By Brooke Holt
“Grant us, Lord, not to be anxious about earthly things, but to love things heavenly; and even now, while we are placed among things that are passing away, to hold fast to those that shall endure; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.” (Proper 20, P. 234, The Book of Common Prayer )
Throughout the past 30 years of ministry, I have been blessed to hear many peoples’ faith stories. The greatest stories are born in challenge, and some of the greatest challenges I have heard come from people struggling with anxiety. What is anxiety and why does it plague the people of our world today?
The Oxford dictionary defines anxiety this way: “a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease, typically about an imminent event or something with an uncertain outcome”. According to an article in Forbes Health, 374 million people now suffer from an anxiety disorder. That number escalated with the Covid-19 pandemic increasing by at least 25% (www.forbes.com/health/mind/mental-health-statistics/). Throughout the pandemic and since the pandemic, people seem to have an even greater awareness of an eternal truth: humans cannot control God, nature, death, or even life itself. Even with ongoing advancements in technology and medicine, humans cannot play God. That truth can create deep anxiety within all people, and Christians are not immune to this struggle.
Do we have a way to faithfully deal with anxiety in this world? Scripture offers many words addressing the overwhelming emotions of anxiety. In fact, last night in my Bible study, a woman shared her favorite Scripture with us: “do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your request be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7). Prayer, supplication, and thanksgiving offer three good and practical ways to deal with anxiety. All three are good and practical, and I believe through the power of the Holy Spirit they can lead one to freedom from anxiety.
To add to these practices, The Collect for today also provides an antidote to anxiety. We beseech the Lord to teach us not to be anxious for the things of this world but to stay focused on the things of eternity, heavenly things which will never pass away. It is about perspective. You and I cannot control people and the things of this world. Just this year, we have witnessed 23 weather/climate disasters with losses exceeding $1 billion: 2 flooding events, 18 severe storms, 1 tropical cyclone, 1 wildfire, and 1 winter storm (see ncei.noaa.gov). What a year!
This uncertain world in which we live will pass away, but God is perfectly certain. We have his promise of spending eternity with him. His certainty is not an easy fix to the overwhelming feelings of anxiety, but he does provide a way. Overcoming anxiety in this world requires keeping your eyes on Jesus and the things of eternity. Those things are steadfast and will endure floods, storms, cyclones, fires, and every earthly loss.
May you choose to lift your eyes to the Lord today, attune your ears to hear his voice, to sense his presence among you. He will never fail you nor forsake you, and one day he promises that you will dwell with him forever. In that eternal home, you will have no more anxiety for you will see him face to face.
Are you struggling with anxiety? Ask the Lord to help you change your perspective from the things of this world to the things of eternity. Write out this Collect prayer and repeat it each day. We would love to hear your thoughts in the comments.
Let's face it, the Christian life is hard. Relationships take work. Christians forget. Sometimes it is tempting to go back to the days when God was not the center of our lives - to backslide. We are all faced with tremendous pressures to drift away from intimacy with Jesus and the community of the Church. However, the Lord invites us to pay attention, to move forward, to draw near, and to live lives of worship. Draw Near: Hebrews on Christian Worship is a small group Bible study on the Book of Hebrews intended to lead participants into a deeper intimacy with the living God in the context of New Testament worship. Draw nearer to God in authentic worship today!
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