Anxiety Relief: Give Peace A Chance

Woman praying for peace, no anxiety
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It has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult; and left untried. G.K. Chesterton wrote that about “the Christian ideal.” But it’s just as true of Paul’s treatment for anxiety.

In other words, we can be freed from anxiety. Moment by moment, hour by hour, if we are willing to exert and apply and fight the good fight (1 Timothy 6:12), we can live in perfect peace (Isaiah 26:3).

But you don’t get me, Abigail. I have serious anxiety. I’m a worrier. It’s in my DNA.

Exactly. I am writing to you. Paul has written to you. His Philippians 4 treatment is just what we need.

I Was A Worrier Too

The tendency to worry and fret is deep in me. In seventh grade, social anxiety was so crippling that I missed my best friend Jill’s birthday party. Junior high upset my stomach so much I tucked a Ziplock in my backpack for fear I’d be sick on the bus.

I’m not immune.

If anyone has cause for worry, I have more. Circumstanced to breaking point, of the people of Worriers, of the tribe of Wustmann; in regard to personality, a Type-A; as for plans, lists overflowing; as for hyper-sensitivity to hurt feelings, faultless.

But whatever was cause for worry, I’m learning to count as fuel for faith.

What I wrote that hard times preparing me to “race with horses” is more true now than when I wrote it months ago. Stressors are ramping up not gearing down.

I share this to gain credibility not sympathy. Because I want you to know that I’ve got lots at home that could make me a nervous wreck. I’ve drawn this out so you believe me when I say that you can be free from anxiety. Paul’s peace pill works.

And we’d do well to take it.

Just A Little Worry? Or Infidelity?

Because when we are worrying, we are not trusting, Corrie ten Boom wrote.

Because, it is not only wrong to worry, Oswald Chambers said, it is infidelity, because worrying means that we do not think that God can look after the practical details of our lives.

The prescription for our anxious hearts is found in Philippians chapter 4.

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.

NIV, bolding mine

I know this treatment works.

An Effective Prescription For Peace

Here are three reasons I know.

  1. Because God never lies (Titus 1:2). He promised his peace will replace our anxiety if we take the Philippians 4 treatment.
  2. Because what Christ commands, he also gives. His command is, “Be anxious for nothing,” and Jesus offers his peace (John 14:27).
  3. Because I’ve experienced the cure. When an angry barrage came at 11 pm last night, I took the treatment and fell fast asleep.

Here’s how it looked today. A loved one made an unwise choice that will likely crimp his future and impact ours, a pang of fear shot through. My insides twisted from chest to waist. Then I took Paul’s peace pill.

Lord God, please take my worry. I give it to you. Thank you that you’re way ahead of us, working a solution before I even saw the problem.

Then I did part two: the “think on these things” part. I called to mind true, right, lovely things. As I did, peace trumped. It pushed out anxiety.

I won’t lie. I had to do it again and again this afternoon. But each time I did, it worked.

Effective anxiety treatment is within your reach. You can be an A-Thrower, too.

Insist Upon Thinking

But peace requires right thinking—thinking the way God calls us to think on the things God calls us to think. That is how the peace of God calms our anxious hearts.

In his message on Matthew 6:25-34, where Jesus gave 8 reasons not to be anxious, Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones zoomed in on reasons #2 and #4, “Look at the birds,” and “Consider the lilies.”

Faith, according to our Lord’s teaching in this paragraph, is primarily thinking. And the whole trouble with a man of little faith is that he does not think. He allows circumstances to bludgeon him. That is the real difficulty in life, life comes to us with a club in its hand and strikes us upon the head, and we become incapable of thought, helpless and defeated.

The way to avoid that, according to our Lord, is to think. We must spend more time in studying our Lord’s lessons, in observation and deduction. Look at the birds, think about them, and draw your deductions. Look at the grass, look at the lilies of the field, consider them.

The trouble with most people, however, is that they will not. Instead of doing this, they sit down and ask: ‘What is going to happen to me? What can I do?’. That is the absence of thought, it is surrender, it is defeat. Our Lord here is urging us to think and to think in a Christian manner, and that is the very essence of faith.

Faith, if you like, can be defined like this: it is a man insisting upon thinking when everything seems determined to bludgeon and knock him down in an intellectual sense. The trouble with the person of little faith is that instead of controlling his own thought, his thought is being controlled by something else – and he goes round and round in circles – that is the essence of worry, that is not thought, that is the absence of thought, the failure to think.

Studies in the Sermon on the Mount

We must not allow circumstances to bludgeon us. We must think. This is faith.

Oh, dear Lord, increase our faith (Luke 17:5).

A Lot To Worry About

Because there’s a whole lot we could worry about. We could worry about Putin, the Ukraine, and the U.S. for three. We could worry about unhealthy choices our loved ones are making. There’s always fear of being misunderstood, mistreated or mistaken.

But by now you know, there is a way out of worry. But it’s not an easy way. Peacemaking is not passive, and rarely comes free. One gave all and all, who-would-be-anxious-for-nothing, must give something.  

Peacemaking is not passive, and rarely comes free.

Peace with God came through Jesus Christ’s death on a cross. Christ gave himself up for us.

Peace within also comes at a cost. We must offer something up to God. 

Anxiety Can’t Coexist With Thanksgiving

Back to Philippians 4 verses 6 and 7, Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Did you see it? We offer up our prayers, with what Psalm 116:17 calls, “a sacrifice of thanksgiving.” Then, when human reason cannot figure how this can work out well, the peace of God glides in.

It guards us from the dread enemy of anxiety that would kill joy and steal peace. 

Note, some anxieties can resist everything except thanksgiving. English preacher J.H. Jowett explains,

When thanksgiving begins, anxieties melt away like icebergs in tropical seas. The life that is ungrateful is very cold and icebergs abound. Let us raise the temperature and we shall be amazed at the results. A really thankful heart is so crowded with the sense of God’s mercies that it can offer no hospitality to worry and care.

This too, I know from experience. When I turn up the heat with thanksgiving, my worry melts away. Thanksgiving trumps anxiety. I simply cannot be anxious and thankful at the same moment. I can’t ride two horses with one heinie. Remember, even if you don’t feel thankful, youcan give thanks.

Because that’s how contentment comes. That’s the cost for inner peace.

But there’s more, in Philippians 4 verses 8 and 9. We’ve got to think on good things, true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable things. (I made this printable to help us do just that!) Then we’ve got to practice good things. When we do, Paul makes the promise: The God of peace will be with you. 

Does the dread enemy of anxiety really stand a chance when the peace of God Almighty guards our hearts and the God of peace is with us? 

Why Don’t We Take Peace Pill?

So why don’t we pay the price for worry-free?

First, maybe feeling anxious makes us feel like we’ve got a horse in the race. Corrie ten Boom said, “We imagine that a little anxiety and worry are indications of how wise we are. We think we see the dangers of life clearly.” As if our worry could change the outcome, as if anxiety makes us boss.

But the other reason is real, at least to me. It’s not one and done. The anxiety-peace trade must be made again and again. I may have to pray my anxious thoughts to God with thanks 20 times an hour.

Anxiety comes easy. Peace takes work.

But we block of the power of God’s promises (2 Peter 1:3-4) when we erect clinical barriers around anxiety. We make our troubles untouchable.

David must have faced anxiety when he was behind enemy walls, seized by hostile Philistines. A thousand years before Dr. Paul wrote the anxiety script, David took the peace pill and penned Psalm 56.

Keep on trusting, keep on thanking, keep on thinking. Give peace a chance.

When I am afraid,
    I put my trust in you.
In God, whose word I praise,
    In God I trust; I shall not be afraid.
    What can man do to me?

Psalm 56:3-4

Postscript:

  1. Some of you are still shaking your head. “You don’t understand. My anxiety is way beyond what you know.” To you I say, “Maybe it is. But please go to God (Hebrews 4:16). He knows.” Relief from anxiety may involve more than the Philippians 4 script, but it will not require less.
  2. If you have 7 minutes, you might enjoy this Ask Pastor John podcast, “Anxiety: Sin, Disorder or Both?” It helped me.

More Meek?

Mom, that sounds like you and Dad arguing, ya’ know?

So interjected seven-year-old Gabe, as I wrote this very post yesterday. In the background, a radio talk show host was arguing with a caller. I wish I could say his comment was scripted.

In May I posted an introduction to Mademoiselle Meekness.  I offered some reasons to pursue her and debunked a couple of misunderstandings about her. Matthew’s Henry’s 1698 essay, The Quest for Meekness and Quietness of Spirit,” prompted both posts.

Our ladies’ small group finished the book last week.  But before she’s shelved beside Puritan peers, I must pay my respects to the fair lady. 

By way of recap, meekness is not a shy temperament. Nor is she mousy or weak. She is certainly not “tolerant” refusal to reason or settle on truth. I can’t resist including this century old G. K. Chesterton quote, describing such misplaced meekness:

What we suffer from today is humility [meekness] in the wrong place. Modesty has moved from the organ of ambition. Modesty has settled upon the organ of conviction; where it was never meant to be. A man was meant to be doubtful about himself, but undoubting about the truth; this has been exactly reversed. Nowadays the part of a man that a man does assert is exactly the part he ought not to assert—himself. The part he doubts is exactly the part he ought not to doubt—the Divine Reason . . .(Orthodoxy, p. 31f.)

Meekness is “an attitude of humility toward God and gentleness toward people, springing from recognition that God is in control.”1 Meekness is power under control. She helps us govern our anger when provoked, and patiently bear the anger of others. She lets us keep silent when the heart is hot, and put up with insults. 

In a June, 2013 Revive Our Hearts broadcast, Nancy Leigh DeMoss shared this wonderful example of meekness.  George Whitefield was an 18th century English itinerant preacher and evangelist. During his ministry he received a malicious letter accusing him of wrongdoing.  He replied:

I thank you heartily for your letter. As for what you and my other enemies are saying against me, I know worse things about myself than you will ever say about me.

With love in Christ, 

George Whitefield 

Such adornment! Meekness makes us more attractive, certainly to our Lord, and likely to our neighbor. Adorn yourselves with a meek and quiet spirit, wrote Peter, which is very precious in God’s sight.  We must remind the Father of his beloved Son when clothed with meekness.  Learn of me, Jesus said:

for I am meek and lowly in heart: and you shall find rest for your souls. (Matt. 11:29)

No wonder a meek spirit is so precious to God.

Are you a spiritual bee? (#4 below)

Matthew Henry offers these “good principles which tend to make us meek and quiet.”  

  1. He has the sweetest and surest peace who is the most master of his passions. Whoever controls his temper is better than a warrior…He that rules his spirit than he that takes a city. (Prov.16:32)  Application: At the start of the T-ball season, our son seemed to be parked in the outfield, without much fielding opportunity. Were the coaches following rotation protocol? (Wo! to the Tiger Mom in me.) My spirit was vexed. In prayer, the Spirit convicted me to wait before I spoke or fretted more. Sure enough, sweet peace was restored-and before the next game when Gabe rotated to pitcher.
  2. In many things we all offend.  We all stumble in many ways. (James 3:2) Henry adds, [Knowing man’s tendency to sin and stumble] should not be used to excuse our own faults and take the edge of repentance…but to excuse the faults of others and take the edge off our passion and displeasure. Application: Sometimes when others do not acknowledge “personal” emails, I (wrongly) take offense. Was it received, read, meaningful? I was just recently working into that peevish state after two unrequited notes, when what should appear?  Scrolling through “marked as read,” I spotted a few of my own. No excuses and no edge off this repentance!
  3. Men are God’s hand, as it is said in Psalm 17:13-14.  Men’s reproaches are God’s rebukes and whoever he be that offends me, I must see that the Father corrects me.  Application: Exhibit 1: Gabe’s quote above. Out of the mouth of men and babes, God speaks.  I stand corrected- again. 
  4. There is no provocation given us at any time, but if it be skillfully improved, there is good to be gotten from it.  It is an ill weed indeed out of which the spiritual bee cannot extract something profitable. Application: Last Friday a dear friend suggested I was being deceptive during a discussion.  I wasn’t.  I was being gracious, ambiguously allowing the possibility that the subject of our conversation had no ill intent. That’s all, not being deceptive.  I (defensively) explained. Then, buzzed the bee. I zipped my lips. Maybe I could be more forthright. 
  5. What is said and done in haste is like to need repentance. As when Abigail suggested to David that repentance would be needed if he avenged Nabal’s household. Application: An email again.  The tone of the email was sarcastic and accusing.  I drafted my response.  Not mean, just clear and direct.  Then- two sentences in- I paused. Don’t add gas to a fire. Or, to borrow Henry’s word picture, be soft sand, not loud rock, when the waves hit

In case we’d need something more concrete than “principles,” Matthew Henry ends his essay with these “Rules for Direction” (AKA: “9 Tips To Be More Meek “):

1. Sit loose to the world and everything in it. Break a piece of new china when it arrives so you won’t be too attached to the set.
2. Be often repenting of sinful passion. If we confess our sins…
3. Stay out of the way of provocation. If possible.
4. Learn to pause before speaking.  Count to 10 if you must.
5. Pray that God will work a meek spirit in you.  Amen and amen!
6. Be often examining your growth in this grace. As my head hits the pillow.
7. Delight in the company of meek persons. So grateful for the meek, quiet friends God has given me.
8. Study the cross of our Lord Jesus. Who, when insulted, opened not his mouth. 
9. Converse much in thoughts with the grave. Death will quiet us shortly; let grace quiet us now. (p. 143)

“Patient and meek beneath affliction’s rod,
And why her faith and hope were fixed on God.”
-Engraving on tombstone of Bridget Kilroy,
who died in 1848 at age 50 in County Clare, Ireland
Gabe’s comment wasn’t my only tip-off.  I need more meekness. So, I tip my hat to Lady Meekness, and pray she’ll adorn me more and more ’til this life is past.  
1. Youngblood, R. F., Bruce, F. F., Harrison, R. K., & Thomas Nelson Publishers. (1995). Nelson’s New Illustrated Bible Dictionary