Overcoming: Overcoming Anxiety
A New Teaching Article On Overcoming
Truth is life shaping in three ways. It shapes our mind, our emotions, and our will. All three form what the Bible calls our heart. We cannot skip one faculty of ourselves and jump to the next. In other words, our mind and emotions aren’t separated from each other, just as our will and mind, emotions and will can be separated from each other.
When we “feel” (emotion) something it’s because our mind has registered to us that something is wrong. When we “act” (will) on something, we don’t leave our mind and feelings at the door, running blindly into a situation we are not aware of (mind) or moved to do (emotion). Therefore when God calls us into His kingdom of light out of the kingdom of darkness, He calls our whole being into submission. God desires to change the heart, the whole man.
If you were to try and change just your behavior, you would fall into legalism. If you were to try and change just your mind, you would fall into cold intellectualism. And if you were to try and change just your emotions, you would fall into crazy emotionalism. So change starts with the heart (Luke 6:45).
The mind is a powerful tool. If we keep our minds maintained, we are able to handle this tool with skill, keeping it under control to exercise with precision. But the mind that forgets its use will quickly fly out of control and cause stress or anxiety on the rest of the body which God has given us to maintain and use correctly.
For example, if we forget that life is about building God’s kingdom, we could easily get “stressed” about our new job and all the unnecessary “extras” we have given our self in order to impress our boss. If we forget that our family is our number one priority and that our daughter needs us to spend time with her after school in order to properly develop as a women in light of God’s grace, we might “freak” out when she starts looking to sex out of marriage for love and acceptance. Therefore keeping our minds focused on what the Lords says should captivate our attention will allow us to eliminate anxiety in our lives.
Anxiety makes life hard. The anxious person has little peace. And today with all the busyness that we allow to enter our world, anxiety affects most Christians who then need medication to cope. We will look at the 18th Psalm to hopefully gain insight on how to help our anxiety. God’s Word gives light (Ps. 119:130). When we abide humbly in His Word, Jesus Christ sets us free (John 8:32).
In Psalm 18, David praises the Lord for delivering him from his enemies (see 2 Sam. 22). The Hebrew parallelism in vv. 4 and 5 poetically and emphatically highlight David’s severe plight: “The cords of death encompassed me; the torrents of destruction assailed me; the cords of Sheol entangled me; the snares of death confronted me” (Ps. 18:4-5 ESV). Death is represented twice as a hunter with a cord or net (Ps. 91:3), ready to capture its prey. The numerous enemies David had throughout his life make it hard for us to identify since most of us live life free of war and persecution. But the day-to-day struggles swallow us whole because sin has corrupted life for each person, Christian or not.
Thus the background to this Psalm would be very stressful for all of us. David has an easy opportunity to either (a) get anxious or (b) direct his eyes toward Yahweh, the deliverer of Israel (Israel means “God strives” or “fights”). I am going to give you three things to put into practice when you feel your heart getting heavy with anxiety. David did all three in a most horrible plight. May we give it our best effort to do the same when the “cords of death” come sweeping over us.
When we are anxious, we’re vulnerable. The hectic situation causes us to shift our focus inward, for anxiety is about self. We are worried about what is going on in our lives. And this can cause major guilt. David offers a solution when he says, “I was blameless before him, and I kept myself from my guilt” (23). He was guarding his thoughts and actions in that worrisome ordeal, when his enemies were pursuing him. Instead of looking inward, David was concerned with looking upward towards God.
And what else did he do? He kept himself from his own guilt. Wow! Did you know that’s even possible? Did you know that’s something we should work on keeping ourselves from? So I offer a somewhat stretched application from this verse. In times of stress, we need to keep a clear mind by casting all our insecurities on the cross.
This means that we first stop and ask ourselves what are we doing and why are we doing it. We are dealing with our minds, a very important place to start when anxious. Philippians recognizes this when it talks about God’s peace guarding our hearts and minds (3:7), and then tells us to “think” about Christian excellence (i.e. the things that are true, honorable, just, pure, lovely and commendable).
And by David being blameless and keeping himself from his guilt, he was able to have a mind free from distraction; it was clear. When we are anxious, we are insecure. And whatever insecurities we have at the time for whatever reason, we need to learn to cast them on the cross in order that they may be crucified. Keep a clear mind by casting all you insecurities on the cross.
As David talks about the conquest he has in God over his enemies, he offers light on what it means to look to God rather than self in trying times. His illumination will offer the next step we should take once we make sure we keep a clear mind by casting all our insecurities on the cross.
David says: “For it is you who light my lamp, the Lord my God lightens my darkness” (18:28 ESV). David trusts the Lord for continued favor (“light my lamp” has a continuous aspect and can be used as an image for prosperity). But the key item, which is related, I want to connect to our discussion is that God lightens our darkness. David is trusting in the Lord for provision in dark places. Anxiousness is never pleasant; it’s always dark.
Thus we should trust in the Lord to bring clarity to the areas that sin has covered with darkness. Trusting in God is usually the last thing we want to do when worried about something. It is always an inward focus, one looking to self to evaluate the course of action to take in light of the enclosing circumstance. There tends to be this fog that won’t go away. We are busy, frantic, and worried. We need clarity.
And more than anything we need clarity because sin covers everything with darkness. In our fallen world, darkness abounds; but as Paul says, where sin abounds, grace abounds all the more (Rom. 5:20). Putting into practice that we must consciously (our mind) choose to trust in the Lord to bring clarity to the areas that sin has covered with darkness, in whatever situation, will prove to be fruitful in our conquest with God to overcome anxiety.
Imagine that anxiety is a large enemy force who is coming against you to gain total victory over your life. A lot of times, anxiety plays precisely this role: a dominant force in our lives that offer us no rest because it’s always out on the battle lines, lines we are constantly crossing. Another way to see understand our sin (anxiety is sin) is by seeing a big wall in front of us that is impossible to get over. Again, while in the battle front of anxiety, we often view it as a wall that can’t be breached or crossed. Just the thought of not being able to overcome this enemy or this wall has an overwhelming affect that greatly discourages the Christian who is the most concerned with getting help. What do we do?
As David, we look up to our only help: “For by you I can run against a troop, and by my God I can leap over a wall” (Ps. 18:29). We move forward knowing only God can help us and give us success. This is very important. Anxiety is paralyzing. As when a person is frozen in bed because they think they hear someone in their kitchen in the middle of the night, so anxiety puts a holt on healthy decision making.
An anxious person is an indecisive person. They can never make up their mind. An anxious person is a fearful person; these two are closely related. Someone who is driven by fear is driven with anxiety. And when this happens, the ability to choose the best course of action will be hindered because they will be driven by anxiety that causes them to then fear about what they are doing, and so they can’t decide. Remembering to move forward knowing only God can help you and give you success grants you freedom from an anxious life and to give glory to God for His great power and sovereignty in your overcoming anxiety.
Jesus Christ is the Lord of a Christian. He is the master of the whole person. Jesus Christ must take precedence over the mind, emotions, and will. Jesus will use whatever means necessary to have our hearts. Anxiety can be a very useful tool for our gracious master to employ in order that we look up, as David, to Him.
God’s sovereignty reigns over anxiety. God choosing to allow anxiety run our lives for a time is a choice not haphazardly decided, nothing God allows or does in our lives is random. Everyone who is able to rest by being “in Christ” is able to look to God as a gracious Father who deeply cares about their peace. The God of all comfort (2 Cor. 1:3) will dominant His children with the love of Christ that even anxiety will have to flee so that the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, might guard their hearts and minds (Phil. 4:7).
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