Alternatives to Anxiety

What advice would you follow to overcome anxiety? You might tell yourself to simply get over it or to stop worrying about it, but such thoughts alone are rarely helpful. Whether it is for your own sake or for the sake of a brother or sister in Christ whom you might help, you need to know God's directions concerning anxiety. These directions are not merely commandments demanding that you abstain from worry, but rather they are practical alternatives for anxiety. God gives us both negative instructions of what we should not do and positive instructions of what we should do. To be successful in overcoming anxiety, we need to observe all that God has said on the matter.

Because anxiety is a state of mind, it is important first to set your mind on correct, faithful thinking. The Lord focused on such thoughts when He preached about anxiety in His sermon on the mount. His words direct our minds to think not about the provisions of life but about the Provider of those things. Notice Matthew 6:25-30:

25"For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they? 27And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life? 28And why are you worried about clothing? Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin, 29yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these. 30But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more clothe you? You of little faith!"

Christ calls us to be reasonable in our thinking, for the evidence of God's care, concern, and providential power is all around us. He says, "Your Father knows what you need before you ask Him" (Matt. 6:8). Such correct, faithful thinking is the first step in relieving anxiety.

While correct thinking is essential, it is not enough by itself. Notice that Christ completed His message against anxiety with a call to action in Matthew 6:31-34:

31"Do not worry then, saying, 'What will we eat?' or 'What will we drink?' or 'What will we wear for clothing?' 32For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. 34So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

A person who is seeking first the kingdom of God and His righteousness is not idle. Instead of passively allowing anxiety to dominate him, he is actively busy in his pursuit of God's kingdom and righteousness. This pursuit includes doing everything that is good and right according to God's word, from worshiping God and studying His word (John 4:23-24; 2Tim. 2:15; 3:16-17) to working to provide for one's own family and the needs of others (Eph. 4:28; 1Tim. 5:8; 2Thess. 3:6-15). The Christian simply has too much to do to be occupied with worry.

Prayer is an alternative to anxiety that involves both thinking and doing. It is the act of thoughtfully speaking to God about a myriad of subjects. This alternative is recommended in Philippians 4:6-7:

6Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

By engaging the mind with God in prayer and trusting that He hears and answers in the best way according to His will (1John 5:14-15), anxiety is replaced with peace and confidence from God.

Finally, it is necessary that you see humility as an alternative to anxiety. This may not seem logical at first, but consider it carefully. Much anxiety is the result of undue self-reliance. Mistakenly trusting in oneself for all the answers to life's questions naturally leads to anxiety because the answers are not in man (Jer. 10:23). Instead, you must humbly accept God's answers to life's questions, mold your life according to His word, and expect good results. "Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you" (1Pet. 5:6-7).

These alternatives are the sound and practical advice of God's holy word concerning anxiety. If you follow them, then you can have that "peace of God which surpasses all comprehension." On the other hand, if you follow the course of this world, then you will remain bound in worry. Therefore, "Cast your burden upon the LORD and He will sustain you; He will never allow the righteous to be shaken" (Ps. 55:22).

Stacey E. Durham


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