I’ve been feeling some anxiety lately, that nasty little bug of an emotion that crawls in between your sheets each night, wriggling around so that all you can do is focus on it and where it might wriggle to next. Normally I’m not much of a worrier, but occasionally worry sneaks up on me and I find myself rolling around in bed trying to stop thinking and start sleeping. And you know how effective trying not to think is.
Worry and anxiety manifest themselves in two forms for me: what could happen to me and what is happening to other people right now. These scenarios have two things in common – both are almost totally out of my control. I say “almost” because there is one thing I can do in the face of worry and anxiety, and it’s spelled out for me in Scripture.
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” I love this passage from Philippians 4:5-7. What it doesn’t say is pray about this and surely God will change your circumstances. What it does say is pray about this and surely God will make it possible for you to cope with your circumstances.
When circumstances seem beyond our control, they probably are. They probably need to be turned over to God. We can always pray for God to change our circumstances, or pray for the best possible outcome, or pray for miracles, and I think God hears those prayers. But when those requests are not answered the way we hope and we’re faced with a difficult person, an unchanging job situation, a health complication, or some other anxiety-producing life circumstance, the one thing we can do is share our anxieties with God. Give it over to him. Let go of whatever silly notions we have of controlling the situation or changing the person and invite God to change us and how we are responding to the situation.
So much in this world is beyond our control, but we are able to control our reactions and our attitudes. When the weight of anxiety, fear, and worry press down on us, God invites us to lift the burden off and hand it over to the one who spun the universe into existence in the first place. He replaces that weight with peace and his strength to carry us through. On the other side of the storm, God’s work isn’t just holding us together but refining us, and the suffering that produced perseverance that produced character also produced hope. It’s a tough road, weathering the storm, but with Christ, it’s worth it.