Getting Through Worry and Anxiety
A small boy was struggling over his homework, and finally turned to his father and said, “Oh, what’s the use of going to all this bother of getting an education anyway?”
“Son, it’s mighty important,” the father replied. Before you’re too much older you’ll discover that in these days it takes a real good education to enable a fellow to worry about the conditions all over the world.”
We all have twin enemies that plague us from time to time, worry and anxiety.
In the 1990s Americans were polled on their top anxieties. The top ten listed were:
2. Drug Abuse
3. Nuclear Waste
4. Ozone Layer
7. Federal Deficit
8. Air Pollution
9. Water Pollution
My hunch today, 2008 the top two anxieties would be the economy and terrorism.
For 45 years Ann Landers had a syndicated advice column in hundreds of newspapers across America. She would receive 10,000 letters a month from people with problems asking for advice. When Ann Landers was asked what the number one problem was she said it all boils down to anxiety. People are anxious about losing their health, anxious about losing loved ones and anxious about life itself.
This past week I heard several people comment that they were hoping to retire but with losses of hundreds of thousands of dollars in their 401 K they didn’t know when they would be able to retire.
With the US government committing nearly a trillion dollars in bailouts people are still anxious about the future. This past week over 2 Trillion was lost in retirement portfolios.
Is what the Apostle Paul says in Philippians 4:6 reasonable: “Don’t be anxious about anything…?” When overcome with worry and anxiety we can either let anxiety knock us down like a bowling ball getting a strike or we can work through our anxieties and worries.
During this past year many families have had their dreams and homes shattered by hurricanes. Their dream homes have ended up in a soggy pile of nightmares. How do you prepare for devastating circumstances? Life doesn’t fit our plans.
# How I worked through an anxiety attack –-- Carollyn Ellis in India.
What Anxiety Is - “Don’t be anxious. Stop worrying about everything.” Webster defines anxiety as a painful or apprehensive uneasiness of mind usually over an anticipated or impending situation or a strong fearful concern. Worry in Greek means to have a divided mind. The word worry is made up of two words, meridso to divide and nous, mind. James 1:8 says, “A double minded man is unstable in all his ways.” Anxious in Latin carries the meaning of choking or strangling. When having an anxiety attack the person has trouble breathing and sleeping through the night. All joy and hope seems to be choked out of the person.
In Mark 4 Jesus pictured a farmer sowing seeds in four types of soil. 4:7 “Other seed fell among the thorns and the thorns came up and choked it, and it yielded no crop.”
The disciples asked Jesus to explain the meaning of the parable and Jesus said: “Still others, like seed sown among thorns, hear the word; but the worries of life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful.” Mark 4:18-29
Worry and anxiety sprout like weeds and thorns grow up around the truth of god’s Word, choking away the life and peace it can bring.
We become anxious and worry when we forget God’s presence in our lives. We are more prone to anxiety when we eliminate prayer from our daily routine. Anxiety overcomes us when we subtract God’s infinite power and try to live our own puny efforts.
Short periods of worry and anxiety are normal, but long term extended worry and anxiety are debilitating.
What Anxiety Does
Anxiety distracts us so we lose focus on what is important in life. Anxiety siphons away our joy and makes us judgmental and negative.
One anxious person is contagious. As an old proverb says, “One dark cloud hanging around can cover a lot of sunshine.”
Anxiety steals our contentment. Anxiety steals our confidence. Anxiety steals our ability to trust God. Worry and anxiety are robbers of the good things in your life.
Proverbs 12:25, “An anxious heart weights a man down.” Pastor Chuck Swindoll says, “Worry works like bad cholesterol hardening the arteries of our spiritual hearts and clogging the flow of love and grace toward people.”
Getting Through Tough Times
We know that if God’s word tells us not to be anxious or worry about anything then God will help us work through worry and anxiety.
Philippians 4:4-7 We are instructed to not be anxious about anything and then we are given the resources ho how to work through anxiety. “…By prayer and petition, with thanksgiving presents your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”
Prayer. Taking our worries and anxieties to God helps us get on the other side of worry and anxiety. It may be that we just need to stop and let our soul catch up with our body. We need to turn to the Lord and listen. The Psalmist sang out, “Be still and know that I am God.” Psalm 46:10
Peter Marshall, chaplain of U.S. Senate, years ago prayed: “Father…check our impulse to spread ourselves so thin that we are exposed to fear and doubt, to the weariness and impatience that makes our tempers wear thin, that robs us of peace of mind, that makes skies gray when they should be blue, that stifles a song along the corridor of our hearts.”
Petition. In our prayer of petition we take our prayer directly to Jesus. Jesus understands our pain of anxiety and worry. We go directly to Jesus, We can pray, “Jesus you know all my anxieties and worries. Show we the way to the other side.
Jesus told a parable on how to ask God for help. Luke 11:5-9 “Then teaching them more about prayer, he used this illustration: Suppose you went to a friend’s house at midnight, wanting to borrow three loaves of bread. You would say to him, ‘A friend of mine has just arrived for a visit, and I have nothing for him to eat.’ He would call out from his bedroom, ‘don’t bother me. The door is locked for the night, and we are all in bed. I can’t help you this time.’ But I tell you this – through he won’t do it for a friend, if you keep knocking long enough, he will get up and give you what you want so his reputation won’t be damaged.” “And so I tell you, keep on asking, and you will be given what you ask for. Keep on looking, and you will find. Keep on knocking and the door will be opened.”
Thanksgiving. The scripture teaches us to “Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will or you in Christ Jesus.” I Thessalonians 1:16-18
An attitude if thankfulness flows out of a heart that is daily walking close to the Lord Jesus. As a child of God you can draw on the resources of God’s Word and apply them to your heart and life. God wants you to come to Him and allow Him to help you work through anything that is a drain on your life. The Apostle Paul writes: “And now just as your trusted Christ to save you, trust him, too, for each day’s problems; live in vital union with him. Let your roots grow down into him and draw nourishment from him. See that you go on growing in the Lord, and become strong and vigorous in the truth you were taught. Let your lives overflow with joy and thanksgiving for all he has done.” Colossians 2:6-7 TLB
The Apostle Paul tells us there is a great benefit to giving our worries and anxieties to the Lord in prayer and petition and thanksgiving. In return God fills our mind and heart with His Peace. “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:7 When your heart is full of peace there is no room for worry or anxiety. God’s peace guards your heart from becoming overwhelmed with worries and anxieties.
Philippians 4:6 conveys the meaning, “Stop perpetually worrying about even one thing.”
Years ago Pastor and Theologian Reinhold Niebuhr wrote this prayer: “O God, give us serenity to accept what cannot be changed, courage to change what should be changed, and wisdom to distinguish the one from the other.”
Working through worry and anxiety demands that we take God at His word and act accordingly. We must actually apply God’s truths to our lives. I Peter 5:7 -- “Cast all your cares, anxieties on the Lord, because He cares for you.” Psalm 55:22, -- Give your burdens to the Lord, and he will take care of you. He will not permit the godly to slip and fall.”
In one week of July in our second year of pastoral ministry Carollyn and I experienced a very trying week. Carollyn’s grandmother Fairbairn had to return to the hospital. Her other grandmother, Grandma Reid had just gotten out of the hospital, and required constant care. Carollyn’s mother asked a neighbor to watch Grandma Reid when she and Carollyn younger sister, Jody traveled to McPherson, KS from Topeka, KS. While in McPherson Jody had an attack of Appendicitis and had to have surgery. So Carollyn and I travel to Topeka to be with her Grandma Reid Thursday night and Friday. Friday afternoon I left Carollyn, Tim and Wendel to go back to Kansas City to get ready for Sunday. Saturday afternoon Carollyn called and said that Tim was very sick and was screaming with a high fever and sick to his stomach. So I immediately left for Topeka.
Carollyn called every Pediatrician listed in the Topeka Phone book, but on Saturday no offices were open. She did reach one office and the nurse asked her if Carollyn had been to see the doctor before; since she hadn’t the doctor was too busy and would not see any new patients. Carollyn asked if she could just talk to the doctor on the telephone, but the nurse refused.
With Tim screaming with pain and high fever there was nothing else to do but pray until I arrived from Kansas City. Grandma Reid and Carollyn prayed desperately and within 20 minutes the fever had broken and by the time I arrived Tim was fairly normal and playing. God had answered prayer.
We sometimes sing, but do we really believe what we sing: “What a Friend we have in Jesus, All our sins and grief’s to bear! What a privilege to carry everything to God in prayer! O What peace we often forfeit, O what needless pain we bear, All because we do not carry everything to God in prayer.”
“Have we trials and temptations? Is there trouble anywhere? We should never be discouraged, Take it to the Lord in Prayer.”
Dr. Charles Colson, President of Prison Fellowship relayed in his October 8, 2008 report he was praying about the financial concerns and tough times in America. As he started through his laundry list of thanking God for the blessings He’d given him, praying for his family and for his own, personal concerns, God stopped him short. He said, “I felt convicted this was no way to start my prayer time. No, I needed to start by offering myself to God, to be fully used by Him.”
It was as if God was telling him his priorities were wrong. God told him that he shouldn’t be praying for himself. His job was to carry out the responsibilities God had given him. And if he did that, God would take care of his needs. And that what he should be doing was giving encouragement to others during these tough times.
Later that day he arrived for an appointment at the hospital. When he arrived at the reception desk, a nurse—a lovely woman—who had an enormous smile on her face greeted him. A fellow believer, she told Chuck Colson she had been waiting at the desk to meet him. As they talked, he asked her how she was handling things. She said her husband had been heavily invested in real estate. When the housing market melted down, they lost everything they had—their home, cars, retirement, everything. And she—she appeared to be her 40s—had to go back to work to support the family.
When she finished, she looked at him with a radiant smile and said, “It’s been tough, but I have no fear. The Lord has a plan for me. I am totally at peace.”
Charles Colson said he was nearly speechless. This was no chance meeting. Here, right before his eyes, was living confirmation of what God convicted him of hours earlier. All he could do was thank her for telling him, and then pray with her for a moment. Scripture tells us we often meet angels unawares.
Meeting the receptionist gave him great encouragement. Nobody who encounters this woman’s trust in God would ever deny the power of faith. While many are walking around wringing their hands, she is living with “unutterable and exalted joy.” That kind of faith changes a person, convinces the skeptic, and provides a stunning witness to God’s love in Christ—even in tough times.
That’s the kind of faith God calls us to. Complete and utter trust in Him. It’s easy to be a believer when everything is going well. The real test is when things fall apart.
Philippians 4:8 encourages you to -- “Fix your thoughts on what is true and honorable and right. Think about things that are pure and lovely and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise."
Colossians 3:2 – “Let heaven fill your thoughts. Do not think only about things down here on earth.”
Whatever your anxiety or worry you can bring them to Jesus. Jesus gave this promise: “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28
Our part in working through worry and anxiety is to trust Jesus. “His peace will keep your thoughts and your hearts quiet and at rest as you trust in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:7b
For us not to trust God is to doubt His sovereignty, that God is still in control of the universe. To not trust God is to doubt His Word that says, “All things work together for good to all who are called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28
Listen to the words of Jesus: “So I tell you, don’t worry about everyday life – whether you have enough food, drink, and clothes. Why be like the pagans who are so deeply concerned about these things? Your heavenly Father already knows all your needs, and he will give you all you need from day to day if you live for him and make the Kingdom of God your primary concern.” Matthew 6:25,32