Finding Faith: Don’t sweat the big stuff
With news spewing constant reports about our nation and government being more polarized than ever — international terrorism, global warming, racial tension and economic uncertainty — people are worrying and suffering from more stress and anxiety than ever before.
According to the Anxiety & Depression Association of America, 18 percent (or 40 million) of Americans are presently suffering from an anxiety disorder. These disorders range anywhere from social anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), phobias and panic disorders to obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). Harvard Medical School reports, “Anxiety has been implicated in several chronic physical illnesses, including heart disease, chronic respiratory disorders, and gastrointestinal conditions. When people with these disorders have untreated anxiety, the disease itself is more difficult to treat, their physical symptoms often become worse, and in some cases they die sooner.” Harvard Health Publications – May 9, 2018.
As hard as we try to ignore this flood of bad news or replace it with constant busyness with the hope it will distract us… we all still worry! Whether it’s when we get into a crowded room, see or hear a trigger that reminds us of a traumatic time from our past or simply when our head hits the pillow at night and our mind refuses to not shut down.
We feel a lump in our throat, a knot in our stomach, our mouth gets dry, our palms sweat and heart races, at times it even feels hard to breathe. What are we to do? How can we control this? How can we stop this? Thankfully, the Word of God speaks to us in these exact moments. Listen carefully, “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
This is when we, “don’t sweat the big stuff!” It is one thing to read or be reminded “do not be anxious” or “do not worry”, but it’s totally another thing to actually not worry. It seems much easier to say it than to do it. When it comes to worrying we can’t “just stop it!” as many have instructed. It simply does not work like that. Instead, when you take something away we need to replace it with something else.
Think about when a little three-year-old child finds and picks up something up that can be dangerous, like a nail or a knife. Of course you take it away from them, but everyone knows you must replace it with something they can play with. In it’s place give them a book, a ball or some blocks.
In the same way if worry is not good and we know it is actually hurtful and harmful to our health, we must replace it with something that is good. So instead of being fearful, anxious or worried, we are to be…prayerful! “…but in prayer and thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.”
THINK…the answer to anxiety is prayer; the solution to worry is prayer and you can pray anywhere at any time about anything. As a matter of fact Paul wrote “…pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” I Thess. 5:16-18.
Do you notice what the verse in Philippians and the verses in I Thessalonians have in common? Praying and giving thanks!
To apply this truth in precise moments when we are worried, anxious or stressed about family, health, safety, job, money or anything, we are told to pray… and specifically pray “in thanksgiving.” This means we are to think thanks, say thanks and pray thanks.
Thank the Lord for creating, reigning, ruling and rescuing mankind by dying on the cross, paying the price for sin and rising from the dead. Thank the Lord for giving life, breath, food and a mouth to eat it with. Thank the Lord for a tongue to taste and lungs to breathe that allows air to flow over your voice box so you can speak words to shout and sing of God’s goodness and grace.
And let me tell you, from experience, what happens to my many, MANY worries… they simply disappear. “Do not be anxious saying, ‘What shall we eat? What shall we drink? What shall we wear?’…Your Heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you.” Matthew 6:31-33
Finding Faith is written by area pastors. This week’s column comes from Rev. Tim Boger, senior pastor of Big Woods Bible Church in Lock Haven.