’s people free form anxiety.  There are two truths taken together that are crucial to beating anxiety.

1) The unshakeable conviction, that as a Christian, God loves you and has adopted you as his child not because of your life (your goodness, obedience, etc.)  but because of Jesus’ perfect life lived for you and his perfect death for your sins. God has never accepted you and adopted you because of your performance but entirely on the performance of Jesus and that never changes.

2) The sure knowledge that the God who loves you in Christ is sovereign over every detail of your life.

That knowledge has to be appropriated in times of anxiety. The antidote to anxiety is to take our fears and worries to the sovereign God who loves us and hand the future over to him. Alex Motyer in his commentary on Philippians writes;

In prayer, anxiety is resolved by trust in God. In thanksgiving anxiety is resolved by the deliberate acceptance of the worrying circumstance as something which an all-wise, all-loving, and all-sovereign God has appointed.

Prayer takes up the anxiety-provoking question ‘How?’ –How shall I cope? –and answers by pointing away to him, to his resources and promises. Thanksgiving addresses itself to the worrying question ‘Why?’ – Why has this happened to me? – and answers by pointing to the great Doer of all who ever acts purposelessly and whose purposes never fail.

What is the fruit of prayer?

When you turn moments of stress and anxiety over to the sovereign Lord in prayer, then and only then, can you be free from anxiety and discover the peace of God. The peace from knowing he is in control even when we are not.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

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