My small group had a beautiful and healing conversation about anxiety and fear last night. We talked and prayed and encouraged each other to turn to God when the worries start to swirl in our heads in the middle of a busy workday or at night while laying in bed. If you're having one of those days - the kind when you feel like you'll never be enough, the world is going to end and everyone is judging you - then you're not alone. Take a moment with us and breathe.
Check out a great article I found in Christianity Today that wrestles with anxiety too:
"The oft-referenced Bible verse to address anxiety comes from Philippians 4, where Paul writes, "Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God" (Phil. 4:6). This verse gives Christ followers a powerful and direct command to cast our worries on God, though for someone with clinical anxiety, it's not always that easy. Exasperated by directives to "just pray," we can barely stop our own thoughts to pray in the first place.
Thankfully, the verses that follow promise something much bigger and better than "just pray":
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 (Phil. 4: 7-9)."
Asking God for peace can sometimes be the only solution when we're in the middle of a busy day or a bout of anxiety. Asking Him to help us open our eyes, breathe, and focus on only what is true is sometimes all we can do when the daily demands of life in this city drag us down. A few weeks ago, Jonathan led our Brooklyn location in a wonderful closing prayer during our worship service when we all just shouted out things we were worrying about, in an effort to lift those fears up to God. (See his sermon "Calling it Out" on 8.10.14). And Ryan Phipps delivered one of his best messages yet on how we can wrestle with fear and anxiety with scripture. (See his sermon "The Anxiety of Privelage" on 8.03.14). For me, I have a passage from my "go to guy," the theologian, Henri Nouwen, that I turn to whenever I need help keeping my fears at bay:
"You are constantly facing choices. The question is whether you choose for God or for your own doubting self. You know what the right choice is, but your emotions, passions, feelings (and fears) keep suggesting you choose the self-rejecting way.
The root choice is to trust at all times that God is with you and will give you what you most need. Your self-rejecting emotions might say, "It isn't going to work. I'm still suffering the same anguish I did six months ago. I will probably fall back into the old depressive patterns of acting and reacting. I haven't really changed." And on and on. It is hard not to listen to these voices. Still, you know that these are not God's voice. God says to you, "I love you, I am with you, I want to see you come closer to me and experience the joy and peace of my presence. I want to give you a new heart and a new spirit. I want you to speak with my mouth, see with my eyes, hear with my ears, touch with my hands. All that is mine is yours. Just trust me and let me be your God."
This is the voce to listen to. And that listening requires a real choice, not just once in a while but every moment of each day and night. It is you who decides what you think, say, and do. You can think yourself into a depression, you can talk yourself into low self-esteem, you can act in a self-rejecting way. But you always have a choice to think, speak, and act in the name of God and so move toward the Light, the Truth and the Life.
...Choose for the truth of what you know. Do not let your still anxious emotions distract you. As you keep choosing God, your emotions will gradually give up their rebellions and be converted to the truth in you. You may be facing a real spiritual battle. But do not be afraid. You are not alone. Those who have guided you during this period are not leaving you. Their prayers and support will be with you wherever you go. keep them close to your heart so that they can guide you as you make your choices. Remember you are held safe. You are loved. You are protected. You are in communion with God and with those whom God has sent you. What is of God will last. It belongs to the eternal life. Choose it, and it will be yours. " - The Inner Voice of Love
I hope these words are encouragement to you to know you're not alone. We would love to pray with you as you wrestle with the stress and anxiety of your days. Did you know you can fill out a prayer request online? Let's lift our worries up to God together this week.