Two Things You Can Do with Your Anxiety
6 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.
In this passage, Paul is inviting us into an exchange: our anxiety for the peace of God. That’s a pretty good deal.
The critical exchange happens via the currency of thanksgiving and surrender. We gratefully surrender our worries to a God who loves us through prayer. That’s how we receive that peace of God.
The spiritual core around anxiety is born out of the fact that we’re made in God’s image and given “dominion” or authority or influence over a small sphere around us. That’s a good gift.
When we’re anxious, it’s the rumble strips alerting us that we’ve reached the edge of our dominion. Maybe we’re coming to the end of our competence in a certain area (I was anxious about changing diapers before we had our first kid). Or maybe we can’t control something that we wish we could control—for example, the weather for our outdoor wedding, what kind of questions the interviewer will ask tomorrow, or what the stock market will do.
Anxiety is rumble strips that we’ve reached the edge of our current sphere of dominion. When we hit those rumble strips, there are two options: expand your dominion or surrender with gratitude.
I’m not a naturally confident public speaker. When I was a kid and a teenager, and even into my twenties the idea of public speaking would send my heart racing. Thousands of hours of practice and public speaking opportunities later, I’m much more confident. Even still, I run through every message four times, start to finish, to work out the kinks and feel confident that I know what I’m doing.
I’ve expanded my dominion through practice and study. And of course I still need God at every turn, but the anxiety tied to my performance is much, much lower than it used to be.
Sometimes when you’re anxious, the answer is to pray and get to work, asking God to help you to study more, learn something new, find good coaching or mentoring or advice—expand your dominion.
But of course, that’s not always possible. No matter how much you plan, you can’t control the weather or the stock market or what the government will do. And so in those situations where the rumble strips of anxiety are kicking in, the only way we experience peace is by a grateful surrender.
We don’t have dominion over this situation, but we know the one who does. We’re not in control of this situation, but we know the God who reigns and rules. And so we gratefully surrender to that God and in so doing we allow the peace of God to guard our hearts and our minds.
List the places where you’re experiencing the rumble strips of anxiety in your life. Which situations are calling for you to expand your dominion by praying and going to work? Which situations are calling for you to embrace a grateful surrender?