The Path from Anxiety to Peace
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation,
by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving,
present your requests to God.”
– Philippians 4:6
If you are a Christian or grew up in church, you are familiar with this Bible verse.
The problem is that many people are quick to suggest Christians not be anxious without providing any real tools to lead them from anxiety to peace.
Anxiety is real.
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, “Anxiety disorders are the most common mental health concern in the United States. Over 40 million adults in the U.S. (19.1%) have an anxiety disorder. Meanwhile, approximately 7% of children aged 3-17 experience issues with anxiety each year.”
Christians can experience anxiety just like the rest of the world because the world is fallen deep into sin.
Before sin entered the world, there was no reason for Adam and Eve to feel anxious.
But, because of sin, we all have reasons to feel threatened and fearful.
Those internal and external forces can stimulate wild anxiety, and they won’t go away completely until we enter eternity with Jesus.
The Bible says, “God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away” (Revelation 21:4).
Until that day comes, we must strive for victory in anxiety by having the peace that passes all understanding while living here on earth (Philippians 4:7).
Our goal is to move from anxiety toward peace by clinging to Christ daily.
The booklet, Anxiety: Anatomy and Cure, by Robert W. Kellemen is our guide.
Understanding Healthy and Unhealthy Vigilance
Kellemen explains, “Vigilance is the God-given emotion that urges us to act quickly in response to a threat. Vigilance is the proper, constructive concern for the well-being of others and for the advancement of God’s kingdom.”
In other words, God designed us to keep vigil or stand watch. However, while vigilance makes us warriors in protecting others, anxiety does the opposite.
Anxiety changes us from warriors to worriers, and we get stuck in a pattern of unhealthy vigilance.
Unhealthy vigilance keeps us constantly on guard and looks for ways to protect ourselves.
Anxiety forces us to want to maintain control by being self-sufficient and self-protective, without any faith or trust in God.
Kellemen writes, “In anxiety, we turn to self instead of turning to God. Anxiety is fear without faith. It is vigilance running amok. […] In vigilance, we turn to God. Through faith, we face the reality of our neediness by trusting in the unseen reality of a God who cares and controls.”
So, how do we move from unhealthy vigilance (AKA anxiety) to healthy, Christ-centered vigilance?
Kellemen highlights the following ideas from Paul’s writings in the Book of Philippians.
Keep in mind that Paul wrote this letter when he was in jail for his faith.
If anyone should understand an anxiety-inducing situation, it is the Apostle Paul.
Faith Over Fear
The most anxiety-inducing thought is an eternity separated from God.
However, if you have confessed your sins and named Jesus as your Savior, you know you will spend eternity with him.
Therefore, you can rest assured that you are eternally secure. That’s the peace that passes all understanding.
In addition to trusting in your eternal relationship with God, you can practice putting faith over fear by remembering who God is.
Kellemen explains, “When anxiety strikes, we focus so much on the situation and our feelings that we lose our focus on God or accept a skewed view of him.”
God is the God of peace. He is good, and He will never leave you nor forsake you.
Go to your Bible and find the verses that help you renew your image of God.
When anxiety comes creeping in, review these verses and remember who He is.
Fight Anxiety Through Relationships
According to Kellemen, “Victory in anxiety comes in community.”
We need our brothers and sisters in Christ to help us fight anxiety.
As we battle anxiety, we practice empathy by recognizing shared struggles.
We encourage one another by reminding each other about Christ’s victory.
We expose our sins and are held accountable, and we empower one another to trust God and fight anxiety.
Find Your Identity in Christ
How we view ourselves and how we view ourselves in Christ is an important key to victory.
We’re not talking about self-esteem. We are specifically talking about who we are in Christ and to Christ.
For example, what is your identity in Christ?
This is one of the questions that is best answered in a relationship.
As Kellemen explains, “We need each other to help ourselves have spiritual eyes to see who God is and who we are in Christ.”
What are the lies you believe about yourself that do not match who you are in Christ?
Kellemen writes, “When anxiety attacks, our temptation is to focus on self and succumb to Satan’s condemning lies.”
Look through the Bible and compile a list of truths about your identity in Christ. Then, review them when anxiety comes knocking and remember who you are when tempted to believe the lies.
Focus Your Thoughts
Throughout your life, you will have trouble, and you will feel anxious.
However, you can strive to focus your thoughts on higher things and avoid letting anxiety get the best of you.
For example, typically, when you feel anxious, you start to panic and look for ways to protect yourself.
When your mind is focused on the things above, you can remember that God is in control, and He has won the final victory.
You can reorder your thoughts by maintaining an eternal focus.
Anxiety isn’t sinful, but our response can be.
When we feel anxious, if we turn inward instead of upward, we are failing to trust God.
We need to confess these sins. When your thoughts turn toward self, repent.
As Kellemen explains, “We have more control over our thinking than we give ourselves credit for, even when we have anxious thoughts. […] When worry strikes, strike worry out by thinking about certain things.”
Paul provides a list of healthy things to think about.
“Finally, brothers and sisters,
whatever is true, whatever is noble,
whatever is right, whatever is pure,
whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—
if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—
think about such things.”
– Philippians 4:8
Feeling Fearful? Act!
In addition to understanding the heart of the matter, take steps to overcome anxiety.
It is one thing to “know” you should trust God; it is another to trust Him.
In other words, it’s time to practice what you preach.
Anxiety doesn’t disappear if you avoid it. You must take action.
Your actions will show if you are moving to victory.
Kellemen says action looks like this: “When you are tending and befriending others, even if the anxious feelings remain. When you are protecting others, not yourself, because you cling to God as your protector.”
Feel Your Feelings, But Don’t Let Them Rule You
God designed us to have emotions.
Our emotions help us respond to the world and our experiences.
Kellemen suggests, “Soothing our soul in our Savior does not mean the elimination of emotions, but learning how to respond to our emotions in Christ’s power, for Christ’s glory, and for the good of others.”
Pay attention to your feelings and acknowledge them, but don’t let them rule you.
Instead, surround your feelings with Christ.
When your feelings start to get the best of you, remember who God is and who you are in Christ.
“And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
– Philippians 4:7
Kellemen, R. W. (2012). Anxiety: Anatomy and Cure. Phillipsburg, New Jersey: P&R Publishing Company.