We’ve all dealt with anxiety and stress before. Some of us more than others, but anxiety is not a foreign concept to any of us. And more than likely we’ve experienced the wonderful moment when someone shares this verse to encourage us to get over our anxiety:
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God (Philippians 4:6).
Ah, yes. That wonderful moment when we’re not only struggling with anxiety, but now we get to feel guilty about it as well. It seems the situation can only go from bad to worse.
Lately I’ve been feeling like Bilbo Baggins when he says, “I feel thin, sort of stretched, like butter, scraped over too much bread,” early in The Fellowship of the Ring. Anxiety and stress has become something to manage rather than stave off. It’s not a healthy place to be I don’t think. But it is the reality most of us live in for a plethora of reasons.
This past weekend at my church we focused on anxiety and showed this video (put together by my friend Jay) that I’m sure many of you will be able to relate with.
If this reality of anxiety in our lives was the end game, we’d be living fairly hopeless lives. But I think Rhett Smith is onto something when he says that God is trying to speak to us within our anxiety—that our anxiety can be a catalyst toward new life.
I love how Rhett emphasizes this point in his new book The Anxious Christian:
God does not leave you alone in your anxiety, but uses it to awaken you and help you turn toward him. It is God’s tool to help you grow, and the catalyst that helps us get unstuck and move out of the rut. God places anxiety within you as a way for you to give birth to new life and to follow after the new opportunities that are out there that He is calling you toward (page 76).
Anxiety is the excuse many of us use to choose a lesser life than what God desires for us. I’ve always found this C.S. Lewis quote convicting: “We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us.” Sex, drink, and ambition are the things we fill our lives to keep us numb from the anxiety we’ve been unable to overcome.
Lost in the sea of our own sorrow is the fact that God is present—He’s right there with us in the midst of our darkest days. Rather than letting anxiety be the excuse for why we choose to ignore God and pursue empty pleasures, anxiety should thrust us into relationship with God in order for Him to push us into the life He desires us to live.
That’s how God wants to use your anxiety.