Thursday, November 5, 2009

Jesus has a lot to say about anxiety and worry

If we are honest, worry and anxiety are a couple of our biggest sources of distraction. Financial pressures, frayed personal relationships, and career demands are only three sources of anxiety that have become staples in today's society. It is human nature to worry or be anxious about things that are often out of our control. The pressures we face are very real and can become a huge source of bondage if we do not deal with them in a healthy way.

The Apostle Paul wrote in Philippians 4:6-7: "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."

On first reading, these verses likely fall into the category of 'easier said than done.' Don't worry about anything? When I first became a Christian, those verses were ones that I threw up my hands and said, "Impossible!" However, Paul was not being critical of our worrying. He understood that it is human nature to experience anxiety. The bigger point he was making is that prayer needs to be our first line of defense when it comes.

Prayer is often the court of last resort for many Christians. However, Paul understood that anxiety and worry are major elements of spiritual warfare that Satan uses to drive a wedge between a believer and God.

The Apostle Paul probably knew this topic all too well. When he wrote his letter to the Philippian church, it was likely during his first imprisonment in Rome when he was under house arrest. Paul repeatedly faced harassment during his ministry resulting in multiple stays in prison and finally, in his execution.

Believers can take heart because the people in the Bible were flesh and bone just like us. True, we likely will not face execution for our faith, but we all share many of the same worries. We can learn from each other, and when dealing with worry, Paul knew from his personal experience how God had delivered him during times of strife.

Paul encouraged us in those verses to take our worries and cares to God because God is the ultimate caregiver. Despite all the obstacles he faced, Paul knew his number one source for strength and encouragement was his relationship with God. Through prayer, he received the peace from God to remember that all things in this world are temporary and are only a drop in a bucket when compared to an eternity in heaven.

That is why an active prayer life is critical for everybody. Jesus repeatedly withdrew to pray as was recorded in Luke 5:16. Prayer is often the only point during the day where we can step aside and just pour everything out of our heart.

The bottom line is that no matter what role worry plays in our lives it does not help us one bit. As Jesus said in Matthew 6:25-34: "Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?

"And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore, do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own."

We are all very busy and have lots of responsibilities to other people. However, God longs to have a personal and intimate relationship with all of us. People change, but God does not. Spill your heart out to Him. He is right there waiting for you.

Source material: The Holy Bible, ‘The Glorious Journey’ by Charles Stanley, ‘Pressing Toward the Goal: Philippians, Colossians’ by the David C. Cooke Ministries