Do not be anxious about anything.
Does such a command strike you as unhelpful or even insensitive? Does it seem like this is the last thing you would want to say to a friend who is weighed down by anxious care?
Given the state of our world, the responsibilities of life, and our limited abilities, worry seems quite understandable. But the Scriptures point us in a different direction. The child of God is commanded to not be anxious.
But this prohibition of anxiety is not based on will power or even a shameful, “you should know better.” The antidote for anxiety has everything to do with what we know of God himself.
The Irony of Anxiety
At their roots, anxiety and worry seethe over the things that cannot be controlled. After all, if I could just fix these things, I would not need to be anxious! This is the folly of anxiety in the Christian’s life. For the only areas we have reason to be anxious are the ones in which God has alerted us that he is unable to handle.
I checked, and that list is blank!
But have you noticed that most often, our obsessive concerns are for things for which God has made no promises?
God has NOT said that we will have loads of money left over at the end of the month, or never know illness, or live a very long life, or that we will all marry and have children, or be spared from trials or hardships, or that we will see days of revival. Nowhere does God promise every Christian such things.
But, God DOES promise every single Christian that all things will work for our good, that he will make all grace always abound to us, grace that will be sufficient for every trial.
- He has promised us that nothing can separate us from his love, and nothing can pluck us out of his hands.
- He has promised he will supply all our needs richly.
- He repeatedly affirms that he is not a distant God, but the Lord who is near and who abides with us.
So, in this sense, when Christians worry and become consumed with anxious care, we live as functional atheists.
I may profess Jesus is Lord with my mouth, but my worry exposes my true unbelief. After all, my anxiety is behaving as if God is not going to keep his word. I am acting as if God is unaware of my situation or unable to intervene. But Scripture and history prove neither of those are possibilities! For God’s ability and God’s compassion are two areas in which he has gone to great lengths to prove.
The problem with anxious care in the life of the Christian is that it is incompatible with the greatest revelation of God’s care for us, the giving of Christ on our behalf. God has never given us the slightest reason to doubt his goodness or faithfulness to us.
Isaiah 40:25–28 (ESV) — To whom then will you compare me, that I should be like him? says the Holy One. Lift up your eyes on high and see: who created these? He who brings out their host by number, calling them all by name; by the greatness of his might and because he is strong in power, not one is missing. Why do you say, O Jacob, and speak, O Israel, “My way is hidden from the LORD, and my right is disregarded by my God”? Have you not known? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable.
Ultimately, the problem with anxiety is that it views the concerns of life detached from God’s character. When I lie awake at 2:30 in the morning continually turning my problems over in my mind like a Rubik’s Cube I am failing to see my concerns by the illumination of God’s goodness, wisdom and power.
So, it would make sense then that the solution for our anxious cares are not rooted in pragmatic techniques or a change of circumstances but soaked in communion with God himself.
The Solution for Anxiety – Prayer?
Philippians 4:6–7 (ESV) — 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.
Does it seem trite to suggest that prayer is the antidote to anxiety? “Just pray about it?” Well, it is only trite if we have a superficial view of prayer.
Prayer is not a magic spell or an incantation you speak to magically dissolve anxiety. No, prayer is an exercise of faith! If anxiety finds its root in unbelief, prayer is a declaration of faith that God is both willing and able to care for his people.
Think about it, what is REALLY happening when we pray? When we pray, we are acknowledging two truths:
- God is my Father: he is concerned, he is near, he is involved with the very details of my own life and has invited me to cast my cares upon him.
- God is Sufficient: He spoke the universe into existence he has revealed himself has Jehovah Jireh (the Lord will provide), Jehovah Shalom (the Lord our peace), Jehovah-Raah (The Lord our Shepherd). He splits seas and rivers in two and leads his people through them, he provides water from rocks, he turns the wilderness into an oasis, he defeated Satan, sin and death itself.
Therefore, supplication and thanksgiving are spiritual battles against the anxious cares of my soul as I engage all I know to be true about God!
How can such worries exist as I let my requests be made known to this God who has declared he will never leave me or forsake me?
How can such worries survive in a climate that testifies of God’s infinite power and wisdom?
Such knowledge not only repels anxiety, it continues to guard us against its assault as well. When we cast our cares upon God, we are promised God’s own peace (which is beyond our understanding), will become a military garrison around our hearts and minds.
The two areas of my life that perpetuate worry and anxiety, my heart and mind, are now guarded by God’s own peace.
Whatever my lot, thou has taught me to say
It is well, it is well with my soul
The Promise of The Gospel and the Promise of Peace
Let’s be perfectly clear: this sort of comfort and peace belongs to the Christian alone.
For the only one who could ever know peace in anxious times is the one who calls upon God as Father. And the only one who can rightfully do this has trusted in his God’s son Jesus.
Therefore, the wonderfully GOOD NEWS is that this sort of peace is extended to ANYONE who places their hope in Christ, as they repent of their sin and believe in the promise of the gospel.
Things like joy, gentleness, and peace are not detached blessings we get from God; they are experienced as we get Christ himself!
- God does not merely give the emotion of joy - he gives us Christ himself, who is the source and fountain of all eternal joys!
- God does not just dole out measures of peace: we are given Christ himself, and being found in Christ, we have peace.
Friends, our great need is not merely the detached blessings from God, but God himself. Do not be anxious about anything. For our God is sufficient for all things.