What to Do With Those Anxious Thoughts

by Andy Wood on April 6, 2014

in Ability, Five LV Laws, Hoarders, Life Currency, LV Alter-egos, LV Cycle, Principle of Freedom, Protecting Your Investment

Anxiety2

Found myself making a list the other day.  It was really helpful, and I suggest you do the same.  It’ll be good, clean fun. So grab that pen or loosen up those fingers and let’s brainstorm.

Ready?

Make a list of all the things you still don’t know.

Okay, from the sound of those crickets, I’m assuming that may be a bit too broad.  So hone in on one specific area.

The economy? That’s a good one.

Your kids of family?  Excellent.

Your work situation?  Awesome.

Regardless of the venue, when you allow your mind to focus on what you still don’t know because the future is uncertain, you’re giving yourself a heart-engraved invitation to be anxious in the purest sense of the word.  We experience anxiety whenever we are pulled in different directions.  That’s literally what the word means.  Anxiety certainly includes worry, but it isn’t limited to that.  Any emotional impasse can be classified as anxiety.

Recently I was reading the prayer of a really anxious man, and got a whole new perspective on what to do when I’m feeling anxious.

Search me, O God, and know my heart!
Try me and know my thoughts!
And see if there be any grievous way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting! (Psalm 139:23-24)

Anxiety calls for some heart searching because the heart can be easily deceived by our feelings, our circumstances, and our selfish perspective.  That’s why David asked God to try his anxious thoughts and to search his heart.

Anxiety is evidence that something’s at work in your heart that isn’t healthy, isn’t godly, or isn’t based on the truth.  That’s why Paul told the Philippians to “be anxious for nothing.”  In both passages, anxiety calls us back to God in prayer.  Why? Because prayer unites our focus rather than dividing it.

Psalm 139 is a beautiful prayer song about how intimately God knows us and how deeply He loves us.  And strangely enough, all of this was prayed by an anxious man!  All his understanding about God’s intimate knowledge of us grew out of his desire to resolve his anxieties and find God’s direction.

Anxiety as a Blind Spot

O Lord, you have searched me and known me!
You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar.
You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways.
Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O Lord, you know it altogether.
You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high; I cannot attain it (Psalm 139:1-6).

Ever been anxious but couldn’t pinpoint why?  Join the club.  Sometimes we can’t precisely define why we’re feeling anxious.  Fortunately, we don’t have to.  We can instead ask the Lord, who does know us intimately, to search our hearts for us.

He knows our typical and non-typical movements.

He knows our thoughts.

He knows our pathways – not just where they are, but where they’re taking us. (Hint:  Sometimes He’s the reason we’re feeling anxious because He’s steering us in a different path.)

He knows our words before we speak them.

In short, He understands us better than we understand ourselves, including matters we’re completely blind to.

Anxiety as a Control Issue

Where shall I go from your Spirit?
Or where shall I flee from your presence?

Question: Why would a man after God’s heart want to run from God’s presence?  For the same reason you and I do sometimes: we prefer to control some areas of our lives ourselves.

Sometimes anxiety grows out of the tension between running to God and running from Him.  It’s the classic struggle between flesh and Spirit.  Our flesh wants to run from God’s presence.  Fortunately, God is faithful to lay His hand on any life direction that offends Him as He tests our anxious thoughts.

As long as you insist on having control over your life, you’re going to deal with anxiety.

As long as you insist on trying to control other people or your environment, you’re going to deal with anxiety.

As long as you insist that it’s your job to do God’s job, you’re going to deal with anxiety.

But the minute you let God be God, you’ll be amazed at the peace you experience as a result.

Anxiety as shame

For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.
My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.
How precious to me are your thoughts, O God!
How vast is the sum of them!
If I would count them, they are more than the sand.
I awake, and I am still with you.

Anxiety sometimes grows out of the fear of being known.  The word for that is shame.  When you fear that God or others will have the same opinion of you that you have of yourself, the natural tendency is to hide.  Silly thought, hiding from God.  But we try nevertheless.

And how does God respond to that?

All His thoughts toward us are precious.  He refuses to abandon us, in spite of the fact that He knows us as we are.  To know you is to love you when God is the One doing the knowing.  And even in your times of conviction or guilt, there is no shame in knowing God and being known by Him, because no amount of guilt will ever change His dynamic love for you.

Anxiety as Brokenness

Oh that you would slay the wicked, O God!
O men of blood, depart from me!
They speak against you with malicious intent;
your enemies take your name in vain.
Do I not hate those who hate you, O Lord?
And do I not loathe those who rise up against you?
I hate them with complete hatred;
I count them my enemies.

Right in the middle of these intimate moments of tender revelation, David breaks out in a passionate cry about the wickedness of this world.  What’s that all about?

Anxiety is a byproduct of living in a fallen world.  We live in the midst of people who are at enmity with God.  There’s tension there, and it produces anxiety.  Why?  Because the seductive nature of a broken world is very contagious.

As long as we’re surrounded by people who are hostile to God, we’ll live in an environment where pleasure, materialism, and pride reign as the ultimate sources of value.  And don’t think for a minute that you’re immune.  But the Lord promises to lead us in the “ everlasting way.”  Here’s how…

Responding to Those Anxious Feelings

In this cherished psalm, David points the way to show us how to deal with anxious thoughts or feelings.  Reading this with a New Testament lens, do what he did:

1.  Open your life to a God who knows you as you are – including the thoughts you have but don’t understand.  Ask Him to search your thoughts, words, pathways, and habits. Ask Him to reveal the truth of how you are thinking.

2.  Acknowledge the natural tendency to run from or resist the Holy Spirit.  As long as you have breath, part of you will seek to control your own life.  And short of surrendering your will, you’ll experience anxiety in some form.  Acknowledge that, and account yourself as dead to that tendency.

3.  Trust and acknowledge God’s loving presence in your life.  Remember that He is for you. And if God is for you, who can stand against you?  It may take courage to take such a stand because you’re so used to beating yourself up.  But the only absolutely sure path out of anxiety is to rest in the God’s complete love for you.

4.  Clearly define the people in your world who live by a worldly philosophy.  Ask God for wisdom and be willing to follow His direction, regardless of what others may think.  That doesn’t mean you’re hostile or arrogant – simply that you find your peace in the center of God’s will, not in the tide of public opinion.

 

One final encouraging thought: As David asked the Lord to lead him “in the everlasting way,” it serves as a reminder that your anxiety is evidence of a path in which the Lord offers to lead you.  You may not know what path that is yet, but He promises to take you there.

And that’s something you need not be anxious about.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Martha Orlando April 7, 2014 at 6:41 am

I can’t begin to tell you how much I needed these words today, Andy. Thank you for reminding me that I should be anxious for nothing, but rely on God for everything.
Blessings!
Martha Orlando´s last blog post ..Spring!

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