How to Handle Anxiety
Have you ever wondered how to handle anxiety? I mean truly handle it? As a pastor, I have had anxiety. If it’s not one thing it’s another. Perhaps someone has gotten upset about something that I said or preached and I’ve heard through the grapevine that they’re upset and want to talk to me about it. Of course, as you just read, I hear things like this through “the grapevine” instead of the person actually coming to me directly, but that’s a different post for a different time! Or there are times that finances at the church are short and seem to get shorter here and there. Or there is just plain old anxious thoughts about what the Lord is or is not doing in our midst as a pastor. Anxiety is a real problem.
I even have had church members in the last 29 years of ministry come to me with the problem of anxiety. They’re anxious about their children and their behavior or their finances or their marriages or their lost dog or cat or their . . . and the list can go on and on. It seems that anxiety is everywhere. Especially in today’s environment. People are really nervous about what’s going on in the world as a whole. The American President is thinking about attacking a sovereign nation who is in the midst of a civil war. Health care costs are rising at alarming rates while unemployment is at an all time high. Fuel costs have doubled since 2008 here in America and people are having to pinch every penny they can . . . that is, if they have one to pinch! People are worried about the price of their stocks going up and down so they’re buying gold and silver at some of the highest rates ever in modern history. Then people are just plain anxious about the stress they live under constantly. They’re not sure how to handle the problems they face from day-to-day and there seems to not be very much hope nowadays.
But the reality is that there is hope! Jesus Christ said in Matthew 6:25-34:
25 Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature? 28 So why do you worry about clothing? COnsider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; 29 and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31 Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. 35 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.
Wow! Three times Jesus says “do not worry . . . do not worry . . . do not worry.” Three times! So why do we keep worrying the way that we do? Why do I keep worrying the way that I do? Simply put, I’m not seeking His kingdom and His righteousness first. Rather, I’m seeking my own self-interests, self-preservation, self-whatever else is under the sun. And, yet, Jesus tells us that we don’t have to worry because if God takes care of even the least of things, then He certainly will take care of us. After all, we are the crowing work of His creation (cf. Genesis 1:26).
So how do you handle anxiety? Seek His Kingdom. In other words, seek Him directly, call out to Him and He will answer you. Secondly, seek His righteousness. In other words, seek to live according to His word: “do not worry . . . do not worry . . . do not worry.” It’s an amazing thing that happens when we start to apply what He tells us to do: we actually stop worrying about stuff!