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Do Not Be Anxious
By Don Ruhl
God can deliver you from every distress, anxiety, and worry. David once began an oath with these words, “As the LORD lives, who has redeemed my life from every distress… (1Ki 1.29).
Do you know of the many distresses in which David found himself? He fought a lion and a bear. He suffered the ridicule of his older brothers. He fought a warrior who was 3 inches short of 10 feet tall. King Saul tried repeatedly to kill David. David had to flee from Saul and even from his own son Absalom. He fought in many wars. One of his children died in infancy. One of his sons raped one of his daughters. One of his sons killed another of his sons. He was estranged for years from one of his sons. One of his sons fornicated with ten of David’s concubines. The Psalms picture him sick often, even to the point of death. He had the daily pressure of running a kingdom.
However, regardless of the problem David turned to the Lord, and the Lord delivered David, because the Lord knows why we have anxieties and only He can get to the root of the troubles and either remove them Himself or teach us how to do it.
Do you have greater anxieties than David? Can the Lord help you? In Job 36, Elihu showed Job that riches and mighty forces cannot deliver us from distress, only God can, as Elihu asked, “Will your riches, or all the mighty forces, keep you from distress?” (Job 36.19).
Anxiety Affects Bodily Health
We often forget the spirit or soul and body connection.
The Bible clearly shows that the spirit affects the body,
Do not be wise in your own eyes;
Fear the Lord and depart from evil.
It will be health to your flesh, and
Strength to your bones.
Anxiety in the heart of man causes depression, but
A good word makes it glad.
A sound heart is life to the body, but
Envy is rottenness to the bones.
The light of the eyes rejoices the heart, and
A good report makes the bones healthy.
A merry heart does good, like medicine, but
A broken spirit dries the bones.
The spirit of a man will sustain him in sickness, but
Who can bear a broken spirit?
Our English word “worry” comes from an Anglo-Saxon word “wyrgan,” which means “to choke or strangle, injure, violate.” When worry you are not getting rid of the problem, but you are helping to get rid of yourself! “Anxiety is the rust of life, destroying its brightness and weakening its power” (Tryon Edwards, The New Dictionary of Thoughts, p. 26).
Anxiety Makes Us Focus upon Ourselves and Our Problem Only
Those who live in anxiety do not think of how they can minister to others, nor are they concerned with following the Lord.
The universe, the world and the church suddenly become very small to them, comprising only themselves and their own lives.
The Bible shows this as a major problem in itself, which in turn perpetuates the anxiety by feeding it with constant dwelling on the problem.
Why Do We Have Anxiety and How Do We Find Relief?
Anxiety can come from dreading a seemingly overwhelming problem. Exodus 1 shows the Egyptians dreading the numbers of the Israelites, anxious over a seemingly overwhelming problem, something they thought threatened their way of life, “But the more they afflicted them, the more they multiplied and grew. And they were in dread of the children of Israel” (Exo 1.12). Numbers 22 shows Balak’s unfounded reason for anxiety, “And Moab was exceedingly afraid of the people because they were many, and Moab was sick with dread because of the children of Israel” (Num 22.1–4). How often do we worry about things, that in our minds are overwhelming, but that never actually happen? R. C. Trench (Synonyms in the Greek New Testament), feared paralysis, “one evening at a party, the lady he sat next to at dinner heard him muttering mournfully to himself. ‘It’s happened at last—total insensibility of the right limb.’ [‘Sir’] said the lady, ‘it may comfort you to learn that it is my leg you are pinching’” (Encyclopedia of 7700 Illustrations, p. 1646).
Anxiety can come from disobedience to the Lord. Deuteronomy 4 prophesied of the Israelites that they would have distress from disobedience and rebellion against the Lord, but that in their distress they would seek the Lord and find mercy, “When you are in distress, and all these things come upon you in the latter days, when you turn to the Lord your God and obey His voice” (Deu 4.30). From Psalm 119 we learn that people do not obey the Lord, because they do not love God’s law, which teaches how to live a life that has peace of mind, “Great peace have those who love Your law, and
Nothing causes them to stumble” (Psa 119.136). In Nehemiah 9, the Levites uttered a prayer of humility and of confession of sin before God and in verse 37 they recognize that the great distress they had came from their disobedience to God and not living by faith, “And it yields much increase to the kings You have set over us, Because of our sins; Also they have dominion over our bodies and our cattle At their pleasure; And we are in great distress” (Neh 9.37). In Psalm 139, David connected having anxieties and having wickedness, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me, and know my anxieties; And see if there is any wicked way in me, And lead me in the way everlasting” (Psa 139.23–24). Therefore some anxiety comes from wickedness. Sometimes we may have anxiety that is not from wickedness, but we let anxiety lead us into sin, by: Not seeking God’s help, Turning from God, or Finding our own solutions. In Lamentations 1, Jeremiah spoke for Jerusalem, confessing the sin of the city and lamenting the destruction by Babylon, “See, O Lord, that I am in distress; My soul is troubled; My heart is overturned within me, For I have been very rebellious. Outside the sword bereaves, At home it is like death” (Lam 1.20). Ezekiel 4 presents a similar picture when God told Ezekiel, “Son of man, surely I will cut off the supply of bread in Jerusalem; they shall eat bread by weight and with anxiety, and shall drink water by measure and with dread, that they may lack bread and water, and be dismayed with one another, and waste away because of their iniquity” (Eze 4.16–17). Zephaniah 1 prophesied of Judah’s sufferings from the Babylonians,
“That day is a day of wrath,
A day of trouble and distress,
A day of devastation and desolation,
A day of darkness and gloominess,
A day of clouds and thick darkness,
A day of trumpet and alarm
Against the fortified cities and
Against the high towers.
I will bring distress upon men, and
They shall walk like blind men, because
They have sinned against the Lord;
Their blood shall be poured out like dust, and
Their flesh like refuse.”
Anxiety can come from not having your mind set on God. Second Chronicles 28 shows what one king of Judah did, “Now in the time of his distress King Ahaz became increasingly unfaithful to the Lord” (2Ch 28.22). Isaiah 26 shows the simple way to go, “You will keep him in perfect peace, Whose mind is stayed on You, because He trusts in You. Trust in the Lord forever, for In Yah, the Lord, is everlasting strength” (Isa 26.3–4). Listen to Psalm 94, because surely there are times when you can say that you only take on one day at a time, but sometimes several days strike us all at once, “In the multitude of my anxieties within me, Your comforts delight my soul” (Psa 94.19).
Anxiety can come from having little faith. Luke 12 rebukes us for having anxiety that arises because we do not trust God that He can supply us with what we need in life. We worry, questioning how we will make it, but such thinking shows little or no faith, “Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; nor about the body, what you will put on. Life is more than food, and the body is more than clothing…If then God so clothes the grass, which today is in the field and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will He clothe you, O you of little faith? And do not seek what you should eat or what you should drink, nor have an anxious mind. For all these things the nations of the world seek after, and your Father knows that you need these things. But seek the kingdom of God, and all these things shall be added to you” (Luke 12.22–34). In Matthew 6, Jesus taught us not to add to our anxieties, “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble” (Matt 6.34). Others have said, “Finish every day and be done with it. You have done what you could; some blunders and absurdities crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day; you shall begin it serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense” (Ralph Waldo Emerson). “What does your anxiety do? It does not empty tomorrow, brother, of its sorrow; but ah! it empties today of its strength. It does not make you escape the evil; it makes you unfit to cope with it if it comes” (Ian McLaren, Sourcebook for Speakers, p. 32). “Today is the tomorrow you worried about yesterday” (The Public Speakers Handbook of Humor, p. 183). “Don’t spoil today by worrying about tomorrow” (Encyclopedia of 7700 Illustrations, p. 1650). In Jeremiah 17, the prophet painted a picture of a man who lives by faith, “Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, and Whose hope is the Lord. For he shall be like a tree planted by the waters, Which spreads out its roots by the river, and Will not fear when heat comes; but Her leaf will be green, and Will not be anxious in the year of drought, nor Will cease from yielding fruit” (Jer 17.7–8). Therefore, listen to the word of God, because produces faith. The more you hear the word of God, the more faith you will have. The problem is not that you cannot see how you will have what you need, but the problem is that you do not think God will be able to see that you have what you need. “Worry and faith are incompatible. If your faith is strong, you need not worry. If it is weak, worrying won’t help it” (S. T. Ludwig, Sourcebook for Speakers, p. 389).
Anxiety can come from not letting your requests be made known to God. Philippians 4 states a truth that occurs throughout the Bible, and I have found that if you read any material on this subject, the authors will mention prayer more than anything else, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Phi 4.6–7). First Peter 5 encourages us to bring our burdens to the heavenly Father, “Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you” (1Pe 5.6–7). Psalm 4 shows that the speaker had called upon God before in prayer and found deliverance from distress, and knew he could find relief again, “Hear me when I call, O God of my righteousness! You have relieved me when I was in distress; Have mercy on me, and hear my prayer” (Psa 4.1). Psalm 18 describes what many people experience as they feel overwhelmed by problems, but the psalmist trusted God and found peace of mind, “The pangs of death encompassed me, And the floods of ungodliness made me afraid. The sorrows of Sheol surrounded me; The snares of death confronted me. In my distress I called upon the Lord, And cried out to my God; He heard my voice from His temple, And my cry came before Him, even to His ears” (Psa 18.4–6). In Second Samuel 22 David praised God, because He had delivered David from all his distress, but it was because David sought God through prayer, “In my distress I called upon the Lord, and Cried to my God. He heard my voice from His temple, and My cry entered His ears” (2Sa 22.7–20).
A father was watching his young son try to dislodge a heavy stone. The boy could not budge it. “Are you sure you are using all your strength?” the father asked. “Yes, I am,” said the exasperated boy. “No, you are not,” the father replied. “You haven’t asked me to help you.”
If anxiety rules your life, let us help you. We will pray that your thinking come in line with how the Lord teaches us to think. Relax your mind and your heart, knowing that the Lord was running the world before you got here, and he will continue to do so long after you are gone.
Why then allow anxiety to fill your heart? If you believe that Jesus is Lord, show it by releasing anxiety from your heart, and have confidence that He will take care of you.