Written by Christie Frieg, USA
“The map says it’ll take me 15 minutes to get there? Challenge accepted. I can do it in five.”
(Oh wait, I forgot about stuff like traffic lights and speed limits. Now I’m late.)
Living my life on the edge has brought me a lot of anxiety. I’m usually late, and while on the way, I usually worry about how to get there faster and what those who are waiting will think when I finally arrive.
Life provides daily—sometimes hourly—opportunities for anxiety. Usually, I like to pray during my commute from one place to another. But when I’m anxious about being late, I end up spending the whole time trying to speed up my arrival and getting angry at anything and anyone who gets in the way. Worries like these fill my mind when I could have had joy and meditative prayer instead.
I’ve come to realize that my anxiety comes not only when I’m racing against time; it permeates all aspects of my life. Sometimes the anxiety steals the joy I could have experienced in much bigger things.
When I was going out with my boyfriend (now husband), for example, I worried constantly. Am I capable of making a marriage last forever? Am I too young? Am I really qualified to make this huge decision for the rest of my life? How do I know if God approves? I asked God these questions many times, even though I already knew the answers. I sought every form of counsel, prayed constantly and reflected deeply on the truths in my heart. Deep down, I knew marriage was the right path to embark on. But anxiety—about the unknown, of failure—continued to plague me.
How I wish I had trusted in God then! I could have enjoyed that special time Alex and I had in our dating and engagement period so much more deeply. Anxiety takes away the ability to enjoy our blessings; it occupies space where praise and worship of God should live in our hearts. It strips us of peace and steals our joy. Satan is very good at using anxiety to cripple us.
I felt great anxiety not because an outcome was probable, but because it was terrifying. This, I believe, is a very important distinction. Most of the things we fear will not actually materialize, and of those that do, few are remotely life-changing.
For example, many people worry about dying on a roller coaster. This stops them from enjoying the ride, because the outcome—death—is so severe and so terrifying. Yet the probability of dying on a roller coaster is one in hundreds of millions. If people could convince themselves about their very probable safety, they’d be free to enjoy the exhilarating ride. But their worry keeps them from doing so.
In my case, I had worried about failing at my marriage or making the wrong decision. Yet I know that God’s will is for my marriage to succeed. I can therefore trust Him to show me how to build a lasting and fulfilling marriage.
God has also promised us believers that the Holy Spirit will guide us into all truth (John 16:13). He has always led me faithfully, and I can trust that He has spoken clearly, in a way I can understand, such that I am able to hear him. God enabled me to overcome my anxiety and marry the man of my dreams.
So how can we overcome anxiety? I believe we cannot simply focus on not being worried. This will just leave a hole in our thoughts where the worry used to be, and it will attract the anxiety back. Instead, we must fill this gap with something else: Faith. “Faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ” (Romans 10:17). In order to gain more faith, we must read God’s promises in His word about who He is and what He does. This knowledge will fill the places where the worry once lived, empowering us to live each moment to the fullest, not subject to anxiety or worry—just like He created us to do.
God has given us the gift of prayer—of communicating our worries, anxieties and fears to Him. While we can never eradicate worry from our lives, we can be assured that God knows, and He can give us peace regardless of what happens.
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“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” —Philippians 4:6–7