Dear Mr. Anxious,
Hello friend! I wanted to thank you for your letter. I must admit, however, that I was sorry to hear of your many burdensome anxieties. They are a load you were not meant to bear. You’re not alone. The world is full of anxious people. I don’t mean people who are anxious about the things of God–sin and temptation or the condition of their souls. If only we had more of that and less of worldly worry! No, we worry about all kinds of things—money and health, marriage and children, school and work, reputations and appearances, today and tomorrow; we worry about what we will eat and drink and wear—and on and on the list could go. In my own case, I must admit, every now and then anxiety hangs over my head like a dark shadow that seems all but impossible to escape.
Yet, Mr. Anxious, I feel strongly that a Christian has as much a right to worry as he does to steal, lie, or kill. That is, he doesn’t have a right–it’s illegal! Worry is unbelief, it’s being mastered by circumstances, it’s a distrust of God’s promises. We worry, and worry is sin. The command is plain, “Do not be anxious” (Matthew 6:25), and “Do not be anxious about anything” (Philippians 4:6). Nevertheless, some Christians seem, at least to me, to be the most anxious people I’ve ever met. This shouldn’t be! It isn’t worry that pays the bills, nor is it worry that puts food on the table. Worry doesn’t increase your health, nor does it prolong your days. Not at all. As the Psalmist said, “My times are in your hand” (Psalm 31:15).
But to return to your own situation let me offer some advice. The way to defeat anxiety isn’t to simply bide your time until things get better, but to exercise present faith in the God of promise. So, if I may, here is what I recommend:
First, remember the greatness of God. At first glance that may not seem like an answer. After all, much of our anxiety comes from a sense that God has better things to care about than the details of my life. In fact, the opposite is true. The Prophet once asked, “Why do you say, O Jacob, and speak, O Israel, ‘My way is hidden from the LORD, and my right is disregarded by my God’?” And how does Isaiah respond? He says, “Have you not known? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable.” You see, God cares for the details of your life precisely because he is a great God. And so the Psalmist sings, “Cast your burden on the Lord, and he will sustain you” (Psalm 55:22).
Second, remember the care of God. Nature, as you know, teaches us many things about God, “The heavens declare your glory” (Psalm 19:1). And, as Jesus taught, it shows us of the care of God. He cares for the birds of the air, the lilies of the field, and the grass of the field. “Are you not” Jesus asked, “of more value than they?” It’s almost an absurd question, and certainly only has one answer: yes! What father has ever cared for the grass clippings in the backyard more than his children? So the Apostle Peter wrote, “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:6-7).
Third, remember the spirit of prayer. True prayer, by its nature, is a resignation of the self to God, “Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10). And when one is able, by faith, to resign themselves to God there simply isn’t room for worry and anxiety. For this reason the Apostle Paul said, “The Lord is at hand; 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” (Philippians 4:5-7).
Mr. Anxious, I would have you always remember this one great truth–all that concerns a believer is in the hands of God. You were not made the recipient of every spiritual blessing in Christ that you might fret and fear, worry and be anxious. That’s a burden you aren’t meant to bear. I know the world will laugh at this. “Blind faith” they cry! “Irrational,” others will say. But let me remind you, faith is a shield and no soldier is mocked for bringing a shield to the fight. May God grant you what the world cannot.
Your Good Friend,