Our emotions are a gift from God, and they carry a lot of influence in our lives. Sometimes we express them toward others with joy, happiness, peace, kindness, and goodness. Other times, our emotional expressions are brutal, caustic, harsh, and hurtful. As our emotions ebb and flow through the ups and downs of life, we must always remember that the Father gave us emotions so that we could enjoy life and express our inner being to others. The problem, however, arises when our emotions control us instead of us controlling them.
Throughout Scripture, we see many people expressing their emotions. Saul was jealous of David (1 Sam.18:6-9).
I Samuel 18: 6-9
6 And it came to pass as they came, when David was returned from the slaughter of the Philistine, that the women came out of all cities of Israel, singing and dancing, to meet king Saul, with tabrets, with joy, and with instruments of musick.
7 And the women answered one another as they played, and said, Saul hath slain his thousands, and David his ten thousands.
8 And Saul was very wroth, and the saying displeased him; and he said, They have ascribed unto David ten thousands, and to me they have ascribed but thousands: and what can he have more but the kingdom?
9 And Saul eyed David from that day and forward.
Hannah expressed great sadness and cried out to God (1 Sam. 1:10).
10 And she was in bitterness of soul, and prayed unto theLord, and wept sore.
Elijah, supposedly a powerful man of great faith and courage, confessed numerous times in Scripture that he was afraid (1 Kings 19:2-4).
1 Kings 19: 2 4
2 Then Jezebel sent a messenger unto Elijah, saying, So let the gods do to me, and more also, if I make not thy life as the life of one of them by to morrow about this time.
3 And when he saw that, he arose, and went for his life, and came to Beer–sheba, which belongeth to Judah, and left his servant there.
4 But he himself went a day's journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a juniper tree: and he requested for himself that he might die; and said, It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life; for I am not better than my fathers.
And when you look at the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus shares three different times with those gathered to listen, “Don’t be anxious … don’t be anxious … don’t be anxious" (Matt. 6:25-34).
Matthew 6: 25-34
25 Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment?
26 Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they?
27 Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature?
28 And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin:
29 And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.
30 Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith?
31 Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed?
32 (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things.
33 But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.
34 Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.
Not long ago, I took an informal survey seeking to find what emotion was the most prominent in people’s thinking. By far, anxiety was number one. People were anxious about their jobs, health, financial situations, families, schooling, relationships, and national direction and leadership, just to name a few. There’s no doubt we live in an anxious and uncertain time. And “uncertainty” is the key word when it comes to anxiety. When we’re struggling with anxiety, we’re uncertain about what’s going on in the present moment, uncertain about how life will play out in the future, or uncertain about the impact of the past in each of our lives.
Anxiety in itself is not a sin. It’s a normal response to the uncertainty we face in the situations that play out before us in everyday life. The issue is what we do with those anxieties and how long we allow them to live within us. Gaining control of this destructive emotion is key to living the life God intended for us to live.
Anxiety: What It Is
What is anxiety? If you’ve ever experienced it in your own life, you know first-hand that defining the wide range of thoughts and feelings associated with this emotion can be quite difficult. So before we go any further, I want to define anxiety for you because I think people need to understand what it truly means.
The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines anxiety as:
An apprehensive uneasiness or nervousness, usually over an impending or anticipated ill; an abnormal and overwhelming sense of apprehension and fear, often marked by physical signs (such as tension, sweating, and increased pulse rate), by doubt concerning the reality and nature of a threat, and by self-doubt about one’s capacity to cope with it.
When we think in terms of anxiety, we’re really thinking in terms of feeling dread, apprehension, and uncertainty about things. And as I mentioned in Day 1’s reading, I’ve found there are three main areas where this uncertainty comes into play in our lives:
When we’re uncertain about something that’s currently going on in our lives.
When we’re uncertain about things that happened in our past and why they keep bothering us.
When we’re uncertain about the future.
The bottom line about all of our feelings of dread, apprehension, and uncertainty comes down to one thing: The fear of not being in control. If there’s something beyond our control and we feel uncertain about the outcome, that’s going to create anxiety within us. In the New Testament, the word anxietymeans distracted or pulled apart ... the opposite of peace. That “distraction”—that “pulling apart”—is going to create stress within us. And that stress, whether we realize it or not, is going to have a profound effect on our lives.
Proverbs 12: 25
25 Heaviness in the heart of man maketh it stoop: but a good word maketh it glad.
The Source of Our Anxiety
What is the source of anxiety? Is it something we create deep within us? Or does it originate with God?
It’s important to understand that anxiety is not from God … He didn’t create it (2 Tim. 1:7).
2 Timothy 1:7
7 For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.
So if God didn’t create anxiety, where does it come from?
To begin with, there are untold things in life that can cause anxiety. There are just some distressful things in life that are naturally going to create anxiety. Second, there are times anxiety originates with wrong thinking in our minds, not trusting fully in God and His Word, and not taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ (2 Cor. 10:5).
2 Corinthians 10:5
5 Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;
Third, there are times when anxiety originates from something we don’t even realize. That’s right: We can become anxious about something and not even know what it is. There have been times in my life when I knew God was speaking directly to me and trying to show me something, but I couldn’t figure out right away what it was He was trying to reveal. It seemed the harder I tried to figure out His will, the more I didn’t understand. So for a brief period of time, I would become a bit anxious, asking: “Lord, what are You trying to tell me? What are you trying to show me?” I didn’t want to miss His will. And because I was uncertain as I awaited His leading, I battled the same anxious thoughts you do when faced with uncertainty.
But I didn’t let that anxiety take up residence in my life. And neither should you.
Regardless of anxiety’s source, dealing with it head-on is of utmost importance. While the emotion of anxiety itself is not a sin, it shouldn’t last. It shouldn’t continue. It shouldn’t have a negative effect. We must be willing to face up to and deal with our anxious thoughts and feelings. Anxiety is simply a reaction to some circumstance in your life. And when God tries to reveal truth to you regarding that circumstance or situation, that’s your number one priority. When God sees something going on in your life that needs instruction or correction, you need to give Him your undivided attention. Otherwise, you’ll be assured to live a life filled with anxiety and doubt.
There are countless sources for anxiety—anything can cause it. While the emotion in and of itself is not a sin, not dealing with it in a proper fashion is.
Reasons to Avoid Anxiety
There are many reasons we should avoid anxiety.
First, anxiety goes against Scripture. In Matthew 6:25-34, Jesus says three times in this one passage, “Do not be anxious, do not be anxious, do not be anxious.” For those of us who are believers, we affirm that we believe in God and His Son, Jesus; that He loves us unconditionally and has made promises to meet our needs; and that He’s a God who keeps His Word. So if all of this is true, then living a life filled with anxiety doesn’t fit who we are as a child of God. And we must deal with anxiety because it will breed all sorts of discouragement and defeat in our lives.
Second, anxiety will have a negative effect on every area of our lives. There are countless ways anxiety has a negative effect on our lives. Understanding these will help you to better understand the stresses of your life and will allow you to help others overcome theirs.
Anxiety divides your mind. Anxiety is a distraction. Its aim is to pull you in many different directions so that you can’t concentrate or focus. And whatever divides your mind diverts your attention from important matters and clouds your focus.
Anxiety slows your productivity. Whatever you’re doing, if you’re anxious about it, it will slow you down. If your mind is divided and preoccupied by anxiety, you can’t give your full attention and energy to what you should be focusing on.
Anxiety affects your personal relationship with other people. We all know people who are anxiety-ridden. Every time you see these individuals, they unload the things in their lives that they’re anxious or concerned about, never really dealing with them. Their ongoing anxiety affects their relationship with everyone around them—including you.
Anxiety leads to unwise decisions. When a person is anxious, they have a tendency to jump ahead: “If I don’t do it now, I may miss it;” “If I don’t marry him now, I’m going to miss out.” People make unwise decisions because they’re anxious about an uncertain future and missing out on opportunities that may not come again. And there are always consequences when living in this way.
Anxiety steals your peace and joy. You can’t have joy and be full of anxiety. You can’t have peace and be full of anxiety. To have peace means to be “bound together,” whereas anxiety means to be “pulled apart.” So you can either have one or the other—but you can’t experience both.
Anxiety is a terrible waste of time and energy. When you’re frustrated, anxious, and uncertain about things, you can’t do your best. You won’t feel your best. And this will lead to consequences you really and truly don’t want in your life.
God doesn’t want us living our lives filled with anxiety. When I think about all of the things that I just mentioned, I can’t imagine living my life in that manner. Anxiety divides your mind, diverts your attention, slows your productivity, affects your personal relationships, leads to unwise decisions, steals your joy and peace, and proves to be a waste of time and energy. Friend, anything that does that to me, I don’t want it in my life.
And I promise, you don’t want it in yours.
10 The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.
Dealing with Anxiety
Now that we’ve talked about what anxiety is and why we should avoid it, let me ask you a few questions: How are you dealing with your anxiety? Is there something you take or some relationship you depend on to get you through? Or are you just ignoring your anxious thoughts and feelings, hoping they’ll go away on their own?
Many people I meet choose to fret continually about their troubles instead of turning their attention to the provision of God. They remain uneasy about the future and are unable to think about anything other than the difficult challenges before them. Their fears are overpowering and often feel insurmountable. Consequently, the incessant focus on their problems makes them feel as if their lives will never improve.
If any of this sounds familiar to you, let me assure you the continual nervousness you feel is not from God (2 Tim. 1:7). The Lord never intended for you to endure a relentless onslaught of anxiety. Instead, He wants you to deal with your worries and fears, trusting Him in every aspect of your life.
In Matthew 6:25-34, Jesus teaches us about worry and God’s provision for us. He didn’t deny that anxiety exists but pointed out two significant truths that are important for us to note:
1. Fear achieves nothing of value.
2. Trust in God diminishes fear.
There was a time in my life when I faced a terrible impediment to my faith. I couldn’t understand why I was struggling or why I was so agitated—everything else in my life seemed to be going well. I recall repeatedly praying for the Lord to help me trust Him more. But for whatever reason, I couldn’t break through the impossible wall keeping me from relying on Him fully.
Finally, I asked some wise friends who loved God for help. I knew they’d give me excellent counsel. They committed to staying with me—praying and discussing the events of my life—until the Father showed us what was going on and where my underlying anxiety was coming from.
We met and talked over the course of a few days. I recounted everything I could recall about my personal history. I was determined to not run away from the problem but instead face it head on, dealing with it once and for all. I told my trusted friends everything I knew to tell them and held nothing back.
Then one of my friends asked me a question I’ll never forget: “Imagine that your father just picked you up in his arms and held you. What do you feel?” He went straight to the core of my problem, and I burst into tears. I couldn’t stop weeping for quite a while.
My father had passed away when I was only nine months old. Losing him at such a young age created a profound area of emptiness, fear, and uncertainty within me that I didn’t even realize was there. When I settled down, my friend asked again, “What do you feel, Charles?” I thought for a moment, then responded: “I feel warm, secure, and accepted. I feel loved.” For the first time I understood that God loved me—that I could have a real, personal relationship with Him. Please realize, I’d been preaching about the Lord’s unconditional love all of my life. I believed it with my mind, but I’d never experienced it deep within my spirit until that day.
Had I ever told myself the Lord didn’t really love me? No. Did I ever doubt God’s love? No. So what was it within me that created that inability to experience the Father’s love in a meaningful way?
It was the need a little boy had for his earthly father that was never met. My mind learned to block out the pain, do without his physical presence, and survive. No one was at fault. But I needed my father, and that affected how my mind processed information about the Lord. The most amazing thing of all was that I had absolutely no idea those self-protective thought patterns and underlying anxieties even existed until they were exposed.
Imagining God holding me as an earthly father holds his little boy was just what I needed in order to overcome the roadblock. Suddenly, my struggle with God made sense, and I finally felt close to Him. Recognizing His presence in such an intensely tangible way opened the floodgates of profound relief and joy—and completely changed my entire life and ministry.
Friend, you don’t know what you don’t know about yourself. None of us do. Uncovering the hidden wounds and anxieties of our lives requires the work of the Holy Spirit, who is able to examine and minister to us in extraordinary ways (Rom. 8:26-27).
Romans 8: 26-27
26 Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.
27 And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God.
Trust Him to reveal those secret places of pain in you, and deal with your anxiety once and for all.
God's Solution for Anxiety
The apostle Paul knew a lot about anxiety. He dealt with difficulties, hardships, trials, imprisonments, beatings, sufferings, and persecutions—just to name a few. But listen to what he has to say in Philippians 4:4-7:
4 Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice.
5 Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand.
6 Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.
7 And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
You can look to this passage penned by Paul and inspired by the Holy Spirit to find God’s solution for any anxiety or worry you face.
1. You must acknowledge what you’re anxious, worried, or concerned about. You have to be willing to get honest with yourself and admit that you’re struggling with anxiety. As long as you ignore your anxiety, it’s going to poison you, taking a toll on your life. Be willing to find the courage to face your anxieties and worries head on.
2. Bring your concerns to the Father in the spirit of thanksgiving. Remember that the Lord is always near. Come before Him with thanksgiving, expressing gratitude to Him for being your God, loving you unconditionally, hearing your prayers, understanding exactly where you are, and being willing and ready to help you.
3. Let your request be made known to God. Tell God everything that concerns you. Share with him your anxieties, worries, fears, and uncertainties, then ask Him to help you overcome them once and for all.
4. Believe that He loves you, hears your prayers, and promises to help you. Be fully convinced that not only does God love you and hear your prayers, but He has promised to help you overcome and defeat any difficulty you face.
5. Trust that He has the power and provision to accomplish what you ask. Remember your all-powerful, all-knowing, omniscient, omnipresent God has provided all you will need to overcome the anxieties and worries consuming you. By the might of His Spirit, His power is not only available to you, but resides within you to help you overcome and to work all things together for your good.
6. Rest in the peace and knowledge that God will give you the victory. The peace of God will garrison you about, which means that the Father will exchange your anxiety for His peace. He will cover you and protect you with it, building an impenetrable wall of protection around you. It’s a matter of simply giving your concerns to Him.
Anxious thoughts and situations will always present themselves in this life, but how long you hold on to the anxiety—that’s the key. Whatever you’re going through, I promise that if you’ll take the passage from Philippians mentioned above and meditate upon it, asking God to work in your heart, He promises He will give you a peace that surpasses all understanding (Phil. 4:7). I’ve watched Him do it time and again in my own life, and I know He will do it for you.
Friend, you don’t have to live in anxiety unless you choose to. I pray the Father will help you overcome your anxiety and lead you to victory once and for all. If you’re willing to trust Him, He willset you free.
*Devotional written by Charles Stanley. Retrieved from https://my.bible.com/reading-plans/18848-victory-over-anxiety