by Ryan Shelton
Anxiety is a squirmy, restless dragon. Most of us have felt this scaly monster making its den inside of us at some point, settling somewhere between our racing heart and our wrenched gut. Unchecked fear has kept me in bed for hours past what is healthy or wise, like a chilling paralysis. But anxiety can also show up as a fiery anger, in unkind speech and hurtful attitudes. I hate anxiety, and I want to know how to slay it.
If your anxiety is anything like mine, you might already wear some scars from vain attempts to address this beast head-on without a plan or an effective weapon. Even still, you have a promise that “God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability” (1 Corinthians 10:13), and this includes the sinful unbelief of an anxious heart.
Our Weapon Against the Enemy Within
Let’s arm up before our next go at this rival. Whatever we hold in our hands must be sharp enough to pierce, even to the division of joints and marrow (Hebrews 4:12). The enemy confronting us can be as hard to discern as the division between your own soul and spirit. This anxiety feels like an intruder, yet emerges from within us, from our own heart and mind. Only by the Word of God can we shine enough light into our cavernous soul to see clearly and fight confidently.
In this battle, we must learn to turn the sword of God’s truth in on our own hearts. Scripture speaks of anxiety in the context of legitimate desires. Jesus said, “Do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ . . . Your heavenly Father knows that you need them all” (Matthew 6:31–32). Jesus does not say the problem is that you think you need food, drink, or clothing. God agrees you need them all. Anxiety leeches even onto healthy desires. So we turn the sword on the fear, not on the needs.
We wield the promises we have in Scripture. Here are five promises that I have found especially powerful in my fight against anxiety:
“The Lord is at hand.” (Philippians 4:5)
“And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:7)
“The God of peace will be with you.” (Philippians 4:9)
“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:13)
“My God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:19).
Do Not Be Anxious
Paul gives us wise counsel: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God” (Philippians 4:6).
At times I have read this command not to be anxious as an impossible burden. But that was only because I wasn’t reading carefully. When I would recognize anxious fear beginning to build in my heart, I would remember, The Bible says don’t feel this way. It only made me more anxious. I started to have anxiety about my anxiety.
The problem was always the same: I don’t know how to un-be something. I wanted to obey the command, but I didn’t have any idea how. Since I figured the opposite of anxiety was contentment, I would try to be not-anxious by striving to be content. And I still felt defeated at times.
Thankfully, the verse actually gives a far better alternative. Do you see it? “Don’t be anxious, instead, let your requests be made known to God.” Rather than feeding fear, we should tell God what we think we need. We should ask him for it.
Armed with the sword of God, we thrust his blade into the heart of our anxiety by bringing our requests and desires to God. The offensive strategy is asking, not avoiding, not running somewhere else. Contentment is the goal. But peace and contentment is the promised result, not the command (Philippians 4:7). We slay anxiety by identifying the desire this dragon is hording, and handing it over to a Father who knows what we need and loves us more than we know.
Fight with Thanksgiving
God’s Word is our weapon, and prayer is our strategy. Thanksgiving is our footing, our protection from tripping. You have a Father who cares for you, and has given you nothing but good things (Matthew 7:9–11). So in all your violence against the unbelief of anxiety, don’t let your requests be insolent demands. God is not your enemy; he armed you for this fight.
Paul instructs us to fight anxiety — to pray — with thanksgiving (Philippians 4:6). Anxiety clings to gifts we think God owes us. We defeat it when we hold up our need before our generous Father with open palms, and say, “Please.” And we respond to whatever he gives with, “Thank you,” trusting his sovereign love for his adopted sons and daughters.
You can slay anxiety. You don’t have to battle this dragon alone. You have been armed with God’s promises, and you have been told how to fight. Your helper is near, and he will fight right alongside you.