I was talking with someone the other day who said that anxiety, in mainstream Christianity, is viewed as a lack of trust in God. This had felt invalidating to her experience. I’m sure we’ve all heard it before “if we just prayed more or had more faith our anxiety would simply go away.” For someone struggling with anxiety, these statements can make one feel like a failure, or guilty for even feeling anxious.
It feels to me like there’s a myth here: If I just trusted God more, I wouldn’t struggle with anxiety or the brokenness of the world around me. I wouldn’t worry about the future, and I would experience peace.
So, what’s the truth? Can we be anxious and still trust God?
Truth: I can bring my anxieties before God because I trust Him.
Psalm 62:8: Trust in him at all times, you people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge.
Anxiety is not from God. God is very clear in 2 Timothy 1:7 that he has “not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, love, and self-control.” Anxiety comes from the enemy who does not want you to live and walk in the power, love and self-control granted to you through the power of Christ.
Anxiety is a very real thing. It is a physical sensation that you can feel in your body and that can interfere with your daily functioning. You can feel the heaviness in your chest, the pit in your stomach, the sweat, the trembling, and/or the racing thoughts. AND, there are some of us who are more genetically predisposed to certain things like anxiety.
God knows and understands our anxieties.
Jesus is no stranger to the stress and anxieties of the world that we live in. In Luke 22:39-46, we find him praying to God the Father before his death. The scriptures point out that “he was in such agony of spirit that his sweat fell to the ground like great drops of blood.” Jesus experienced anxiety in that moment, yet he didn’t sin. He trusted God in the difficult moments and brought those anxieties before the Lord. We find in the scriptures that while God did not remove Jesus from the circumstances that would lead to his death, God did not leave him and sent angels to strengthen him.
The key is what you do with that anxiety.
While we don’t choose the things that make us anxious, we can choose how we respond to them. God can use our anxieties to draw us closer to Him. God is sovereign and can use it for our good and His glory.
Let’s look at Philippians 4:6: Do not be anxious about anything, instead, pray about everything.
God isn’t saying that we should not have anxiety, and it’s not inferring that we have a weaker faith. What this scripture says is that we should come to Him with our anxieties.
Romans 12:12: Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.
God cares about you—mind, body, and soul. All of our parts need God’s redemption. The renewing of our minds is a daily choice. Our behavior and thought patterns didn’t happen overnight and they typically do not change instantly overnight. It is something that we choose to work on each and every day. We can choose to acknowledge the unhelpful thoughts, or catch ourselves in unhelpful behavior, and then choose something different.
2 Corinthians 10:5: We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.
How do I practice trusting God even when I’m anxious?
- Choose your response. Bring your anxieties before the Lord first.
- Identify the truth. Ask yourself, what is feeling and what is fact?
- Reframe. Your anxiety does not have to define you. Rather than saying you are anxious, reframe it to say you have anxiety. Anxiety is something you struggle with; it is not who you are.
- Remind yourself that your anxieties and circumstances are temporary. Ask God to show you how he is using your story for his glory. Look for things you are learning or ways in which you are growing. Seek out the good amidst the difficulties in life.
- Remember that you will find rest and peace in the Lord, even when there is uncertainty around you.
God does not always remove us from the storms in our lives, but he does promise to be with us and never leave us. Circle back to the hope we have in Christ, He has already won. Show your trust by bringing it all to His feet.