Life is filled with situations that lead to anxiety. People get sick. Things break. Money is limited. People struggle with relationships. Death is real. Everyone experiences loss, hurt, brokenness and fear.
In an article titled, “Anxiety, How Can I Cope?” Counselor David Powlison compared anxiety to a red flashing light on a car’s dashboard. The “check engine” light reveals something is wrong with your car. It may not reveal precisely what is wrong, but indicates a need to visit the mechanic or the maintenance manual. They key is to identify what the warning light is “trying to say” about your engine. Anxiety is a natural response to circumstances that, like a warning light, should get your attention. Your anxiety is saying something about your heart. And you should listen.
Sometimes anxiety is a natural and appropriate response intended to push us to action and responsibility. “I need to take out the trash.” “I can’t forget date night.” “Those dishes won’t wash themselves.” Other times, however, our anxiety is rooted in things we cannot change and are not responsible for. Anxiety on those occasions may reveal a heart grasping for control. Our anxiety says, “God is far away.” “I must take control and handle this myself.” “I feel exposed and vulnerable.” If we listen, our anxieties reveal what we want, what we fear, what we depend on, and what we think we need.
God, the mechanic who designed us, has something to say through his maintenance manual, the Bible. “Rejoice in the Lord always; I will say it again: rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 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.”(Philippians 4:4-7, NIV)
Consider the following truths from this passage to remember in anxious moments.
God is present. Don’t buy the lie that He’s far away. “The Lord is near.” What a precious promise. Let that soak in. You are not alone because God is not absent. God really does care. Matthew 6:25-34 reveals God’s concern and provision for even birds and flowers, therefore His children can be confident in His loving care and provision. Read Psalm 121 and be encouraged.
Prayer isn’t pretending, it’s depending. Don’t buy the lie that you can take control or “fake it until you make it” by acting like everything is ok. Share your requests with Him. The words “prayer,” “petition,” and “thanksgiving” imply you are not in control. He is, and that’s a good thing. We make requests of Him. We give thanks to Him. God is never stressed or anxious. God doesn’t fear, never doubts, and never worries. We can depend on Him.
His peace will guard you. When we are anxious our hearts tell us all sorts of things, and our minds race out of control. Peace seems nowhere to be found. When we pray, the peace of God comes to our rescue by guarding our hearts and minds. A guard keeps the right thoughts in and wrong thoughts out. What would you rather guard your heart and mind: your own perceptions or the peace of God?
So, next time your anxiety “warning light” goes off, slow down. Listen to what your anxiety is telling you, and put your hope and desire in God. Remember He is present. Pray. And let His peace protect your heart and mind.
Dr. Chris Larmoyeux is the pastor at First Baptist Church Maumelle. He and his wife, Tonya, live in Maumelle with their three children. You can email Chris at firstname.lastname@example.org.