“It is possible to live an anxiety free lifestyle”.
What do you think?
We’ll respond differently, probably depending on our own experience. Some incredulous, some ashamed, some angry that it could even be suggested, some indifferent because anxiety’s not such a big deal anyway.
It was Pete Carter, a church leader of great wisdom and integrity, who I heard say it, but he wasn’t the first. In fact, Jesus said ‘Do not worry about your life’ and the Apostle Paul wrote ‘Do not be anxious about anything’. Neither of them meant it as a mere suggestion, nor as an unreachable command. It’s an invitation.
“Anxiety will come knocking at your door, it’s your choice whether to let it in.”
Another quote from Pete, but echoed in Paul. In Philippians 4:4-11 the Apostle gives us some clear practical advice, and he really meant it…
1. Rejoice in the Lord always!
Worship, gratitude, praise. It’s always our starting point. Why? Because as we react with worship we remember that God is near. Bottom line, the reason we can live without anxiety is because God is our Father and He’s always present. When Jesus said not to worry about life, He also described how Father God provides for birds and grass so how much more will He provide for us? Whatever circumstances come, make worship a first reaction – because ‘The Lord is near’.
2. Do not be anxious…but present your requests to God.
This is not some kind of ‘grin and bear it’ denial of reality. Anxiety comes on the back of circumstances – of challenges and perceived needs. Jesus meant it when he said “In this world you will have trouble”….but he meant the next part too, “take heart because I have overcome the world”. Don’t deny challenges, turn them into requests. Bring them to Father God who can actually do something about it.
3. Leave it with Him.
Here’s the biggest challenge. Often we worship and/or pray but then we keep on wondering, thinking, trying to work out what God is going to do. We don’t let go. The promise is that as we hand over our anxiety in the form of requests, God will hand over His ‘peace that passes understanding’. Here’s the problem – to have peace that is beyond understanding we have to give up being able to understand (that’s not a me original – I heard it first from Bill Johnson – but it’s so true). The problem is, I go through the motions of recognising God is present and handing it over to Him, but then I keep acting like it must be all down to me. Essentially I want God to bless me as I deal with the problem, I don’t actually hand the problem over for Him to deal with.
It’s simple, but it’s hard. It hits a bottom line issue: can we fully trust God?
Often we keep hold of the issue because we’re not sure God will sort it out. Maybe we’ve tried handing it over before and the results haven’t been what we expected. The truth is we cannot trust God to do exactly what we want Him to, but we can trust Him to do what is good, to be near, to bring peace. God is good all the time, He’s outrageously good – but sometimes the way He works doesn’t make sense until we see the end of the line…and we may not always get to see it this side of eternity.
How do we learn to trust?
4. Watch what you watch.
Paul exhorts us to think about whatever is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, praiseworthy. Too often we fill ourselves with stories of bad things going on, of challenges and issues facing people, of how stories turn out bad. The news reports what is going wrong in the world. When we chat to people it’ll be negative more often than positive. To speak too positively makes us sound over optimistic or ‘unreal’. To ‘be real’ almost literally means to ‘be negative’ – see what can go wrong. No wonder we struggle to trust God – we struggle even to remember what He’s really like.
Rejoice always. Focus on what is good, right, true and noble. Why? Because then we’re always aware of the presence of God, of His goodness, of the fact we can trust Him. We start to recognise the way He is moving so that we see the number of times He works in seemingly impossible situations to bring about good. We see the way He transforms one situation in an instant and walks faithfully giving strength over long periods of time through others, yet always with never failing goodness.
Bottom line is this: God will not always do what we want, but God will always be with us and He will always be good. We cannot avoid challenges, trials and loss, but we can keep anxiety out. Recognise the presence of God and His goodness. Choose to rejoice, to request, and to let go. Then do what He says to do.