From small challenges like getting stuck in traffic to losing a job or defaulting on a mortgage, it’s normal to feel anxious at times. Anxiety is a natural emotional response to a thought or circumstance that we perceive as negative.
For many people, worry is a way of life. If that describes you, I suggest reading the words Jesus spoke in the Sermon on the Mount. His command is clear:
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?
Look 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 (Matt. 6:25-26)?
You may say, “But I can’t help feeling anxious. I have always been a worrier!” Many people have given me the same excuse through the years. My response is always, “Oh yes, you can.”
Anxiety occurs because of the way we respond to a problem or troubling situation. You can choose what to think about, and you can decide how to respond to a circumstance. God grants every human being free will.
No circumstance automatically causes long-term anxiety. It isn’t the Father’s purpose for you to be controlled by worry. He may allow a situation in your life to help you grow stronger in faith and maturity, or to change bad habits and negative attitudes. But He does not intend for you to feel apprehensive. God is always at work to bring you to a place where you will increasingly trust and obey Him.
Concern differs from anxiety
We must be careful not to confuse concern with anxiety. It is normal for a Christian to care. Concern motivates us to intercede and take godly action toward meeting other people’s needs or our own.
We are to be concerned, for example, about our families, staying healthy, and doing a good job at work. Concern involves wanting to do everything as best we can so that God receives glory from our lives.
Simply put concern is positive, forward-looking, and constructive. Anxiety is the opposite—counterproductive, stuck in the past, and negative. One motivates us to take action, whereas the other is paralyzing.
Let me be clear—concern may be marked with tears, thoughtful reflection, and quiet time for meditation. But in the end, it leads us to make decisions, not linger in fear.
The choice is yours
In difficult circumstances, a believer can fall into a downward spiral of anxiety. Or he can pray something like this:
Heavenly Father, I bring this worry to you. It’s beyond my control and influence. While I feel helpless in this situation, I know You have the power to make it right. Show me how to respond to this situation, and I will obey.
Friend, this is the way of peace—the road out of anxiety and worry.
Adapted from “Finding Peace: God’s Promise of Life Free from Regret, Anxiety, and Fear” (2003).