Is this something you've heard before? You're getting ready to meet your friends for coffee, but you're rummaging through your closet for the perfect outfit. Before you realize it, you've turned your dresser inside out, you are running late, and still don't think you look good enough. Or you're having dinner with your family and can't stop worrying about your work. Will your career be jeopardized because you've had a couple of bad days this week?
Or maybe you're at church, attempting to connect with God but becoming sidetracked. You need to get groceries, walk the dog, and definitely not forget the toothpaste—before you know it, your worldly concerns have whisked you away.
It's natural to be concerned about your life and future, but when you're anxious, these worries begin to interfere with the rest of your life. At its core, anxiety is a fear of not having the things you need. However, God reminds us that we don't need to worry—He has us taken care of.
“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?
“And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
You can say, "Don't worry so much," but when you really have anxiety, it's hard to get rid of. Anxiety is like a muscle in that the more you use it, the stronger it becomes. That is why you cannot simply choose not to have anxiety, and unlearning the habit will take time. Luckily. His word gives us clear instructions on dealing with anxiety every day.
Find your triggers
Matthew reminds us that God is aware of our concerns—about not having enough food (the necessities of life), about our bodies (our health), and about our clothes (our appearance and what others think of us). You might be anxious about something completely different, but try to narrow down the things that make you worried. What is the source of your concerns? Do certain situations or people make you anxious? A quick prayer can always calm you down before stressful situations. If you are still worried, this could be a sign that something in your life needs to change. Listen to the message of your emotions, but keep in mind that worrying is not the same as doing something constructive. As Luke 12:25-26 asks us:
“Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life? Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest?”
Ask God for help
The next step is deceptively simple: pray about your anxiety, and ask God to take it away from you. As the Bible tells us, sometimes praying is all it takes.
1 Peter 5:7
"Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.”
Give up control
Anxiety stems from a desire for control. You're worried about a future you can't predict because you hope to control the outcome. The repeated lies of anxiety lead you to believe that you can prevent your concerns from becoming true if you worry enough. But you know that's not really true because God is in control. Reflect on Proverbs 3:5-6:
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.”
The Bible teaches you how to trust God and surrender your anxieties to him.
Take care of yourself
However, there are a few things that you can control. Every day, make small efforts to treat yourself properly and keep your mind and body healthy. Get plenty of exercises, eat well, and sleep well. Do your best at work so you can leave your worries behind at the end of the day and rest. Avoid ineffective stress-relieving activities such as Netflix binges and unhealthy habits. Connect with your community to take care of yourself! Our families and friends will always be there for us when we need them. If you're having a hard time, ask people around you for help. If you're feeling lonely, find a supportive community through your church, volunteer group, or another healthy interest.
"Anxiety weighs down the heart, but a kind word cheers it up.”
Make the changes you need to make
If you're still feeling nervous about a particular aspect of your life, you may need a change. Anxiety is difficult to deal with, yet emotions are simply messages about what we require. Perhaps you need to take a break from a relationship and focus on yourself. Maybe your partner isn't the right one for you. Maybe you need to go back to school and prepare for a new job and career.
Without a doubt, making a change can be challenging. However, the satisfaction and excitement of taking responsibility in your life much outweighs worrying. Remember, God helps those who help themselves.
" Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.”
Cultivate resilience and thankfulness
God's plan isn't always what we hoped for, and the things we fear do happen. What then? Keep turning to God, to the people you love around you, and to your self-care. And most importantly, remember to be grateful! Human nature dictates that we constantly desire more money, more food, more friends, and more health. This unconscious desire turns into anxiety because we can't feel gratitude for the good things we already have. Therefore, take a moment to breathe deeply, look around, and be grateful for your friends, your family, the air you breathe, the roof over your head, and the food you eat.
When you start counting your blessings, you will always find that you have more than you expected. Gratitude reveals and multiplies the positive things in our lives.
"Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God."
God's plan might not be what we hope for, but it's always exactly what we need. The key to overcoming anxiety is to recognize that God is in control and thank him for always being there for us.