I read an article at the beginning of May about the increase in anxiety and stress that people have felt over the last 18 months. Anxiety is nothing new, but the pandemic coupled with concerns about politics, health, the economy, relationships, loneliness and the like all added to the intensity. The article, entitled “Your Body is Trying to Tell You Something,” talks about how our body sends us signals during times of prolonged stress, warning signs that something isn’t quite right and might need to be addressed or checked out. Those signals can include not sleeping well, more headaches than usual, loss of appetite, craving unhealthy foods, grinding teeth, irritability, nausea, body aches, and more.
Sometimes anxiety or stress are helpful. They are the body’s warning system that there is a potential problem that needs to be addressed. But sometimes that warning lights of anxiety get stuck in the always on position. It is at those times where it may not be something on the outside that needs to be altered. The work may be on the inside.
Into our worry and anxiety we hear messages like this from Philippians 4:6 “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” Interestingly, the word Paul uses for anxiousness and worry in this verse is the same word he uses in Phil. 2:20 in a positive way to describe deep concern/compassion for the well-being of another. Again, genuine concern/worry can be positive and productive when it prompts a necessary action or change of attitude.
You know it’s spiritually healthy rather than harmful when it leads to frequent prayer, deeper trust, and more fervently seeking the kingdom priorities of God. But if you find you are stuck in anxiety and what you have tried isn’t turning off that warning light, don’t ignore it. It hurts our bodies, our minds, our souls, our relationships. Keep praying. Keep rejoicing. But also, share it with a friend. Talk with a trained counselor. We are not designed to live that way.
Being freed from the unhealthy grip of worry sometimes takes work. But it is also a gift God is eager to bestow, and this is what it looks like “…the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard our hearts and our minds in Christ Jesus” (Phil 4:7).