Philippians 4:6 says: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”
When reading this recently some things struck out to me. The verse starts out with “do not be anxious”, and in another version “be anxious about nothing”. What strikes me about this, is that it doesn’t say.. IF you become anxious..THEN. It doesn’t say for those of you that MIGHT have anxiety.. or list certain situations that might bring about anxiety. It says “do not be anxious”. This is talking to everyone, not just some people. This is referring to any situation, not just in some cases where things might cause more anxiety-such as when losing a job, or a marriage is on the rocks, or a financial problem.
Why this is important to me, why this strikes me, is that it implies that ALL of us will have anxiety. That it’s something everyone struggles with. Some have anxiety about everything. Other’s may go through a bout of anxiety, while others may only experience it in certain situations like close quarters, going over bridges, motion sickness, or public speaking. In any case anxiety is something that everyone has endured. It is something that we can all relate to. So when Paul says in Philippians, do not be anxious, he is first of all talking to everyone, second of all not referring to a specific time or situation to not be anxious, but in all things.
He then goes on and tells us why we shouldn’t be anxious, and what to do about. It’s not our anxiety that is a problem. Its how we handle the anxiety. The Lord knows that in this world “there will be trouble”. With trouble comes anxiety, comes fear, and comes doubts. But, he continues that we should “take heart because (He) has overcome the world” (John 16:33).
When we are in the midst of our anxiety, we might feel completely out of control. Our heart may be pounding, we might begin to sweat, we may feel the room spinning out from under us. Or, we might have some obsessive or negative thoughts that we just can’t shake. We might think the worst possible scenario is going to happen, and although we may realize none of this is true, we just can’t seem to turn it off. In other situations we might feel like we are never going to get ahead. We will never make enough money, or we aren’t going to keep our job. We are just waiting for “the shoe to drop”. We are so worried and anxious that something bad is going to happen that eventually it does. This is what is called self-fulfilling prophecy. We have negative thoughts, which cause us to make negative choices, which then causes something negative to happen, and therefore we can say “see I told you that would happen”.
In reality we have control over our anxiety. It may not feel like it at the moment, but we do have control as long as we continue with what Paul suggests in Philippians. Paul continues and says BUT, in EVERY situation by PRAYER and Petition, with Thanksgiving, present your Requests to God. If we are allowing our anxiety to have control, then we are forgetting that God is in control. If we are allowing negativity to flood our thoughts, then we aren’t focusing on being thankful. If we are worried about a particular outcome, then we aren’t presenting and giving our requests to God, or petitioning Him in prayer.
When in ministry, whether working for the local church, or as a missionary. Sometimes it can be much harder to deal with things like anxiety. You may feel like you can’t allow anyone to see you struggle. If you are someone in a spiritual leadership position, and it *looks* like you don’t have faith in God and therefore you are anxious, it could cause you to not only lose sight of your ministry, but it can cause even more anxiety. Trying to force ourselves not to be anxious, when we feel anxious, is next to impossible. It’s like if I tell you right now, don’t think about pink monkeys. You can think about anything you want, but don’t think about pink monkeys. What is on your mind now? I bet it’s pink monkeys!
Anxiety is a real thing. I don’t want to present it lightly, or make it out like it’s no big deal, that there is a really simple solution and all our problems will go away. That is not true. Often we can pray, and we can be thankful, and we can do all that God asks us to do, but because of the free will of other people, because we live in a fallen world, there will always be reasons we struggle, and there will definitely be times where it is so much harder to overcome our anxiety.
If you are one of them, if your anxiety has become much larger than what you can change on your own, I suggest reaching out to someone. It’s okay to ask for help, and to get the right treatment that will allow you to carry on in ministry. As is often said, if you aren’t taking care of yourself, then it’s going to be that much harder to care for others.
Suggestions to help with anxiety:
1.) Pray and ask God that he will remove this “thorn’ from your side. Make it clear that you aren’t going to allow this to be a -thing- in your life and that Satan will not have control and make you feel less than, doubt yourself, or be worried or afraid.
2.) Take control of the anxiety. Think about what is bothering you and making you feel anxious. If it’s money, try budgeting. If it’s having to have a difficult conversation with someone, make plans to meet and talk as soon as possible and ask the Lord to give you the words to say. The sooner you deal with what is bothering you, the sooner you can release it.
3.) Recognize what is NOT in your control. If you are trying to control something, that can’t be controlled, then let go. Pray to God that he will release that burden from you. If you have too many tasks, then ask Him to help you delegate and find the right person to help.
4.) Be thankful. A change in attitude often makes your situations look much differently. When we are thankful during the busy times, then it allows us to see all God is doing in our lives. If we are thankful during the slow times, it allows us to catch our breath and get much needed rest. Look at what season you are in life, and find at least one reason to be thankful.
5.) Be realistic. After being thankful for the season in your life, be honest and real with God, letting him know what is bothering you. Asking him to work through the situation, change your circumstances, change your heart, or even someone else’s.
6.) Talk about it. If you are anxious, someone else is too. By talking about it you will see you’re not alone, and may be support for someone else as well.
7.) Seek help. It is okay to go to a professional for their opinion. They are trained to help you with steps to overcome your anxiety, and sometimes will be able to find the original source.
As always you can contact Here2ThereMinistires at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Christy Paul, LMHC