When I first considered writing an article on the subject of anxiety, it was long before Covid-19 had struck the world. Not surprisingly, in our current circumstances, the topic of anxiety has become very relevant to many of us, and God’s word contains much wisdom to equip us in facing this very real struggle.
Living with the virus has affected our lives in many different ways. Some of us may be having to shield ourselves, or to self-isolate. And even if we are not self-isolating, we are all experiencing a level of separation from friends and loved ones. We are having to adapt to a new ‘normality’ in which all the plans and schedules of our ‘pre-Covid’ lives have had to be re-configured.
Such a situation is inevitably going to increase anxiety levels, so we should not be surprised by that. And although we are often not able to pinpoint exactly why we’re anxious, it is highly likely that all the uncertainties of our present circumstances will be having a deep effect on us.
However, take heart, because, as Christians, we have the real certainty of finding help from the Bible.
In Paul’s letter to the Philippians there are some familiar verses which are very helpful on this subject. I am referring particularly to Philippians 4 verses 4-9.
In Philippians 4 verses 6-7 Paul writes:
‘Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God that transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.’
Paul begins with a clear, direct instruction from God: ‘Do not be anxious about anything’.
This is simple advice from God, but, to leave it at that point would not be helpful to the anxious heart.
Happily, that is not the end of the instruction. Paul goes on to explain that we don’t have to stay in our anxious state, because Jesus presents us with a way through it.
We are told to pray; to tell God our deepest needs; with a thankful heart, not only for the ability to pray, but also for all His blessings to us.
And when we come to the Father, our voice will be heard by Him.
Moreover, as we present our requests to God, He will give us a peace that goes deeper than, not only our understanding, but deeper than all understanding: a peace that is beyond our ability to describe. It is the ‘perfect peace’, that only God can provide, because only He understands the pain we feel.
These two verses are such an encouragement to believers who suffer from anxiety, but there are other encouragements in this passage too.
Verse five reassures us that, ‘The Lord is near.’ We don’t need to be anxious, because He is close at hand and hears our requests. And if we trust Him with our anxieties He will fill us with His lasting peace. And verse eight tells us to think on all the things that are pure, excellent and praiseworthy, and if we do so, we will experience the peace of God.
The problem, however, is that anxiety has become ‘normalised’ in our culture. Many, many more people, including an increasing number of young people, are suffering from mental health issues. Anxiety is not just a general state of ‘worry’, but can manifest itself in very physical ways too, such as panic attacks, sleeplessness, and loss of appetite.
The symptoms of anxiety will, of course, be different for everyone, but it is likely that, at some point in our lives, we will all experience some level of anxiety, simply because we live in a fallen world.
And sometimes, if we are truly honest with ourselves, anxiety can actually give us a level of comfort. We allow it to fill up the space in our minds, because it makes us feel somehow ‘in control’ of our fears.
For the Christian, to give in to anxiety in this way, is actually disobeying God.
If we really trust that God is sovereign, we must also trust that, by giving our anxieties to God through prayer, and by giving thanks to Him, He will give us this promise of peace.
Throughout the Bible, God repeatedly tells us that He cares for us and will bless his faithful children. Jesus tells us this in Matthew 6, where we are taught how to pray using the pattern in the Lord’s Prayer [v 9-13].
When we’re in anxiety’s grip, we are to be faithful and seek God.
‘for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him.’ [v8]
In particular, he urges us to:
‘seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.’ [v33]
As I was preparing to write on this subject, I listened to a podcast called ‘Sheologians’, which I found really helpful in providing practical advice on how a Christian should deal with anxiety. As Christians we are blessed with many valuable resources, such as podcasts, articles and blogs, which can help us in this struggle.
I believe it is vital to face our anxiety directly, and, always, to take it to the Lord, so that it doesn’t control us.
I pray that with the help of Scripture, prayer, and the many helpful resources available to us, we will not allow anxiety to win this battle.
Words by Abigail Dryden. Abigail is a student midwife at Kingston University.