I don’t generally think of myself as an anxious person.
It’s just that sometimes I get in a hurry and forget that I am supposed to be a human “be-ing” first and a human “do-ing” second.
And, people often don’t move as fast as I would like—especially my kids when it is time to clean up or go to bed.
But, other than that, I am not really that anxious. Except for all the things that I don’t really want to fess up to in this blog…
Why do I mention that? I say that because every person I know tends to harbor anxiety.
Anxiety affects us all.
Some harbor it freely, almost like they set up a spare bedroom and invite anxiety to stay over whenever it feels like it.
For others, anxiety is more like a secret affair, or a clandestine black ops mission, and you have to dig deep under layers of secrecy to get to the real story.
I suppose I am somewhere in between. I am no stranger to anxiety. But, I have reached a point in life where I have definitely cleared away the welcome mat and revoked the invitation for anxiety to move in.
Did you know that God actually tells us not to give in to anxiety?
Verses about not giving in to fear are among the more numerous instructions in the Bible. And, in Philippians 4:6, it says: “Do not be anxious about anything.”
I always felt like God saying not to be afraid is a pleasant thought; kind of comforting, but not really all that helpful.
How do you just stop being anxious?
It is not like I have a mental switch where I can just turn off my feelings. And, I am tired of turning to escapes to numb them.
I never found it helpful to simply try to NOT do something. Instead, I have almost always found it necessary to focus on doing something else.
This is true of my kids. It works much better to redirect their attention onto what I want them to do than simply to tell them to stop doing something.
It also works when battling addictions. It seldom works to simply tell people to just stop their addictive behavior. Instead, they almost always have to find something to replace the addiction.
Often, the way we rid ourselves of unwanted behaviors is simply to replace them with something better.
So, when it comes to anxiety, Philippians 4 gives us a strategy on what to replace anxiety with.
"Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you." (Philippians 4:6-9)
Did you catch it? Paul told the Philippian church to put into practice things that he had already taught them. Twice he said that if they put into practice--these things they already knew--the result would be to experience the very peace of God.
So, what is the strategy to remove anxiety? Paul told us a two-fold approach: 1. Take every concern you have to the Lord in prayer. 2. Intentionally re-direct your attention off of your troubles and onto good things.
Admittedly, every time I read these words I think something like: “Yeah, that sounds nice, but I really have to take care of _____ first.”
It almost never sounds appealing to try to redirect my thoughts off of my concerns. It certainly takes an act of faith to trust God enough to let go of my worry.
But, every time I PUT INTO PRACTICE what I have learned about turning over my anxieties, the result is really… quite good.
I have to admit, I rather like feeling peaceful and pondering good things!
So, the Lord inspired me to craft another prayer exercise. I have dubbed this one P4/4P: The Anti-Anxiety Prayer.
It, of course, comes out of Philippians 4 and it has 4 parts, each starting with the letter “P”.
The prayer exercise begins by cultivating a sense of God’s presence through worship. Then it moves into offering prayers of petition and praise. After pouring out your heart in prayer, next comes a time to ponder whatever God stirs up in your soul. Lastly, it is time to intentionally direct your perspective toward things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent or praiseworthy.
Click on the link and you can begin practicing the P4/4P Prayer: The Anti-Anxiety Prayer too.
Every time I put this prayer into practice, I am met with a sense of God’s peace.
I recommend that you give it a whirl and see how well it crowds out anxiety for you too.