transcending anxiety

It doesn’t take much effort to find remedies, tips, and tricks for calming our anxiety. Now more than ever, we have boatloads of information coming from research, conventional wisdom, and the pulpit. However, for some, even after doing all we can, the anxiety sits right next to us, reminding us of what could happen and how powerless we are to prevent certain outcomes. It can be difficult to shake once we’ve felt it coursing through our nervous system.

I want to turn your attention to perhaps the most well-known passage of scripture that deals with anxiety, and I’d like to point out not only that it works, but how it works. And hopefully, in doing so, we can transform our relationship with anxiety from something to avoid and overcome into something to embrace and utilize for a more meaningful life.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
Philippians 4:6-7 NIV

When applied prescriptively, this text seems to say that if you pray, then God will grant you peace. But how does prayer produce a peace that will guard my heart? Let’s first look at anxiety. Anxiety is not the thoughts I’m having, but a posture of rumination that seeks to anticipate unwanted thing(s) from occurring. These ruminations can usually be summed up as “What if this happens?” thinking. Anxiety’s power is its ability to convince us to adopt this posture of fear and demanding certainty in order to bring relief. Anxiety sticks with us because our human condition does not afford us certainty. If I cannot have certainty that the worst will not happen, then, what do I have when I’m anxious? I have choice. And for Christians, prayer is the place where I make choices with God.

In prayer, the act of gathering up my needs and desires and offering them to God causes me to shift from a posture of demanding relief through certainty, and instead takes a posture of moving toward what I most deeply want in life. When we quit demanding relief to be able to move on with our lives, we take a powerful stance against anxiety’s influence and can begin to live.

In prayer, we reorient our heart toward the life we want to live regardless of circumstance. This choice is always available to you in every situation; it guards your heart and does not need more information in order to rest. God’s good news for the anxious is not that bad things can’t happen to us, but that we now are freed up to make good choices, meaningful choices, no matter what happens. Instead of getting rid of the anxiety, this allows us to move through it. And, as we do, anxiety often naturally loses its potency.

Instead of orienting your life around what you can’t control, by choosing to pray you are moving toward what you can do. The opposite of anxiety is not certainty, it’s choosing all day to live for what you most deeply believe and love about life.


Prior to coming to The Barnabas Center in Charlotte in 2018, Kyle worked with families, couples, and individuals at a church in Daytona Beach, FL, for ten years. Kyle received his M.A. in Counseling from Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando, FL, and has been counseling in the church and in private practice since then.  Kyle has been married to Carlyn since 2005 and they have two daughters. When not in the office or hanging out with his family, he likes to fly fish, spin records, and mind-run The Amazing Race (via TV and couch) with his wife.


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