**Well friends, I could be stirring up a hornet’s nest here, but I’m going to trust that as I ask the questions below, you know I’m asking to truly find understanding in an area I don’t understand.**
I’m studying Philippians deeply right now. I’m writing an 8-week bible study on this book and preparing to teach 4 sessions at a retreat in May, using this as our anchor verse for the weekend:
Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6-7)
As I’ve prepared to teach this verse, reading it over and over, I keep thinking of the few words before and the few words after.
The Lord is near . . . (Phil. 4:5b)
Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Phil. 4:6-7)
Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. (Phil. 8)
According to these verses, I can’t help but see the verse before “do not be anxious” reminds us of God’s nearness, His presence, Immanuel. The verse after “do not be anxious” gives us an alternative way to think.
Think on these things:
Whatever is excellent, worthy of praise
When I think of the verses before and after, I wonder how much of our battle with anxiety is fought through remembering God is near and fought through our thought life?
Now, I must confess . . . I don’t struggle with anxiety. There have been seasons in which I was anxious, but those are usually related to high stress, projects due, busyness, etc. But on the regular, I’m not a super anxious person. I don’t say that with pride, I say that so you know I don’t have a lot of experience or personal understanding here. I’ve watched friends I love struggle with anxiety, crippling fear, worry, stress and know it’s incredibly difficult to navigate and that’s why I’m asking for help. I don’t understand, I don’t have the answers, I’m seeking them out.
I’ve heard people/thinkers/pastors/teachers/counselors friends say:
Anxiety comes not from thinking too much, but thinking too little. Anxiety comes from thinking too little about God. Anxiety is rooted in letting circumstances and fear rule our thoughts, over knowing the truth about God and His promises.
Anxiety is misplaced trust.
Spiritual stability is found in how you think.
Anxiety is unfulfilled responsibility.
The way you handle trials, temptations, and difficulties is a reflection of your view of God. If you understand all of his power and all of his promises, all of his purposes and all of his plans for you, and you know that he is near, what are you going to be anxious about?
Anxiety is physiological. Just as you would take and antihistamine for allergies, you would take an anti-anxiety pill for anxiety.
Now some of these are blunt, one-sided, I know. I’m wondering . . .
1. Do you agree/disagree with the statements above? Why or why not?
2. How much of our thought life controls our anxiety?
3. If you struggle with anxiety, what has helped you in the midst of it?
4. What causes anxiety? Is it only physiological or is there some aspect of thinking or mistrust?
5. Are anxiety, stress, worry, and fear similar? Different? Related?
I don’t pretend to know all of the answers. I’m not a therapist, doctor, theologian, etc. But, I want to open a conversation in which we can be kind and seek a healthy dialogue without assuming or implying anything. I also know Jesus talks about worry, anxiety, and fear quite a bit, along with the rest of the Bible. I would love to hear your responses to the quotes above and answers to my questions.
Rules of engagement:
- Be kind
- Engage respectfully
- Seek to understand responses
- Offer clarity
Leave a comment below.
7 thoughts on “Some Questions on Anxiety . . . Agree or Disagree?”
I think it’s important to remember that issues such as these aren’t black and white in the sense that anxiety looks different for everyone. I would say that I do have to battle anxiety generally, and I have been to counseling for this reason. There are more stressful times due to life situations (school, projects, work, family, etc.) that might add on to anxiety, but I have always classified those differently in my mind. For one, many times when it has to do with deadline stress, I know that I need to put in a certain number of hours and a certain type of hard work and then I can move on to non-stressful times. That’s less true for when it has to do with family stress, but even that seems like it can be compartmentalized (speaking only for myself here, and only for the certain type family situations that I have dealt with).
Now as for the generalized anxiety I experience, it has the same emotional/ physical feeling without the “solution” being present. For example, if I know I have a deadline coming up and I’m not as prepared as I would like, I write down what I need to do by when and I just do it. I might cry (most likely), be shaky, be less hungry, etc. Now, if it’s generalized, I might have the same physical and emotional symptoms, but I have no plan as to how to deal with it. It feels less controlled, almost like I’ve forgotten something. Surely I have something coming up or something happened that’s making me feel this way? And the loss of control makes it all the more consuming.
I think overall the Christian world can and has at times simplified the solution with these verses. Though Paul says “be anxious,” he doesn’t just move on to a new topic. He gives instructions. He starts by saying to rejoice in the Lord. Where do you find your joy? Where do you find your identity? In the Lord? What do we know about the Lord? Psalm 23- He provides for me even when death lurks around the corner; He is there to comfort me. Psalm 19- He is my rock; he rescues me from danger and brings me into a place of freedom because He delights in me. Ruth 2- He gives us refuge (and He is sovereign yet He is also good). So the things that Philippians 4:8 tells us to think of isn’t just a spiritual chant, but it tells us to bring to the forefront of our mind the true things of Christ and the true things of our identity in Him.
Paul also says to bring it to the Lord in prayer. This particularly has been a comfort to me because it’s almost as if he is saying, “There are things that you will feel anxious about, but there’s something you can do about it. Don’t just compartmentalize it. Don’t just throw it away. Give it to the Lord and ask Him to help you. But what He’s going to do is give you peace by changing your heart. He’s going to help you see that He is King, and there is nothing to fear. Don’t do it on your own.” And finally, Paul says PRACTICE THESE THINGS. Aka, it’s not going to be perfect the first time, but in the sanctifying process, God is molding our hearts to be more like Him. In that process and in handing Him our anxious thoughts, we are consumed much less with the worries of today and much more with His glory. And this gives comfort to know there are things that are “too big”. We aren’t meant to handle it alone. Even Jesus was sorrowful the night before His crucifixion; it’s okay to look into the eyes of death and say, “This isn’t cool.”
Now, as far as where anxiety comes from….I have no idea. I personally have no problem with the pharmacological approach if done in moderation and done in combination of practicing how to handle anxiety. I think there are so many exercises that can be done biblically based on the Philippians verses that are more than “take two verses and call me in the morning” (a joke our Biblical counselor professors tell us to avoid simplifying any counseling process). One of my personal favorites follows the Ephesians 4 approach of “take off, renew, put on”.
“Take off”: What is the flesh doing? Does it match what the Bible commands? No? Take off
But we don’t just take off and hope we do better.
“Renew the mind”: This is where Scripture/prayer comes in: What Bible verses address this issue? What do you need to know about God today? What do you need to know about your self? Are you dealing with a particular sin that is causing anxiety? What does God say about that sin? Or are you dealing with a generalized anxiety? Etc…renewing the mind and praying about it will help reshape in order that we can…
“Put on”: Practice, practice, practice.
Because anxiety can be so undefinable and what to practice can be hard, I think things such as writing, calling a friend, exercising, etc can be helpful. Deal with the thoughts at hand, and then as best as you can, move along (easier said than done).
I hope that doesn’t sound like a simplified way of thinking about it, but that’s how I approach anxiety. (I also happened to be writing a paper on Philippians when I scrolled past your update so it was good timing!)
Thank you for this Ally! Sounds like you have a pretty balanced approach. Sometimes it’s brought on by ourselves, sometimes it’s not. We can do some things to control our thought life, other times symptoms are physiological. Do you think there’s a difference between worry and anxiety?
Since I am in my counseling degree and just returned from the conference The Church and Mental Illness it is too long a discussion to post here. Anxiety is a form of mental illness. It has a neurobiological origin and cognitive pairing. If one suffers from anxiety then one must treat both. People with anxiety already have shame that they cannot control their illness or predict when things will go haywire like GAD or Panic attacks. I’ll of these questions deserve a thorough discussion. Scripture, prayer, renewing one’s mind, and support helps with worry and mild anxiety. However, people who have the mental illness need medical and psychological help. They feel more shame and isolation when they can’t pray or Bible verse their way out of their suffering. Great topic! gotta go 😉
Hello Melissa!!! As a person who has suffered with anxiety I would love to give you insight. If you would like to set up a time to talk on the phone or meet up let me know. 😀 I would love to help in any way I could.
Also I would love to share about how God has graciously helped me with my anxiety.
This is something that Kevin and I have discussed because I struggle with anxiety and depression. I use to think it wasn’t related to my spiritual life and my unreliance on God, but it was for me. Kevin would ask me when was the last time you were in Gods word and as much as it hurt and I would yell “no it’s doesn’t have anything to do with God” but it did for me.
I know for me it’s a tendency, so I try to go straight to Gods word. But I’ll break out in hives and get anal about every dang thing and that’s when I know I need some more Jesus + some alone time .
I do think there may be people who truly have more intense anxiety and it may need medical help or professional help though
I’m not an anxious person either, but watching my daughter struggle with it daily continues to perplex me. She is nine and struggles with this daily. After she was diagnosis this year it all started to make sense to me and I feel saddened of all the signs that I ignored. I want to understand as a parent and how to help her.