Overcoming Anxiety
We are living in a fallen world surrounded by darkness all around, filled with disease, lack and evil and the Sovereign God is the only One who can preserve us for His kingdom.

Overcoming Anxiety

        The spread of Corona virus and large number of deaths in some countries is a cause of great anxiety for personal safety and well being of our near and dear ones. But are believers, who are blessed with power from God, are also helpless in this situation? We are filled with grace and power from God to be able to take on the trials and tribulations that we face in our daily living and we must learn to use that to overcome the anxiety of present day crisis also.

        What is our responsibility in such a situation? – Lord Jesus described the believers as ‘salt of the earth’ and ‘light of the world’ and this defines our role in times of distress and fear all around (Matthew 5:13-14). Apostle Paul founded the Philippians church while facing great opposition, their clothes were torn on the orders of the magistrate and he and Silas were beaten with rods, put into inner prison and their feet put in stocks. But at midnight, they were found ‘praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them’ (Acts 16:6-40). The salt preserves and the light dispels darkness. The prisoners must have wondered, what sort of men are these that even after suffering so much, they were praising God in the deep darkness of the inner prison chambers. Their faith demonstrated in this manner resulted in their chains being removed and all doors opened. The chains of every prisoner were removed not only these two but no one moved out and the jailor and his family were baptized and many others were saved.

          The believers in the Philippians church must have wondered about their future and financial security because of such opposition from others and likelihood of political and religious persecution. Some who were faint hearted might have returned to their previous life styles. Apostle Paul first himself set an example for everyone and then advised them, ‘Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say rejoice’. It is not about good times only and then he commands us, ‘Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand’. Let your light, the light of the Gospel within you, shine on others so that they also yearn to know about this source of peace within you (Philippians 4:4-6). Job reacted to his wife’s reaction, ‘Shall we indeed accept good from God, and shall we not accept adversity?’ (Job 2:10). Does adversity come upon us only because of our sinful living? No, Job did not sin but was tested for his faith and emerged victorious to receive double of everything that he had before.

        Apostle Paul advises the church, ‘Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God’ (Philippians 4:6). Let nothing worry you and Greek word used here means ‘distract or divided’. So we must not let this turn us away from God. God promises to protect and His ‘truth shall be your shield and buckler’ and no pestilence of day or night will affect you though ‘a thousand may fall at your side and ten thousand at your right hand’ (Psalm 91:4-7). Apostle Paul’s advice to the church goes further, ‘in everything’ good or difficult circumstances ‘by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving make your requests known to God’. Supplication as per Greek word ‘deesis’ is a ‘heartfelt petition’, thus implying that your prayers must be specific and from deep within the heart, not only for yourself but also for others. We must express gratitude to God in our prayers for hearing us and answering us in the best way for us.  

        Moses told the Israelites to diligently heed the voice of the LORD your God and none of the diseases which were brought on the Egyptians will affect you for ‘I am the LORD who heals you’ (Exodus 15:26). Apostle Paul similarly assured the Philippians church that God’s promise will then come true and peace of God which is beyond our understanding will ‘guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus’.   Lord Jesus has 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, neither let it be afraid’ (John 14:27). When we move in His peace we become light and salt of the world in true sense by helping others find peace through our words of love and prayers.

         Why does anxiety/fear affect us? – Was Apostle Paul right when he wrote his letter to the Philippians to be ‘anxious for nothing’? Believers are as much affected by fear and anxiety as anyone else and we are left wondering about this. God is well aware of fear ruling our hearts for this is the first emotion after commission of sin of disobedience by Adam and Eve. The first affect of fear is that it isolates us from others for we are unable to share our fears with others for various reasons. Adam’s answer to God was ‘I heard, I was afraid’ while Eve was also with him and he was not alone. Apostle Paul’s words to the Philippians are not about being done and forgotten but in the present active tense meaning to say, ‘Do not let anything in life leave you perpetually breathless and buried in anxiety’. Presence of anxiety and prison of anxiety are different, do not be imprisoned for the Lord has set us free by the abundance of His grace.

       The Scriptural commands to fight fear – The most repeated commands in the Scripture and their purpose must be understood for us and what does God expect from us through these and these are more needed in times of fear and anxiety.

       First, ‘Praise the Lord’ and it is not about shouting aloud – The Lord said, ‘Inasmuch as these people draw near with their mouths and honor me with their lips, but have removed their hearts far from Me’ (Isaiah 29:13). God wants us to know Him through what He has revealed to us about Himself and then find some particular aspect of His love and glory that produces awe filled automatic praise. Such delight filled praise not only pleases God but will also point others to the same glory and delight.   

        Second, ‘Do not fear’ and in this God wants us to meditate on some promise He has made in the Scripture until the fear melts away and courage rises. Apostle Paul’s words of praise are that God is ‘Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulations, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God’ (2 Corinthians 1:3-4). So as we receive, we give to others.

       Third, ‘Rejoice’ – God is telling us to be happy, for nothing can separate us from His love for is in His Son and that He will work all things for our good (Romans 8:38-39 & 28). Further, that He will rescue us from every evil work and preserve us for His kingdom while we must rest in His Sovereign control (2 Timothy 4:18).  

        Four, ‘Give Thanks’ – God wants us to look beyond our frustrations, anger, grief, discouragement and depressions ( all these are types of the same emotion only) and look towards His grace (2 Corinthians 9:8). When we see this, our focus shifts to be grateful for what He has done and we are filled with renewed hope in Him.

       When we look at God through these changed eyes, we are filled with hope and joy and we cry out, ‘Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O LORD, my strength and my Redeemer’ (Psalm 19:14). It is because our focus is generally on the depth of the water that we are walking on and the storms that surround us rather than on God whose hand helps us do all this that we start drowning. In times of anxiety and fear, when people are hiding behind masks which in any case are of no use in checking spread of the virus except in the case of the ones who are infected, our role is to get closer to God, especially when Sunday Church service has also been curtailed. Joshua believed God and could then overcome his fear to lead his people into the Promised Land and God honored every request that he made. He could then declare that ‘as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD’ (Joshua 24:15).

       Are we willing to make such commitment to God and not look at the present circumstances so that we can then receive and continue in all the blessings that God has promised. We are given to understand that a believers life would be filled with joy but that is not so. When we join God’s family in faith we need to be prepared to be used in the same way that He used His only Begotten Son. The first disciples understood this and lived, suffered extreme situations and died in faith.

       What should be our priorities in the present circumstances? – Almost midway in His ministry, many followers left Lord Jesus. On being asked whether they also want to leave, Apostle Peter’s reply has to be our reply also, ‘Lord, to whom shall we go. You have the words of eternal life’ (John 6:66-69). The isolation caused due to Corona Virus is a time for us to rework on our priorities in life. In His Son God says yes to us through His promises and in the Lord we say our yes to God the Father through our prayers.

         The first aspect is about prayer in following the footsteps of our Savior Lord who ‘having risen a long while before daylight, He went out and departed to a solitary place, and there He prayed’ (Mark 1:35). The Church services have been suspended and this is the time to strengthen our personal relationship with God. Lord Jesus often prayed alone, ‘He Himself often withdrew into the wilderness and prayed’ (Luke 5:16). Apostle Paul immediately after his encounter with the Savior Lord, went into Arabia, probably to pray and meditate on the word of God in the Old testament to receive guidance from the Holy Spirit (Galatians 1:17). The Son of God prayed all night (Luke 6:12); He prayed with others, Apostle Peter, John and James, quite often (Luke 9:28); He prayed for others (John 17:9); He prayed according to the will of His Father (Matthew 26:39) and He taught us specifically that we, ‘should always pray and not lose heart’ (Luke 18:1). Worship and prayer with the whole family is the answer in such difficult times.

        Second, strengthen family bonds that had been reduced to Hi and Bye due to our busy schedules. Praying together as a family has many benefits; it helps in easing tensions, develops relational closeness while bringing a sense of a unit together, it heals and helps in overcoming past hurts, protects and strengthens communication between members and develops intimacy through sharing of fears and anxieties. However, being together for long periods can also cause unnecessary friction through the sense of being stuck and needs to be handled with care.

       Third, solitude and withdrawing into retreat to be alone with God – Lord Jesus would ‘often slip away to the wilderness to pray’ (Luke 5:16). This was a period of communing with God to give rest to the body and soul for He would take His disciples to ‘a deserted place to rest a while’ (Mark 6:31). We should also follow the Lord’s example to find solitude while being together with others.

       Four, meditation by focusing on specific verses of Scripture, nature or an event in life and seek God’s guidance through it. Scripture call for us is to ‘meditate on God’s Word day and night (Joshua 1:8; Psalm 1:2). King David told God, ‘When I remember You on my bed, I meditate on You in the watches of the night’ (Psalm 63:6). Take time to listen to Your Father

        Corrie ten Boom noted, ‘If you look at the world, you will be distressed. If you look within, you will be depressed, but if you look at Christ, you will be at rest’.  Remain focused on Lord Jesus and what He has done in the past in your life, what He is ready to do now and develop a faith and hope filled future in the Lord.

        Periods of fear, anxiety and suffering will always change you, for better or for worse, according to what you decide to do. Apostle Paul’s advice to believers is, ‘we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because the love of God is poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us’ (Romans 5:3-5).

      But how do we find hope in suffering? – I must not be tied to a specific outcome and I must remember that all things work out for the good of those who love God, though what is God’s good may not be as per my request ((Romans 8:28). Being burdened by suffering up to the point of despairing for life itself can strengthen our faith to depend on God and not on ourselves (2 Corinthians 1:8-9).  

      We must necessarily take some definite measures to overcome anxiety. First, recognize how little worry can help you; second, recognize the harm that worry can and will cause; third, differentiate between worry and concern for concern motivates for action while worry keeps us stuck in the problem; four, identify the triggers of worry in your life, understand and guard against that; five, decide your best option for how you respond to a situation depends on you – seek God’s intervention through prayer; six, trust God to deal with your situation, confess your worries to God and ask Him for faith, healing and strength; seven, deal with your anxieties and change them through guidance of the Holy Spirit; eight, develop healthy lifestyle habits – eat balanced meals, do not smoke or drink alcohol but drink lot of water and exercise regularly; nine, look beyond your circumstances to God who is in control and ready to help those who seek His help; ten, remember the Lord’s words, (Mark 9:23) ‘all things are possible for him who believes’; eleven, live in the moment and be happy while ‘thanking God in all circumstances’

         Remember that our fight is not against ‘flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places’ and only God and His weapons of warfare can work (Ephesians 6:12). When we cannot understand anything about the situation prevailing around us, whether affecting us directly or not, we are likely to be anxious. But when we surrender to our fears and anxieties we are likely to attract the evil to us for ‘the devil is on the lookout’ and he will pounce on the fearful first. Surrender to God and seek His help for ‘He cares for His people’!

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.