How To Not Be Anxious
Imagine a 22-year-old seminary student sitting at her office desk one afternoon. She’s crying. Not because anything terrible happened to her family, and not because anything terrible happened to her. She’s crying because she feels the weight of a pressing need in her life, and she doesn’t know how that need will be met.
Never mind the fact that she’s told people how she’s trusting God to provide, and never mind the fact that she’s memorized verses about how to deal with fear and doubt. Right now the need just seems bigger than God. Not that she would ever say it quite that way—but that’s why she’s sitting here at her desk crying and worrying right now.
That was me just a couple weeks ago. I had some deadlines approaching, and I didn’t know where the provision would come from. I was tired of waiting, tired of praying, tired of wondering and hoping and fearing. I was just tired of having this unmet need pressing down on me. All I wanted was for God to provide already.
This was during Bible Conference a few weeks ago, when the focus of the week was on prayer. I found myself praying during services but worrying afterwards. I would confidently talk to God about my needs, but when they weren’t met immediately, I struggled to trust that God would ever provide.
We’re all such needy people. Each of us could easily insert a specific need into the story above, and not much would change. Living in this fallen world, we feel the effects of our sin in many ways. One of those ways is definitely felt in our fear of the unknown and unprovided for future. We try to grasp at security and stability throughout most of our lives, but those things always seem to be a step (or even miles) ahead of us.
“Do Not Be Anxious”
Matthew 6:25 “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life . . . .”
Jesus’ command seems so far fetched sometimes. I’m not anxious because I want to be anxious; in fact, an anxiety-free life sounds wonderful. But anxiety often feels like a consequence of my circumstances instead of a personal choice. Many times I feel like once my circumstances change, my fears and anxieties will go away. If that pressing need could just be met, then I wouldn’t be sitting at my desk crying.
But my attitude toward anxiety is so wrong sometimes. Anxiety isn’t a natural consequence or a byproduct of my situation. Anxiety is more of a lens through which I view life. It’s more about the way I process my circumstances than the way my circumstances make me feel.
When I fall to the sin of anxiety, it’s because I’ve been viewing the whole situation through Kimberly-sized lens. I can’t see much through these lens, and the view is distorted by my lack of knowledge about the big picture. If I want to start seeing correctly, I’ll need to change glasses. I need God-sized lens that will draw my attention away from the situation and back up to the God who gave the situation.
So, practically, how can I stop being anxious? How do I get out of this mindset that my circumstances control how I feel? How do I refocus on God?
In the rest of the passage in Matthew, Jesus reminds those listening to Him of three truths that would help them to obey His command not to be anxious. These truths still apply to us today!
Cutting Off Anxiety
1) Remember that God provides for the needs of His creatures.
Matthew 6:26-30 “Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you little of faith?”
This is such a well-known passage on anxiety, but it’s definitely worth revisiting! God sees the smallest of His creatures and provides for their needs. In fact, He even provides for the grass—which isn’t even a creature! God sees all that He created, and He knows the times and the seasons that bring specific needs. He takes care of birds in the winter, and clothes the grass in the summer with radiant, delicate beauty.
After considering these things, how can I respond with worry? The God who gives the sparrows food also has His eye on me.
2) Remember that God knows exactly what your needs are.
Matthew 6:31-32 “Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.
Sometimes my prayers sound more like demands to me. I’ll tell God exactly what I need and then ask Him where the provision is. But the problem is that I don’t get to choose my needs. God gets to choose my needs. He’s my Creator, after all. He knows exactly what my needs are, and He knows exactly how He will provide for them. I can anxiously scramble around, trying to figure out where all the provision will come from, but God is calmly waiting for the right moment to provide my need—the moment when I actually need it.
3) Remember that God Himself exceeds your needs.
Matthew 6:33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
This is so precious. My greatest need is not material. God created me for Himself, and so my greatest need is to have more of God. I need to seek God and to know God so much more than I need to be surrounded by physical treasures. Likeness to Christ is both my greatest joy and my greatest need.
I still have physical needs, but my biggest need was met when I entered into a relationship with Jesus through His shed blood on the cross. All the other needs are superficial. And God is still keeping an eye on them, too, just like He does every day with the sparrows.
So how can I not be anxious? Where does peace come from? I can find peace from my worries and cares when I refocus on pursuing God, my Creator, instead of pursuing my physical needs. Ultimately, God will receive all the glory for His tender kindness toward me!