by Dr. Mark E. Shaw (with TAC Team)
Anxiety is all around you. You don’t have to look very hard to see you live in a fallen, broken world. There is a lot to be anxious about. The future is uncertain and full of surprises yet since mankind’s Fall in Genesis, it really has always been this way. God’s people can trust in His loving character regardless of the circumstances that surround them.
But what is at the root of anxiety?
While that introduction focuses on externalities, the reality is that anxiety comes from within the heart. Typically, discontentment and lack of gratitude both breed anxiety from out of the heart. From within the heart come anxious thoughts and desires for something you can rely on, or trust in, so when you are discontent with what God has provided circumstantially in your life, then you may become anxious. If you lack gratitude for what God is doing or has done, you might become anxious, also. The reason is simple: a focus on what you perceive that you lack only contributes to doubting God and His providence.
Is there a secret remedy for anxiety?
The secret is to cultivate a heart of contentment and gratitude so that you will become less anxious. Consider Philippians 4:4-14 ESV  which says:
“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. 5 Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; 6 do not be anxious about anything, 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 your minds in Christ Jesus. 8 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. 9 What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you. 10 I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at length you have revived your concern for me. You were indeed concerned for me, but you had no opportunity. 11 Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. 12 I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. 13 I can do all things through him who strengthens me. 14 Yet it was kind of you to share my trouble.”
One emphasis from this passage in Paul’s letter to the Philippians is that in any circumstance you need to be content. You may think that suffering gives you an opportunity to complain about what God is doing in your life, but one way He uses suffering is for your good character refinement. Remember that God cares more about your holiness than your happiness. His goal is to make you like Christ. Read 1 Peter 5:6-7 ESV :
“Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.”
God cares for you. You are made in His image and have great worth to Him! He does not want you to be anxious for anything, including any of your circumstances. Cast those anxieties on Him! Paul mentions his times of suffering and his times of abundance and plenty. Sometimes being thankful is more difficult when you have a lot of material possessions because you get distracted by these things and you could lose sight of God.
Am I in Danger of Relapse?
God hasn’t forgotten you, and He unconditionally loves you. When you are having anxious thoughts, you can combat the anxiety with thankfulness. Make a list of things you are thankful for. One seemingly little thing I now realize I took for granted is the sense of smell. Until I lost it, I didn’t realize how much of a gift it is to smell most things! What are some things you can thank God for now? Anxiety is an emotion that can lead you away from God. Especially for the once addicted, anxiety is dangerous as it can be a precursor to decisions to relapse and return to your sin. The reason again is simple: anxiety focuses upon a perception of what one lacks and accuses God of failing to provide what is needed. 2 Peter 1:3-4 makes it clear that God has provided everything you need for life and godliness:
His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, 4 by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.
You no longer need to be anxious about what you perceive God has failed to provide for you. Remind yourself that your circumstances do not reflect how much He cares for you.
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 Scripture quotations are from the ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved. May not copy or download more than 500 consecutive verses of the ESV Bible or more than one half of any book of the ESV Bible.
About the author:
Mark E. Shaw, D.Min., CABC, ACBC, and IABC, Founder of The Addiction Connection, serves as the Director of Counseling at Grace Fellowship Church in Florence, KY. He is the author of The Heart of Addiction: A Biblical Perspective, and Relapse: Biblical Prevention Strategies. Both are available at Focus Publishing, Bemidji, MN. This article was written with assistance from TAC’s Team.