Rev. Rob Patrick, pastor of Boyce Memorial
“Never, in the history of calming down, has anyone calmed down by being told to calm down!” You may have heard this saying. It also can be applied to worry, anger, or any other strong reactive emotion. When someone says, “calm down,” or “don’t worry,” or “don’t be angry,” what is most likely heard is a dismissal of whatever has led to one’s agitation. As a result, the response will probably be the opposite of calming down!
It may seem similarly futile that the Bible often warns against anxiety. In the Sermon on the Mount, and elsewhere, Jesus says, “Do not be anxious…” In fact, there are warnings against anxiety, or undue worry, in both the Old Testament and the New Testament. But does it help an anxious person, whatever the cause of anxiety, to be told, “Do not be anxious?” If the Lord is the One offering this instruction, then there is help in this counsel! He is always faithful to His word, and He empowers His people for all to which He calls us.
When warnings against anxiety are given in Scripture, we don’t simply find prohibitions against worry. Our God gives very practical instruction to redirect our hearts and minds away from whatever has consumed us and filled us with anxiety. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus not only warns, “…do not be anxious about your life,” but He also instructs, “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” There is a redirection of the mind and heart to God’s kingdom- His reign over heaven and earth- and His righteousness, which is to inform and direct our lives.
The Lord also gives instruction regarding anxiety through the Apostle Paul. He exhorts the Philippians, “…do not be anxious about anything, 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 your minds in Christ Jesus.” Again, warning regarding anxiety is followed with positive instruction. Rather than stew in undue worry, Paul urges a turning to God in prayer, with thanksgiving. This provides a kind of recalibration to the heart and mind consumed with worry. It brings the promise of God’s peace for heart and mind!
It has been said that we are living in the midst of an epidemic of anxiety disorders. Often therapy is offered and medicine is prescribed for those whose suffering from anxiety becomes debilitating. Sometimes those measures may be necessary. But our first measure should always be seeking God’s kingdom and righteousness, turning to Him in prayer with thanksgiving in the face of whatever has burdened us.
Are you burdened now? Are there issues of uncertainty or concern, involving health or finances or relationships, that seem unbearably overwhelming to you? Your concern may be personal, or for a loved one, or even for world events reported in the news. It’s not enough simply to hear, “calm down,” or “don’t worry!” We need to hear and heed the call of our Savior and King Who tells us to repent of anxiety and to seek Him. If all authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Him, He is qualified to address all our needs, and to use every circumstance for our good and His glory! Seek Him!