Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Prescriptions for Anxiety

One of my in-laws worries and grumbles. One Christmas I made and sent to her a thankful calendar. It is a 30-day with pages like a flip chart. Each day has a suggestion of something to be thankful for, everything from God’s care to the voice of songbirds.

Being thankful helped the in-law. I also keep a personal “gratitude” journal because I know from experience that a lifetime of being negative takes a toll on a person’s health and doesn’t do much for relationships. Besides, worry does little for the concerns and more harm than good.

That is one reason the Bible says not to worry about anything, “but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God” (Philippians 4:6). The rest of the verse says that God will give me peace, even if He does not take away the problems that are my focus of worry.

The words in this verse are important. For instance, supplication is a special word for an imploring request. Of course anyone who is fearful easily makes those kinds of requests because they want God to avert those worrisome evils.

Another important word is “thanksgiving” which does not come out as easily as the imploring request. When I am fearful and worried, I also tend to be in a state of doubt about God wanting the best for me, or at the least, I am discontent. To approach God in a spirit of thanksgiving instead of worry is unnatural. Even being asked to do this forces me to consider what is going on that I can be thankful about. Thinking about being thankful is the first step to actually doing it.

For starters, I know that God promised not to allow anything into my life that will be too much for me to bear. He has already shown me this is true and His Word affirms it. 

No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it. (1 Corinthians 10:13)
I also know His promise to work out everything for my good, not the “feel good” kind of good, but that good of being more like Jesus. 
And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. (Romans 8:28-29)
The process of being made to conform to the image of Christ is not always fun, but there is joy in the results. Peter wrote in 1 Peter 5:10 that the God of all grace called me to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, and after I have suffered a while, He will perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle me.

Because I know that trials are within the sovereign power of God and that He uses them to make me a better person, then in those trials I can “cast all my care upon Him, for He cares for me” (1 Peter 5:7). I can be thankful that in His providence, nothing is wasted. He is perfecting me, and the glory He will receive from accomplishing His will is a good thing. So regardless of the trials, fears, or worries, I still can pray with thanksgiving.

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