What do you do when you are anxious?
I had a friend ask me this question this morning in a private message because they know that I’ve had times when I have been gripped with incredible fear and anxiety. Some of it was because of my own stupid choices and some of it was because I knew I was under definite specific spiritual attack. And at times it has also been caused by physical issues like hormone imbalance or medications that throw off the neurotransmitters in the brain. I can’t speak to all the meidcatl aspects in this post so will focus on what I know we all can do when those feelings grip us so deeply and painfully.
I have discovered this is what I had to do.
When I allowed myself to continually dwell on the negative things I was going farther and farther down and fighting very real despair. To switch gears and do this that I will dicuss here required some very hard work. Excruciating agony with God. so anything I have written here does not come from a place of easy fix!!
What I do when I feel anxious. I have learned that Romans 12:1-2 is very very important and so is Philippians 4:
The Christian Life is a battle for our minds.
Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. For through the grace given to me, I say to everyone among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith. Romans 12:1-3 NASB.
Be anxious for nothing, 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 comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.Philippians 4:6-9 NASB.
If you read just these two passages of scripture you can pull many principles from them very quickly.
First, we must present our bodies a Living sacrifice to God knowing that it’s a reasonable service of worship to him.
Second we are supposed to be transformed.
Third the way we are transformed is by renewing our minds and the way we think. That word “transformed” means “metamorphosis”. It is the process of watching a caterpillar change into a butterfly. This does not happen instantly. The caterpillar has to build a cocoon and then it starts to change and then it has to literally eat and dig its way back out of that cocoon fighting its way out. As it does so, the fluids are forced all the way out to the tip of its wings so that once it pops out of the cocoon, every part of the body is completely developed and it can fly.
Renewing our mind and changing the way we think requires that kind of struggle because we are bound and determined to think after the flesh.
We have to change the way we think.
That brings us to the next principle that’s in verse 3 of that passage. We are not supposed to think of ourselves more highly than we ought to.
First, that means our mind cannot be focused on ourselves.
Secondly, that means we cannot think we’ve got the ability to do anything and get lifted up with pride.
Thirdly, it tells us to think soberly recognizing the gifts and abilities God has given us and using them for His service. The rest of that passage then goes on to talk about all the different gifts that God has given to the body of Christ and the idea is we’re supposed to start thinking about those abilities and considering which ones He has given us and which ones we’re supposed to use for His sake. This discussion covers the Romans 12 passage in a simple way . If I really wanted to develop this I could go into much more detail, but that’s a good overview to start us thinking right.
Then we switch gears to the Philippians 4 passage which gives us quite a few other practical things to do.
First it says we are not supposed to allow anxious thoughts to stay in our minds. That is the number one problem I discovered. A worrysome thought can come into my mind either because I allow it to or because Satan can cast doubts (firy darts) in our minds. At that moment I have a choice. I can dwell on that worrisome thought or I can do the next thing that the verse tells me to do. If I dwell on the worrisome thought I become overcome with anxiety. if I switch gears and do the next steps in the passage things change very quickly in my mind and because they do, it changes my attitude and my emotions.
The next step in the passage says to “pray with supplications and thanksgiving.” The first idea of supplications is you’re asking God for help. You’re letting Him know what you’re struggling with and then the second part is we thank God first of all that He hears us and secondly that He promises to help us and then thirdly that He has promised to take care of us in regard to whatever this anxiety is we are feeling.
I would also suggest we ought to think of other things that we are thankful for remembering what God has done in the past as a way to encourage us to trust Him now. Once we have thanked Him for how He has worked in the past, we know better how to ask Him to continue to help us with this anxiety in the present and ongoing future.
Then, the next step is to ask Him our petitions. As we take these steps we discover a sense of peace from God starts to overflow us and we can then start changing our thinking to the series of things that are listed in verse 8. It now becomes an intentional choice to start thinking about those kinds of things which forces our mind to change from the negative way it was naturally bent to a new way of thinking.
I know from personal experience that this particular struggle is unbelievably intense! But as we choose to intentionally, continually, systematically do this, we will discover that God steps in and helps us and our mind slowly, steadily, and consistently changes so that anxiety does not control us the way it used to.
With this in mind, let’s look at that list briefly.
Whatever is true, Is the thing on your mind right now true?
Whatever is honorable, Is the thing on your mind right now honorable to God, to yourself, to another person?
Whatever is right, Are the thoughts you are thinking right now right biblically? Can you think of a Biblical reference that supports what you are thinking In this moment?
Whatever is pure, Are you intentionally making sure your mind is pure? Are there thoughts that need to be stopped and repented of as you move in a different thought pattern your mind?
Whatever is lovely, Is what you’re thinking about right now giving you a picture of something lovely? If not switch to something lovely like a flower or a butterfly or the kindness a friend showed you etc.
Whatever is of good repute, the things that are going through your mind, if you utter them in a setting with other people will that develop a reputation for godliness either about your character or about the character of another you are anxious over?
If there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, Is what you were thinking about excellent in your mind? Is what you’re thinking about worthy of praise? Could you tell other people how you would praise God in this situation for what He has done, is doing, or will do?
The last part of the phrase is profoundly important. “dwell on these things.”
As easily as we spend our time dwelling on all the things that can cause us trouble, or discourage us, or defeat us, or beat us, or those we care about, we must switch gears and spend our time dwelling on those positive things. I will simply say from personal experience that when I did that, it completely changed my world from one of profound anxiety, fear, and despair to one of quiet hope, and trust, even when things were still difficult externally. The external circumstances could not control what God had done to create peace in my heart.
Thus, the logical last step comes in the last part of this verse. “The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.”
We can talk about these ideas all day long but unless we actually intentionally, daily, sometimes, by the moment, choose to do them, we will not have peace. We must choose to think differently. We must choose to keep our minds fixed on God and His Word, not on the waves and billows around us. When Peter went to Jesus walking on the water in the middle of that massive storm he was able to stay above the water as long as he kept his eyes on Jesus. The minute he switched gears and looked all around him at the storm and the “what-ifs,” and the billows, and the waves, and the troubles, he started to sink. The only way He was rescued was when He switched His mind and eyes back to Jesus and cried out to Jesus to save Him from drowning. We have to choose to keep our minds on Jesus Christ and His truth