These days it seems everyone is wound a little tight—even teens.
With an infinitely long list of homework, sports schedules squeezed just a little too tight and mounting pressure to fit in at school, it isn’t any wonder why your heart and mind are stressed.
Stress and anxiety are natural. Everyone gets a little overwhelmed from time to time, and those feelings can cause anxiety to swell in your chest. For example, you may get anxious as you prepare for your mid-term exams, or right before you take the penalty shot that could win the game for your team. Those are natural reactions to two stressful situations.
Not only is anxiety natural—it can be good, even healthy. It’s a God-given, built-in mechanism that protects us from doing things that could ultimately harm us—like running across the highway in the middle of rush hour. Without a bit of anxiety, you would never be propelled to jump out of the way of an oncoming car.
But anxiety can blow out of proportion real fast. Left unattended, it can become debilitating.
Ask yourself some questions:
Does the thought of interacting in a social situation cause your skin to crawl?
Do you have a tremendous fear of germs and feel compelled to scrub your hands raw?
Do you dread going to school, tears flooding your eyes as you walk to the bus stop?
Do you check your homework assignments over and over again, not knowing when to stop?
Do you worry constantly about things that don’t seem to concern anyone else?
Do you often feel anxious for no reason at all?
Do you have specific routines that you feel compelled to follow rigidly—so much so, that they control you more than you control them?
If you answered “yes” to any of the above questions, you are struggling with an unhealthy form of anxiety: severe worry.
Let’s take a look at Philippians 4:6:
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”
Don’t be anxious about anything?! Seems unattainable, right? Insurmountable? I’ve been there. But this verse isn’t talking about feeling anxious—it’s talking about living worried. A study of the original language reveals that the words “be anxious” in Greek (merimnaō) would more accurately translate “worried.” (It’s the same word used for “worry” in Matthew 6:25.)
Let me break it down for you this way:
Anxiety is a feeling: an emotional response to a stressful situation. Worry, however, is a choice: actively dwelling on your anxious feelings.
So ultimately, Paul was reminding us to be worried for nothing. There’s no reason to be, to live, in a constant state of worry when Christ came so that we may live life abundantly (John 10:10). After all, worry and faith cannot coexist. You’ll feel anxious from time to time, and that’s okay, but it’s what you do with that anxiety that matters most. Do you dwell on it, choosing to actively live under the control of worry instead of living under the mighty hand of God?
It’s a constant fight. So the question is: how do you cope with anxiety?
In short: by surrendering, abiding, praying, and thanking.
- Surrender your anxiety at the foot of the cross. 1 Peter 5:7 says, “Cast all your anxiety on him for he cares for you.” He so deeply cares. And remember: surrendering isn’t a one-time deal. It’s a way of life. Be prepared to surrender your anxiety daily.
- Abide in Christ. Meditate on His Word. Spend time with Him. Matthew 6:33 says, “Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” In that same chapter, Jesus reminds us how much He cares about all the details of our lives. “Look at the birds of the air,” He says, “They do not sow or reap or store away in barns and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?” (Matthew 6:26). You are priceless to Jesus. He will take care of you.
- Pray earnestly. Jesus “prayed more earnestly” when He was in anguish prior to His arrest (Luke 22:44). He prayed with fervor, with earnest—like an arm outstretched or a rope without slack. Pray as Jesus prayed.
- Be thankful. I can multitask, but I can’t be thankful and worried at the same time. I can go back and forth between the two, but I can’t be both simultaneously. So pray with thanksgiving. Thank God for what He has done and what He will do. Trust Him. Put your confidence in Him.
It’s all easier said than done, I know. But these are the first steps to take in your battle against anxiety. The result? Well, take a look what follows Philippians 4:6: And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7, emphasis mine).
What do you worry about? What steps are you going to take to address it?