After an intense October and November last year, I finally found a day to catch my breath. Or rather, to realize how hard it was to breathe at all. My chest was tight, my heart rate elevated. All the activity of those months left much undone, and the strain of getting my footing back was overwhelming.
Most of my tension stemmed from feeling I had not planned well. I had failed to keep a restful pace. I felt pressure to live up to an image of the working mom who can have it all and set a good example doing it. And in the middle of all of it was a lack of trust that God would help me through it.
But the Bible says we shouldn’t be anxious, right? Anxiety means somewhere along the way, I must have lost faith or perspective or something.
When it arises, my desire is to eradicate it as soon as possible. Leave those negative feelings behind. So I try to do what others tell me to do, and claim Philippians 4:6, “do not be anxious about anything.”
I wish “do not be anxious” was a magic wand that instantly wiped away all the feels every time worrisome thoughts pop up. It would dissolve the physical manifestation of anxiety as well as the emotional strain.
Sometimes, when the worries are small, it does the trick. It brings my mind and heart back to the right place.
But sometimes, “do not be anxious” just isn’t enough.
Because fueling those anxious thoughts are lies. Skewed perspectives. Ruts of wrong thinking. They do not easily leave.
Behind my anxiety about my schedule is often the lie that my value comes from doing more, being successful. Worry grows when I slip into thinking I can control my world, keep all the bad from happening, make all the good come into being. The more I focus on my worries, the more my heart loses faith that He will care for me.
Those lies do not simply vanish. Our hearts will not naturally drift back to the truth on their own. We have to address what got us off course in the first place.
It’s a little like the “Just Say No” campaign from the 80’s, which failed miserably. Why?
Because while we told people to say no to something, we did not tell them what to say yes to instead. Those underlying needs that drove people to drugs were still there.
So while the admonition, “do not be anxious” is true, in order to live it well, we need to dig deeper. We can’t just say no. We need to say yes to something else.
When we say yes to truth, we can say no to anxiety.
So I go back to the words that whisper my worth, not in what I do, but who He is. I feed on His faithfulness to remind me that whatever is coming, He’s got it, just like before. When I feel the pressure to perform, I read and re-read the invitations to rest, breathe, trust. I tell myself the gospel over and over so I remember who is God and who isn’t (namely, me).
And on and on it goes. To not be anxious, we must soak ourselves in truth. Bathe in it. Breathe it in. Feed on it. Fill our minds with it so there’s no room for anything else. When we live again in what is true about us, and about Him, we can relax.
We need to talk to ourselves more than we listen to ourselves.
It’s not always easy. It takes intentionality. But the peace that doesn’t make any sense at all in light of our circumstances is waiting at the end of our fight.
“Do not be anxious about anything” is absolutely true. There is no reason to fear anything. Peace is ours for the taking. To get there, we need to examine why we are anxious in the first place. How is the enemy lying to us? Where have our minds and hearts gone astray? What truth do we need to embrace?
Whatever is weighing our hearts, God speaks to it. His word is the yes we need to say no to anxiety.