They achieved their goal when ISIS militants beheaded an American journalist and then another the following week—they caught our attention. What was your reaction when you first heard this news? Fear? Revulsion? Anxiety?
As counselor Ed Welch writes in his book Running Scared: Fear, Worry, and the God of Rest:
“The evening news continues to be a horror reality show.”
I used to worry about much lesser things than terrorism. I was constantly consumed by anxiety as a child, teenager and young adult. I ran scared from the playground monitor when I was caught violating a playground rule in elementary school. And as I got bigger, my anxieties got bigger as well: stress over A minuses when I thought they should have been A’s, worry over whether I was choosing the right college major, worry about where I should live after college.
When my now-husband asked me if he could date me, I had my first panic attack. I was a Christian at the time, and had tried many things to ease my anxiety before that moment, including memorizing scripture.
Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. –Philippians 4:4-7
Nothing worked. I thought that the actions I took could make my life and future better or worse. Everything was dependent on me. I was in control.
But that’s not the truth. God is in control of all things. And since he is a wise, loving God, we can trust that all moves he makes are for our own good and for his ultimate glory. What comfort! God was weaving all the so-called “mistakes” I made into something good. I might always struggle with anxiety, but God’s sovereignty gives me a peace I have never felt before.
As Welch reminds us in Running Scared, a book that helped me greatly in my quest to subdue my anxiety, God’s most frequent command is, “Do not be afraid.” And when we are afraid:
Take a hard look at yourself instead of your circumstances when worry is blaring. Ask yourself what you are trusting in. Consider your poor track record for predictions, yet recognize that all these steps, while they may give some hope, still don’t push back the boundaries of fear and worry. Reason alone can’t do it. Face the reality that we have to go outside ourselves for an answer and seek the God who is in control.
As always, the answer is a person.
Our level of anxiety, or rather, our level of peace, cannot depend on our circumstances, because right now, the world seems like it’s burning. It cannot depend on predictions for the future, because we’ll always get those wrong. It must depend on Jesus.
Lindsey M. Roberts spent years writing exclusively for secular journalism, including such outlets as The Washington Post, Architect, and Gray magazine, before she first tried to write about Jesus. She’s thrilled to explore in words how everything from cleaning the kitchen three times a day to delighting in the maritime history of Nantucket is an opportunity to meet and glorify God. Lindsey lives with her husband, a pastor and U.S. Army Reserve chaplain, and son in Virginia.