Dealing with Anxiety in These Times of Crisis
By Pastor Rene Ely
“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.” Philippians 4:6-7
How many of us struggle with the sin of anxiety (worry) during these times of crisis? Will the many “what ifs” brought about by this covid-19 crisis be valid excuses for us who are in Christ to be overwhelmed with our surrounding circumstances?
John MacArthur said “Worry, by nature, is the product of a lack of faith and trust in God. Worry is the sin of distrusting the promise and providence of God, and yet it is a sin that Christians commit perhaps more frequently than any other. For some reason, we think of doubt and worry as ‘small’ sins. But when a Christian displays unbelief…or an inability to cope with life, he is saying to the world, ‘My God cannot be trusted,’ and that kind of disrespect makes one guilty of a fundamental error, the heinous sin of dishonoring God. That is no small sin.”
I would like us to ponder on the fact that the true source of our worries and distress that results from it is our unbelief. In the expression of our anxiety, we exalt our concerns or ourselves above what God can do and He promises in His word. In doing this, we undermine His character.
As believers in Christ, we have very specific instructions as to dealing with anxiety in these times of crisis so that we will honor God. Philippians 4:6-7 gives us a fitting exhortation to address this by giving us 3 appropriate responses that we can choose to do whenever we are dealing with anxiety: (1) Stop giving in to anxiety (v. 6a), (2) Give your anxiety to God in prayer and thanksgiving (v. 6b), (3) Experience the peace that comes from God (v. 7).
First, STOP GIVING IN TO ANXIETY. Paul was very specific in giving the command to the believers then and to us now: “Be anxious for nothing” or “Do not worry about anything”. He means that we stop giving in to “anxiety” or “distracting concerns”. Paul does not wish that believers be unconcerned, but for us to be free from that of being overly concerned about worldly things which might distract our thoughts from God and our service of God, and therefore hinder our growth in holiness. Brethren, if our concerns distract our thoughts from God or the things of God and our service to Him, hindering us in our spiritual growth, then we need to stop such distracting concerns and repent before the Lord. We are warned from Scriptures that dwelling on anxiety will only weigh us down. “Anxiety weighs down the heart…” (Proverbs 12:25a). Anxiety will not only drain our strength but will also rob us of joy.
Ian Maclaren said “What does your anxiety do? It does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow, but it does empty today of its strength. It does not make you escape the evil; it makes you unfit to cope with it when it comes. God gives us the power to bear all the sorrow of His making, but He does not guarantee to give us strength to bear the burdens of our own making such as worry induces.”
Second, GIVE YOUR ANXIETY TO GOD IN PRAYER AND THANKSGIVING. We know that our God is purposeful and wise in what He ordains, so even with the possible extension of the Enhanced Community Quarantine (ECQ) for another 15 or 30 day after the April 12 deadline and all the uncertainties that come with it have divine purposes. That is why Paul gives us what we need to do as we choose not to dwell on anxiety: “Instead, pray with thanksgiving about everything”. Paul is saying that we need God’s help and the means to receive this is dependence on. God is our only help so we learn to leave everything trustingly and with thanksgiving to the His Providence who alone knows and understands all things. We then show our trust in Him by bringing everything to Him in prayer. Our loving heavenly Father requires that we come and express all our concerns to Him and teaches us to come with thankful hearts, for He sovereignly holds and sustains all things in His mighty and holy hands. Our Lord will definitely hear the concerns of His own by either meeting the need or giving us something better. God’s sovereignty means our prayers can be answered far beyond even what we can ask or imagine. We see then that we can dispel anxiety and worry in our hearts as we come to God in thankful prayers.
James Nisbet said “Prayer draws our eyes away from self and fixes them upon God. Prayer weans our thoughts from our own weakness and leads them to rest upon His power. Instead of dwelling upon the worries of our lot or the difficulties of our position, we contemplate in prayer His faithfulness, His promises, and His love.”
Third, EXPERIENCE THE PEACE THAT COMES FROM GOD. Choosing not to be anxious but instead to pray to God about everything will result in God’s promise of experiencing the peace that comes from Him. “And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (v. 7). Paul is saying here that when we trust God with every care and concern, He will cover us with divine peace. It is the kind of peace that surpasses understanding, protecting our hearts and minds from anxiety. We want to have this peace and comfort in the midst of these distressful times and our God gives us that peace (John 14:27). The peace we experience from our faith and relationship with Jesus surpasses any temporary peace that the world can give; it eases our deepest fears and worries and quiets our troubled hearts.
Our Lord Jesus Christ knows worry and the trouble of this world will rob us of peace. He promised, “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives, do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful” (John 14:27). What precious promise from the Prince of Peace, a peace that can be the constant experience of every Christian, even in the midst of the trying times that we are facing right now!
In conclusion, Jesus commanded His followers in Matthew 6:25 “Do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?” The tense of the Greek text “Do not be worried” is properly translated, “Stop worrying.” We are commanded by our Lord to refrain from worrying and at the same time to remove our focus on temporal things or on the uncertainties of tomorrow, but instead to focus on the certainty who God is. After saying all of these, He gave us a timeless instruction and assurance to “Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you”(Matthew 6:33).
Brethren, we have an immovable hope in our Savior who cares for us and who will give us strength in these difficult times. He wants us to look to Him in devotion and dependence so that our circumstances will not overwhelm us. Only then can we experience His peace that surpasses all understanding. We keep learning then to “Cast all our anxiety on Him because He cares for us” (1 Peter 5:7). God bless you all!