How do we find peace in a world of anxiety?


(SeanO) #1

What are your thoughts on how we can have true peace, true freedom from worry, in a world filled with anxiety? How do you deal with anxiety in your own life?

On the one hand, the Bible gives us very clear instruction on overcoming worry:

Philippians 4:6-7 - Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Matthew 5:31-34 - So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

On the other hand, most of us still worry. So what’s the deal?

In my own life, I think it is that disconnect between the head and the heart that causes the issue most often. I know - in my mind - that ultimately this world will pass away, every sorrow end and Christ will at last rule in joy, peace and glory over His children. But when a disappointment occurs I find that I had placed more of my hope than I cared to admit in something temporary. And then I must surrender that idol - that source of peace outside of Christ - over to God and worship Him.

I think this process of changing deeply - of rooting out those unseen confidences in worldly things in our hearts - of allowing God’s Spirit to refashion the longings of our hearts - is ongoing and constant. And the more we surrender to that process, the more we are able to find true peace in the midst of the anxieties of life.

Here are some other resources I think are helpful. Look forward to hearing your thoughts.

Bible Project - Ecclesiastes

Ecclesiastes is important in the search for peace because it reminds us that apart from God everything is ‘hevel, hevel’ - like grasping for the wind. When we chase pleasure, success, health or fame they all ultimately will leave us empty. It is only in God that we find a solid rock for our identity. When we recognize that only God is eternal and everything else temporary, we can place our hope in the rock of Christ rather than the changeable state of our lives.

Keller - How do we change deeply?


(Matt Western) #2

Great topic! I also really enjoyed the other three part video series from theBibleProject’s Ecclesiastes and learnt the word ‘hevel’, which in some Bible translations is translated ‘meaningless’.

Meaningless is very different to ‘hevel’ it seems, and the video describes it as ‘smoke’. If you grasp onto smoke to tightly it just vanishes through your fingertips. If we grasp onto life too tightly it can vanish. Realistically none of us have any control whatsoever over our lives. We think we can control our lives by trying to control other peoples perception of us, or trying to control them by manipulation, and we treat people as less important on our journey to the top (think of the politics that are ‘normal’ in our world, where people get to where they want to go by treading on others, backstabbing and all that fun stuff that happens in corporate work places). We can build up wealth for ourselves hoping to store it away as an insurance policy. But really if you think about it, our health and our talents to even earn money is all given by God.

I agree it’s very hard to get from a head knowledge to a heart knowledge - to move from an intellectual understanding to a deep seated peace in the core of our emotions, and to receive a ‘peace that passes all understanding’ that is promised in Philippians 4:6-9.

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; 7 and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things. 9 The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you.

The verses above have a command to follow, then a promise that will come. The first one is don’t be anxious, but replace it with prayer with thanksgiving. The thanksgiving is important because if we reject our anxious thoughts by being thankful for what we have it has a cancelling out effect of anxiety. The promise is the peace of God will guard your hearts and minds - I love the idea that God gives supernatural peace that acts as a guardian to our wellbeing.

The second one is the same, thing on all the good things listed, and this time the promise is that God himself who IS peace will be with you.

The other thing that disrupts us is the state of change in our lives, it’s enormous how much change happens every day. Our relationships change with our loved ones as time moves on. I love my daughter, who is now 15, but I do miss when she was younger and I was needed more. Life has changed, time has marched on, she is turning into a beautiful young lady, and we only get the privilege of having children for a short time and they are on loan to from God anyway. I miss the ‘good old days’ of her wanting bedtime stories and tucking her in at night. :slight_smile: We really do need to appreciate each individual moment in time, and as the video above says hold all of life with an open hand and don’t hold too tightly onto things that are eventually going to change anyway.

Everything changes, and is guaranteed to change at some point in our lives, our work situations, our relationships, our own health. Perhaps our anxiety is because we cling too tightly to the good old days.

I have read John McArthur “Anxious for Nothing” about 3 or 4 times over the last 10 years, it’s one of the books that has helped me the most in this area.

Another passage that comes to mind just now is the Parable of the Wise and the Foolish Man - who built their lives on the rock vs the sand.

One thing I’ve noticed in the workplace - many people are afraid of losing their jobs, and they hoard information in their job description in order to make themselves indispensable and not easily made redundant. The problem with that is you get more and more stressed because people can’t do their jobs without you and have to keep coming to you for more and more answers. I’ve tried over the last few years to share as much information about things as possible at work (especially with my bosses) so it puts their mind at ease that I’m not hiding anything that would hurt them, showing that I’m wanting to support them and make their job easier, and it takes the pressure off me because I don’t get asked all the time for information - I’ve already given it as soon as I know it. You gain trust as being a reliable person over time. Being really honest helps as well because you don’t have to remember what story you made up to cover up your mistakes at work, or who you’ve blamed for your own failings. Just being apologetic and honest to a boss and saying ‘oh I did my best but stuffed this area up, but I’m doing this to try and fix it by doing this’ is so liberating. Kind of thinking of it all like theBibleProject guys call ‘an upside down kingdom’, where the race to be the most important is a race to be the most humble. I think it really throws people off when you act like that in a corporate work place because they are expecting more of the same and they get humility and grace extended - they can’t figure you out, but somehow they are curious. :slight_smile:

Anyway, hope this is a helpful contribution… Great topic… :slight_smile:


(SeanO) #3

@matthew.western Yes, it is so true that people often seek job security by trying to corner a particular skill or become ‘the guy’ for a particular area. But the truth is that all it takes is one new hire who has more skills than you do or can bring in more funding, or maybe you fall ill - there really is no way to guarantee that you remain the best. And, as you said, it’s all like grasping at smoke - only in Christ do we find peace that cannot be shaken. Good thoughts!


(Matt Western) #4

It’s hard though to not worry though, the younger guys are faster, smarter, and wanting your job already. :slight_smile: All these things are good in theory but it is actually really hard to let go of our need to control our lives - and rest in Gods control for our lives, and think maybe God is actually moving me on to better things…

How to have that balance between doing your best whatever you find yourself doing, and leaving the outcome of your work in Gods hands. Some days I need that Philippians 4 passage on repeat when the day all goes wrong.


(SeanO) #5

@matthew.western Yes, I think there are a few false paths when it comes to dealing with worry - a stoic resignation to fate, simply not trying because that is easier than failing - those are not the Biblical option. The Biblical option is do all things for God’s glory and when everything appears to be falling apart, fall into the arms of Christ and get a good nights sleep. Today has enough worries of its own and the Lord knows what we need.

Personally I think in the IT / engineering world I meet mostly cynics, which is one way of dealing with unmet expectations. When something goes wrong everyone pretty much behaves as if they expected it. Mostly realists. Yep, the world’s broken. Yep, life’s hard. Yep, bureaucracy. That’s life. Deal with it and move on. What did you expect? Perhaps that’s the consequence of years of dealing with debuggers and dependency issues :wink:

The classic ordered loves illustration from Augustine is useful here I think:

  • God
  • family
  • career/ministry

It’s not bad to love / enjoy our work or make great plans for our careers and enjoy seeing those fulfilled. But the damage comes when we’ve elevated our trust in our career above our trust in God. Then, when our career goes wrong, it’s like our life is falling apart. On the other hand, our career is a gift from God and we should not despise it - it is good and right to enjoy work and prosper in it.

Likewise, we might worry when our hope is in our career rather than God (if there appears to be some threat to that job). That anxiety is an indicator that our heart is leaning a little to hard on our career rather than solely on the Lord. But I think that’s a pretty human problem, so rather than feeling guilty / worrying about why we’re worrying - it’s best just to hand that care over to the Lord and move on.

What do you mean by ‘better things’? I think that is important to define.


(Matt Western) #6

‘Better things’ simply meaning that I enjoy a job as long as I have it, but when it ends to be appreciative for the time I had it - and to trust that I have hopefully learned some things and had character growth - and the next opportunity (or even a total loss of job opportunity) might be Gods plan for our future character growth so we become more like Christ.

Yes - the Stoics made of the heart a desert and called it paradise. They were the opposite of the Epicureans who were all about pleasure.
That’s not Gods way at all - to not care about people is certainly no part of the kingdom of God. :slight_smile:


(Nathan Griffin) #7

Hi Sean,

Luke 22:42 Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours be done.

What can we learn from Jesus about acceptance being the answer to all our problems today?

What about the raw humanity in his rigorous honesty with the Father in what we can only imagine was intense agony leading up to his betrayal and eventual torture and death?

Did prayer change the outcome or his circumstances? Or did it change his perspective? His heart?

How might this apply to our trials and our prayer life?

Maybe Peace that surpasses all understanding doesn’t come the way we are looking for it. Maybe it comes by acceptance of…not my will but thy will be done.


(carlos pamplona) #8

Hi Sean.

That is a great and timely question as it affects all of us. The passages you mentioned are definitely the standard of how we are to respond. I work in an emergency department and see this issue, anxiety, frequently. You know it affects all of us yet in different ways.

I would like to offer a few thoughts.
First, before we “do” or respond I think we must understand and know “who” we are. Second, we still believe the lies of the Devil, the world, and the lies that we tell ourselves and this is one problem. Third, if we not deal with old and hidden wounds or sins it will be fatal.

In terms of the former point, we know what we ought to do, but if we don’t deeply understand who God is and who we are in relation to Him then all we do will be lacking. The question then is do I really and trully believe that God is my Father and that I am His son(John 1:12-13; Ephesians 1:4-6)? Do I really believe that my heavenly Father loves me with the same love that He loves the Son (John 17)? We are children of God by grace. We are in the family! My identity is not based on what I do, the accolades I may receive, or the material possesions I amount, etc. My identity is to be a child of God. This is what John wrote in his first epistle. He wrote, “See how great a love the Father has bestowed on us, that we would be called children of God; and such we are…we know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is. And everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure” (1 John 1-3).

The latter deals with the lies that we have believed in. Jesus responded to the Devil, “Man does not live on bread alone, but on everyword that proceeds from the mouth of God” (Matt. 4:4). I recently heard a sermon by the late Dr. Robert Saucy in which he dealt with this aspect
He asked a question to the listeners and that was, Do we really believe that man does not live on bread alone? He was not merely referring to mental ascent, but to believing what the Bible refers to as with the heart. He further asks if we are feeding on the lies of the Devil or on God’s word which is true. For Jesus said, “Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth” (John 17:17).

Lastly, John Owen in his classic the Mortification of Sin, particularly chapter 9, lists things that will cause us to be fail in our walk with Christ if we do not deal with them. He mentions that if there be any forgotten and or hidden wounds should we not address them and deal with them we will surely be aiding our feeding of the flesh and sin. If there are areas in our life that predispose us to greater anxiety we must, with the help of the Holy Spirit and Godly counsel identify it and bring it ti God and see it as God sees it.

To conclude, knowing God as Father, knowing myself as His son by grace, knowing that He loves me, knowing as I am known, and being continually in His presence will help us deal with the anxieties of the world and our inner life. Additionally, asking God to search out hearts and to help us believe every word He has spoken will safe guard us from the lies from without and from within. Hopefully as we progress in santification we will experience more of His word feeding our souls.

Blessings,

Carlos


(SeanO) #9

@nathangriffin81 So true! When I think of Paul and Silas worshiping God with joy in their hearts while in prison, it is so convicting. They didn’t know when or if their suffering would end before death. They simply knew that their Savior was worthy of worship and that the Good Shepherd would lead them through whatever came - whether it was hardship or freedom.


(SeanO) #10

@carlos.pamplona Great thoughts! I think one thing you mentioned that stood out to me is healing from past wounds in our lives. Sometimes we carry around burdens / griefs from the past that continue to rear their heads and we have to address them. We have to let God heal those broken place and restore us to wholeness. It may not be a one day, one month or even one year process - it may be longterm business to let God heal deep wounds, but I agree it is very important to allow the truth of God’s Word and presence of His Spirit to begin that process of mending what has been broken so that we can walk in the fullness of His joy and peace.


(SeanO) #11

@matthew.western That’s a great attitude. I think that requires both trust in God and patience whenever we are in the midst of a radical transition in our lives. Patient waiting on the steadfast love of God, which never ceases.