by Lisa Leidenfrost
“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 understanding will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” Phil 4:6, 7
Anxiety can be a common reaction and that is why Philippians 4:7 tells us how to handle it, and handling it right gives the result of peace. Why do we need to get a handle on anxiety, and why is it a sin? Isn’t being ‘really concerned’ about something just a tiny little fault? Well, think about what anxiety is. When you are anxious, it is like you are being a functional atheist. An atheist says ‘there is no God’, but a functional atheist implies, ‘there is no God who will hear and act on my behalf.’ So if this is the underlying premise, the resultant action is to watch out for yourself and act accordingly because no one else will, not even God. But of course our emotional makeup rebels at this excessive burden and the emotional reaction of anxiety then comes to the surface.
To have faith is to not have ‘true’ anxiety. The two don’t co-exist. I believe there is a type of ‘anxiety reaction’ that can happen without an underlying cause that can be medication induced, etc. I have had one. It feels like a fire alarm goes off when there is no fire. One can be thinking faith driven thoughts of God while the body is screaming ‘danger! panic! at the same time. To handle that is simple. Ignore the fire alarm, since it is malfunctioning, and set your sights on what is stable and will not change, and can be trusted – God. Then you ride out the reaction until the fire alarm shuts off again, usually when the medication has run its course.
But a fear-driven anxiety reaction is also handled in a similar way, except you add into the above mix confession. To operate like there is no God who will hear and act for you is to believe what is false about Him. If you don’t believe He will act for you, then you have to carry the burden on your own shoulders, without the divine strength and power to do so. To get out of this unbelief, you must first confess this sin. You are not God. After you confess, you must go on and believe what is true, that He is very merciful, kind, loves you, and will act accordingly. You don’t have to feel it, just believe it. After you choose to believe that He is who He says He is, you are ready for the next step, which is to believe that He will do what He says He will do. Then stand on these promises. Know that when you make a jump of faith to believe Him, there are arms on the other side to catch you.
Saying ‘no’ to your gloomy premonitions, and ‘yes’ to trusting God even when you can’t see, is a choice. It is believing that those arms will actually catch you when you leap out into the realm of faith. When you make that choice, it doesn’t mean that the emotions of anxiety will leave right away, or if they do, that they won’t come right back in five minutes. It just means you make a choice to stand on high ground and not give in to the emotion. Let the emotion do what it wants, you will not give in to it. When you stand there repeatedly, the emotion should die down but you have to stand first for the emotion to follow, not the other way around. If you wait for the anxiety emotion to go away first to reassure you, you could be waiting there a long while, and toppling off the rock of your hope in the meantime. It is like your mind will then say, ‘See, it didn’t work; you need to save yourself. Panic!’.
But consider that emotions are the worst indicator of reality. Better to stand on what is true reality – God. Only there can you really be safe. Fear based emotions can be deeply entrenched if you have had a long habit of giving in to them. So reprogram how you operate and make the choice to ride over the emotions by focusing on something beyond – God. He is stable. He doesn’t change and is sure. Then hang on with His strength. And if you topple off that high position and fall back again into the soup of anxiety, start all over by confessing, making a choice to believe what is true and standing again. It is a process to reprogram your mind how to think without slipping into the default mode of anxiety. That process can be hard but when you put your hand in God’s, it is good and you’ll get there. You are learning how to fight with Him as your guide.
“Above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” Ephesians 6:16, 17