Since I finished my last blog on anxiety, I have had two more opinions come across my desk that have provoked me. Just today I read a devotional that really induced anxiety. It said, “My children tend to accept worry as an inescapable fact of life. However, worry is a form of unbelief. It is anathema to me.”
Now most of the time I really enjoy this devotional, but I felt kind of gobsmacked by those words. It seems to me that the author is missing the non-volitional part of anxiety. There actually is an anxiety gene (so I’ve been told); some people are simply born more anxious than others. Others live with childhood trauma that has marked their emotional core. It’s not as simple as “believe more.”
Technically, I agree that worry is a form of unbelief, but to call it “anathema”? Jesus sure didn’t approach unbelief in that fashion, at least most of the time. Paul’s tone is so much more understanding than indicting. Like Peter in I Peter 5:7, Paul invites us to bring that anxiety to God. As opposed to feeling failure, he understands that anxiety/worry are natural parts of the human condition that God wants to free us from.
By naming this, I hope to free us to face our anxiety rather than run from it. We can’t bring it to God if we are trying so hard not to be anxious. That direction most often leads to some sense of denial.
Another devotional spent a week on anxiety (I really don’t focus on it as much as this would seem, but God dropped some things in my lap at an appropriate time.), which made a new thought occur to me. Paul gives another instruction in verse 8 of Philippians 4. I had never connected verse 7 and verse 8 (one would think that would be pretty obvious).
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy, think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me – put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.” (Philippians 4:8)
A part of guarding my heart and mind, of bringing and keeping that sense of peace, is to choose to think about the good things of life God gives and has created. I need to remember His love for me. I need to remember the ways He has shown Himself to me in the past. I need to focus on the gifts He has given, on the people and circumstances I enjoy. I can’t choose to stop feeling anxious, but I can choose to think about the noble and good things, about a loving and giving God. A part of this will include the ongoing choice to be thankful (like in Philippians 4:6). And again, Paul reminds us that these choices to think about life in a certain way and to remember certain things will be something we can do to bring His peaceful presence into our anxious selves.
So, I think I’ve seen some new things:
Now if I can only remember all of this the next time those waves of anxiety start rolling in and won’t seem to stop! I feel the pressure! Remember…remember… now I’m getting anxious. Just kidding! (Sort of.)
Palmer Trice is an ordained Presbyterian minister. He is married to Lynne, has three children and has been in Charlotte since 1979. In his spare time, Palmer enjoys golf, tennis, walking and reading.
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