After last week’s mass shooting in Las Vegas we needed to talk about the subject of anxiety. The news and our instant access to it can make us all jittery, even obsessed with what might go wrong. Are there disasters waiting around the corner? And what about my normal worries? Is there a way to deal with this that’s real and helpful? God does have a very potent answer.
We’ve had another one of those weeks, haven’t we? The mass shooting by one man, killing 58 and injuring hundreds. Frantically, the police and media are looking for a reasoned explanation for such a horrific act. He must have been mentally ill, or had an agenda, or was somehow roped into terrorism, but those answers elude everyone. Bottom line, it was just evil. The heart of man is deceitfully wicked, it says in Jeremiah, that is, the heart without God’s work of intervention. And call it the day of instant information one more time, because all the details, as they are known or even just conjectured about, are on our televisions and smartphones. And if you link this event to global terrorism, to natural disasters, to every other news item you’ve heard, right back to 9/11, you may be struggling.
Psalms 139:23 contains this prayer…
Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me, and know my anxieties; My anxieties are my troubled thoughts. God knows your anxious thoughts and He is the one who can give us a way out.
Ever been caught by anxious thoughts? Of course you have, you’re human! We worry about everything, it seems. Will I have enough? Will I be good enough? Pass that exam, please my friend, my spouse, siblings, parents, boyfriend or girlfriend. Will this ever happen for me, will this dream ever come to pass? Or will I be forever without. And if you give in and let it own you, anxiety will eat your lunch and keep you from the freedom and fruitfulness that God intended you to enjoy.
Anxiety leads to obsessions, playing certain scenarios and conversations over and over again in your mind. I was just dealing with that myself this week. I had a terrible set of interactions with a man years ago, over a period of a couple of years more than a decade ago. It was life dominating. He moved on, I stayed. Fast forward to this week, I had an opportunity to see him again, at least potentially. What did I do? I obsessed. I thought about what I would say if I did see him, how I would handle that. I drifted down the “things I would like to say if I was confronted” but I realized that wasn’t very good. And it actually gave me a chance to see if I had really forgiven him, and I think that I have a new assurance that I have. I didn’t see him; but there were some anxious thoughts that popped out of nowhere that I didn’t expect that tempted me to obsess out of anxiety. What if this, what if that? Anxiety can surprise you.
God, know our anxious thoughts. Well, aren’t there things I ought to be anxious about? Yes, well, if you’re. crossing a rickety rope bridge over a 500’ chasm, yes, you ought to be concerned. Are there real dangers in this world physical and otherwise? Yes, and we should be afraid of them with a healthy fear.
We most often fear the least important things and neglect to fear the most important. Most people fear something physical, but don’t fear getting in with the wrong crowd, being caught by addictions or leaving this world without faith in Christ. Yes, there are things to be fearful about, but anxiety and worry and obsession are debilitating.
Besides medications, which can mask and temporarily settle anxiety, is there something more powerful that can actually answer our anxieties?
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 understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
If God says you can, you absolutely can. You might have read the Scripture here and said that’s as good as telling me not to eat so much snack food. I’m going to do it if I have the opportunity as much as I just say no. But really, anxiety and the resultant insecurity can be dealt with in increasing effectiveness.
Prayer here is general, get before God to worship Him, be with Him. Supplication is asking for specific needs to be met. And thanksgiving is just what it sounds like, thanking Him for what you already have and see Him doing.
In my car it doesn’t do to just get the old oil out of the engine. Ah, that oil is old and used, it isn’t good for the engine to run with it anymore. Let’s drain it! But right away, without using the engine again, we put in replacement oil. Be anxious for nothing is powerful but not enough. You have to replace the anxiety with prayer, supplication and thanksgiving.
You likely won’t be able to stay on course if this is new to you. You’ll have to return to this over and over again to wring the anxiety out of your life. God is sufficient. He is enough, more than enough. More than enough for anything and everything you’ve been worried about.