When I was growing up, and also for a time as a young adult, I enjoyed playing softball. My ability was average but I enjoyed the game, the camaraderie and the occasional surge of good feelings when something went right – like a good catch, a decent hit or chasing a player and outmaneuvering them as they tried to steal a base.
I’ll have to admit though that much of my so-called “softball career” was overshadowed by a familiar feeling called anxiety. It went like this. I would get all excited about the game. I would get all charged up by getting together with the team. We would run out to the field to prepare for the other team coming to bat. We would throw the ball around the infield (I was often at first or third base). And then, wuush! A rush of anxiety would wash over me as I stood in the position to field the ball and realized that when the batter hit it, the ball might possibly come to me. To further complicate matters I realized there was a big possibility that I would totally miss the ball and feel stupid, uncoordinated and humiliated. In those moments I thought, “why in the world am I doing this?” Anxiety.
During my time as a Church Biblical Counselor we would occasionally give the congregation an opinion poll so that church goers could anonymously share the concerns on their hearts. When asked what was the number one difficulty they dealt with, the overall top answer was “anxiety.” Although I am tempted to say anxiety is at an all time high in our culture, history reveals anxiety to be a part of our human condition ever since the world began.
Jesus spoke to our troubled hearts on anxiety realizing our frailties and propensity to become anxious as our human default mechanism. In times of trouble we seem to “naturally go there.” But Jesus not only acknowledged our state by the times He said “fear not.” Jesus gave us the wherewithal to combat anxiety. In Matthew 6:33-34 He said, “Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and He will give you everything you need. So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.”
Jesus is telling us to make a decision about what we choose to dwell on in our minds. To seek Him is to actively and purposely make a decision to think about God, His goodness and His faithfulness to us in the past. We decide to dwell on Him. We can’t stop every thought that comes into our heads but we can do some things to help move our minds to the right place even when we are hit with disturbing thoughts. God’s Word is a powerful tool in our lives that we often under use. The Bible refers to itself as a “sword of the Spirit,” and with good reason. The Bible speaks words of truth. Our anxious thoughts can be fears that may never come true, or ideas that can paralyze us from acting on that which we know is for our best interest. Our anxious thoughts can even be outright lies. When we continually expose those thoughts to the truth of God’s Word then we have gained ground on a great mental battle. By immersing ourselves in the truth found in the Bible we will begin to know what thoughts are true and which ones are ridiculous. We can do this in several practical ways.
The book of Psalms is a real-life course where King David met his anxieties head on with the truth about God. Reading the Psalms regularly not only connects with our feelings but gives us a way out as we read how David continually turned his thoughts to God when he was anxious. Writing some verses about anxiety from both the Old and New Testament and keeping them in places like our homes, our cars, our office or on our phones (anywhere we can often see them) helps cement these words in our minds. Listening to music which reinforces Biblical truth is a powerful way to change our thinking. If we choose to spend our time with people whom we respect for their faith in Christ, the can encourage our own spiritual journey and give ourselves needed support for dealing with our anxiety. Our choice of friends is vitally important.
As we seek to turn the tide on our anxiety we can concur with Jesus that truly “today’s trouble is enough for today.” The oft-used phrase “one day at a time” takes on greater meaning when we are combating anxiety. Sometimes it is one hour, or one moment at a time. Allowing our minds to race about the future is non-productive. Keep those thoughts focused on today.
We are not designed to function properly if our minds are filled with anxiety. Jesus knew that and offers us His presence and His peace which overrides the things in our lives that don’t make sense or the circumstances over which we have no control. His promise to us in coming to Him for our needs is to calm our anxious heart and give us His peace.