• Richard Parrish

Handling Anxiety



What are five years of your life worth?


A study from the Daily Mail, revealed we waste years of our lives worrying. Their research shows the average person frets one hour and 50 minutes a day. That calculates to almost 28 days per year or approximately five years of your entire life.[1]


We worry about a lot of things: Work, money, relationships, and health issues. We’re nervous concerning up-coming elections—fearful of who will, or will not be elected. Parents are concerned for their children, while older children become anxious about their aging parents.


The list of things that cause anxiety is long and varied.


While the things we fret about may not be of equal value, even insignificant matters can create anxiety.


You would think that a significant health crisis would justify our worrying more than a teen’s concern over their appearance. But just ask the teen!


None of us escape anxiety. If you’re breathing, you know what it’s like to worry. Stress is inevitable, but angst does not have to control our lives.


Perhaps it’s because I’m older. But somehow the thought of spending another day—let alone five years of my life—living in anxiety is not appealing.


This week I found myself ruminating on a problem for which I have no answer. It has been a painful, troubling experience that profoundly disturbs me. I’ve been hesitant to share what’s bothering me for fear of hearing “Christian cliché’s,” like Richard, just trust God!


At the core of my being, I know that trusting God is necessary. But an intellectual understanding does not always transfer to an intimate, experiential abiding confidence!


I’m not questioning the sincerity (or truth) of my friends who encourage me to trust God.


My experience has shown that many well-meaning, caring individuals want to assure us that God is in control. But often, when they have no solutions to offer, it’s easy to end the conversation by saying: “Trust God.”


But what does it look like to “trust God?” Is trust an active or in-active verb? What’s my responsibility in the process? What’s God’s?


The apostle Peter’s words resonated with me as I’ve been trying to make sense out of a confusing and troubling situation:

“Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, so that he may exalt you in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you. Discipline yourselves, keep alert. Like a roaring lion your adversary the devil prowls around, looking for someone to devour. Resist him, steadfast in your faith, for you know that your brothers and sisters in all the world are undergoing the same kinds of suffering. And after you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, support, strengthen, and establish you. To him be the power forever and ever. Amen.[2]”

While reading this passage, I highlighted the words: humble, cast, discipline, keep alert, and resist. These are not passive words. They require my engagement with God’s purpose.


Here are some questions I’m learning to ask so that I might adequately handle anxiety in my life.


Am I willing to submit the outcome—and my life—to God?


Our culture stresses the importance of taking control. In God’s kingdom, we accept the reality that we are not in control. To humble ourselves under the mighty hand of God requires me to be patient, allowing God to work the outcome he desires in me and to trust that—in God’s time—He will exalt (lift) me.


What does it look like to “cast” my cares upon God?


When we “cast” our cares upon the LORD, we relinquish the responsibility of the outcome to Him. When I find myself ruminating on the problem, it’s a reminder I’m invited to trust. Will I believe that the LORD “actually” cares for me and that he will sustain me? To “cast” my care upon the LORD requires me to release the problem to God, acknowledge God’s love and care for me and choose to trust the LORD—despite my feeling.


Am I disciplined with my thoughts?


Peter uses the word “discipline” to remind us that we have a responsibility to guard our thought processes so that we will not become irrational in our thinking—to be “sober-minded, well-composed in mind.”


I must stop and ask myself: What am I thinking? I often realize I’m thinking about the problem, not God.


Am I being distracted?


Like a hamster on a wheel, we can spend a lot of energy and time, and go nowhere by spinning in the problem. To be alert is to be watchful and vigilant. When I’m alert, I recognize that I’m rotating in the challenge and need to redirect my attention to God.


Am I ready to resist?


There is something within me that finds delight in staying in the problem. Perhaps the problem somehow reinforces the “victim” mentality in me. But God reminds me: I am more than a conqueror because of God’s great love for me (Romans 8:37).


Peter reminds us that we’re not alone in our struggles (1 Pet. 5:9). It’s likely that you, too, are faced with a problem that’s creating some anxiety. Henry Ward Beecher reminds us:

“Every tomorrow has two handles. We can take hold of it with the handle of anxiety or the handle of faith.”

Today, I’m choosing the handle of faith. How about you?

[1] https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3201639/Worrying-takes-five-YEARS-lives-Work-financial-problems-late-list-biggest-concerns.html

[2] The Holy Bible: New Revised Standard Version (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1989), 1 Pe 5:6–12.