Don’t Talk to Your Anxieties
Your anxieties talk to you. Don’t talk back to them. Talk to God.
This is typically hard because anxieties often disguise themselves in our imaginations. They feel like such realistic scenarios and therefore emotionally compelling to dwell upon. Anxieties can even impersonate, taking the form of people—often people we know. These are some of the most insidious to fight.
In real life, these people might be family members or friends or fellow church members or co-workers or acquaintances or people we only know by reputation. They might be people with whom we disagree on an issue, or with whom we have a relational strain, or with whom we are in serious conflict. They might be people we fear misunderstand us, or fear disappointing, or fear exposing our weakness or ignorance in front of, or fear confronting with a hard truth, or whose sin we fear might be a symptom of deep spiritual issues, or whose influence we fear might damage our loved one or our church.
Whoever they really are, something about them provokes anxiety in us. And our anxiety then can come to us in our imagination in the form of that person, and start talking to us. It says provocative things to us, and we reply. Before we know it, we have engaged in a lengthy argument in our heads that arouses all kinds of sinful emotions and leads us to think and feel uncharitably toward the real person. But we haven’t talked to them at all. We’ve talked to our anxiety—we’ve talked to ourselves and sinned not only in indulging faithless anxiety, but in failing to love that person.
God never instructs us in Scripture to fight anxiety by arguing with it. It never works. Scripture only instructs us to cast our anxieties on God in prayer and trust him to meet our needs, whatever they are (1 Peter 5:7; Philippians 4:6–7, Philippians 4.19″>19).
Not All Anxiety Is Sin
There is righteous anxiety, like Jesus’ in Gethsemane (Matthew 26:38–39), and parents’ godly concerns over the spiritually dangerous influences their children will face in the world. Christians in America aren’t necessarily sinning if they feel a form of “anxiety” over the progression of embraced and institutionalized evil in the nation. The Bible gives us warrant to feel anxious concern, in a sense, over the real or potential destructive effects of evil on precious souls.
What keeps these anxieties from turning sinful is when we, like Jesus and Paul, translate our fear-fueled concerns into prayer requests, weaving them with thanksgiving for graces we’ve received from God and all the promises he’s made to us (2 Peter 1:4), and we receive the joys of experiencing the mind and heart guarding peace that surpasses our understanding before we receive our request (Philippians 4:6–7), as well as the eventual provision we need.
Prayer is the key to escaping the snare of sinful anxiety. Don’t listen to your anxieties, and don’t talk back to them. Especially beware of anxieties in disguise. Direct your talk to God and cast all your “what if” concerns on him because only he can give you the assurance that everything will ultimately be okay.