Attacking Anxiety

Anxiety is everywhere and for some it controls their life. People get anxious about all kinds of things. One woman described her experience of anxiety in a magazine entitled Today’s Christian Woman. She writes,

“While interviewing with my prospective employer, something terrifying happened. The windowless room where the interview took place closed in around me; the air became thick. My throat tightened and the rushing in my head become deafening. All I could think was, ‘I’ve got to get out.’ My mind and heart raced for what seemed an eternity as I feigned composure. Somehow, I made it through the meeting without giving my interviewer a close I had been seconds away from fleeing his office or passing out on the spot. … I endured a rush of the fight-or-flight instinct one usually experiences in life threatening situations.” (“I Was a Prisoner of Panic Attacks”, July/August, 1991)

And that was just for a job interview! No one’s life was at stake. No one was about to meet with their doctor about the latest health results.

Anxiety can give rise to so many other sins. For example, anxiety about finances can give rise to coveting, greed, hoarding or stealing. Anxiety about succeeding at some task can make you irritable or abrupt. Anxiety about relationships can make you withdraw, indifferent or uncaring about other people.

But anxiety doesn’t just give birth to sin; it is sin. Jesus says as clear as can be,

Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? … Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ … Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble” (Matt 6:25, 31, 34).

Now, the world has taught us to cope with anxiety through the use of anti-depressants or drinking alcohol or watching TV or doing yoga. And the major problem with any of those outlets for coping with anxiety is simple: they all draw us away from Scripture. The message to the Christian is not to fill your life with worry or spend time worrying; the message is to attack it. How do we do that? Consider the counsel that derives from Psalm 94.

First, ask God for help – “O LORD, God of vengeance, O God of vengeance, shine forth! Rise up, O judge of the earth; repay to the proud what they deserve” (vs. 1-2).

When one gets anxious and turns to God, he is on the right track. But if he turns to another beside God then he is living outside of the will of God. Anxiety should summon us to go to God first. Anxiety is the sinful failure to apply our knowledge of God to our problems.

Second, identify the sources of anxiety – “O LORD, how long will the wicked, how long will the wicked exult? They pour out their arrogant words; all the evildoers boast. They crush Your people, O LORD, and afflict Your heritage. They kill the widow and the sojourner, and murder the fatherless and they say, “The LORD does not see, the God of Jacob does not perceive. Understand, O dullest of the people! Fools, when will you be wise? He who planted the ear, does He not hear? He who formed the eye, does He not see? He who disciplines the nations, does He not rebuke? He who teaches man knowledge – the LORD – knows the thoughts of man, that they are but a breath” (vs. 3-11)

Sun Tzu, who was a Chinese military general that wrote the famous work The Art of War, talked often about knowing your enemy in battle as a weapon. That is what the psalmist does in vs. 3-11. He identifies his enemies – the sources of his anxiety.

Why is this important? Why is it important to know the sources of your anxiety? Well, in the battle against sin, when you know the source of your sin, you know where to fight. If you don’t know the source of your sins, you cannot properly battle them. Too many people are fighting the wrong battles.

Know your enemies; they are not sovereign and God is.

Third, keep the end in sight – “Blessed is the man whom You discipline, O LORD, and whom teach out of Your law, to give him rest from days of trouble, until a pit is dug for the wicked. For the LORD will not forsake His people; he will abandon His heritage; for justice will return to the righteousness, and all the upright in heart will follow it” (vs. 12-15).

We can’t get so focused on the present concerns and forget about what God will bring about as a result – the lessons to come. People who are anxious live in the present only; they can’t see the “light at the end of the tunnel.”

Hudson Taylor, who was a missionary to China and founder of what is today known as the Overseas Missionary Fellowship, gave this excellent advice: “Let us give up our work, our plans, ourselves, our lives, our loved ones, our influence, our all, right into God’s hand; and then, when we have given all over to Him, there will be nothing left for us to be troubled about.”

That depicts someone who is free of anxiety because they see the big picture. They are learning the right lessons from their troubles.

What are some of those lessons? of being anxious, remember these lessons: God’s chastening can be a blessing (vs. 12a), God’s Word is enough for us (vs. 12a), rest in God (vs. 13a), judgment is coming to those who harm you (vs. 13b), and God will not forget you (vs. 14).

Fourth, affirm the promises of God – “Who rises up for me against the wicked? Who stands up for me against evildoers? If the LORD had not been my help, my soul would soon have lived in the land of silence. When I thought, “My foot slips, your steadfast love, O LORD, held me up. When the cares of my heart are many, your consolations cheer my soul. Can wicked rulers be allied with you, those who frame injustice by statute? They band together against the life of the righteous and condemn the innocent to death. But the LORD has become my stronghold, and my God the rock of my refuge. [23] He will bring back on them their iniquity and wipe them out for their wickedness; the LORD our God will them out” (vs. 16-23).

Fighting anxiety can often be remedied by remembering God is trustworthy; He keeps His promises. God’s faithfulness in the past – His promise keeping – gives the psalmist exactly what he needs to meet these anxieties. He can leave the destiny of the wicked to God because God is trustworthy. No matter how long judgment takes, it is in God’s hands.

Fighting anxiety happens when the man of God affirms God’s promises. When he meditates on the trustworthy nature of God and allows that to saturate his life and soul, He can attack anxiety instead of anxiety attacking him. Anxiety is the sinful failure to apply our knowledge of God’s promising keeping to particular problems. Someone said, “The beginning of anxiety is the end of faith, and the beginning of true faith is the end of anxiety. “

Image result for psalm 94

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