A few days ago here in the Ozarks, we had a fierce wind storm that came out of nowhere. I watched as it violently shook the trees that line my property. Later on, as I drove around town, I saw the downed branches and minor damage it caused. It was brief but so unexpected that it took me by surprise.
Often that is how sudden and fierce anxiety can arise within our hearts. The day starts great, but then out of nowhere we get troubling news, or someone says or does something that greatly affects us. Maybe it has to do with work performance, church ministry, or a family member.
I’m sure I could be here all day listing the different scenarios that stir up anxiety in our hearts. But I don’t have to keep listing, because that thing that you are anxious about, it probably came to mind as soon as you read the title of this blog post.
Anxiety is such an upleasant feeling and we know it’s not what God wants for our lives. He repeately tells us in His Word not to worry. So when we are struggling with anxiety what are we missing? How can we get to that place of peace that passes all understanding?
I want to point out one thing today that can at least begin to calm your anxious heart. One strategy you can apply immediately to change your perspective on your troubling situation. But actually it’s better than a strategy, it’s a change of heart and mind that answers the question: What calms an anxious heart?
Don’t be troubled
Jesus often rebuked his disciples by telling them not to be anxious, or not to worry. John chapter 14 continues in that trend when Jesus tells them “Let not your heart be troubled.” The word “troubled” in the original text means to cause an inward commotion or take away calmness of mind (Strongs). The word means to agitate like a storm would agitate the waters below it. Jesus tells them, don’t even go there! Don’t let your hearts be troubled.
I believe this is every bit of comfort as it is a rebuke. Jesus was telling them He was going to have to go away soon and He wanted them to know it would be okay. He goes on to explain why even in the darkest of circumstances they didn’t need to worry. It is this same reasoning that we can calm our anxious hearts with today.
What does Jesus say to comfort his disciples’ troubled hearts? He says “you believe in God, believe also in me.” At first, this might seem like an odd thing to say to comfort people with anxiety. But actually it is the most needed thing for a troubled heart. He was telling them before you guys believed in God, but now, you know Him. You have been with me and walked with me. You know my character. You know how much I care for you and love you. He is urging them to have faith.
Faith is the answer
Whatever circumstance or person is tempting us to be anxious today, at the heart of our anxiety is a lack of faith. Luke chapter 6 encourages anxious people to consider God’s care for the birds, the lilies, and the grass. If He cares for them, won’t He care for you? This chapter calls out worriers as people with “little faith” (verse 30). What about when Jesus calms the storm on the sea of Galilee? The disciples were crossing this body of water when a storm suddenly appeared. They thought they were going to die and were very troubled by the circumstance that they found themselves in. Jesus responds… Hey guys, where is your faith???
Our anxiety is not about what is happening all around us. It’s about what is going on inside of our hearts. The Bible says that our problem with worry and anxiety is actually a faith issue. This is what Jesus so desperately wanted the disciples to grasp and what He wants us to understand today. He knows if we can grasp this fully, it will be of great comfort to us.
When we are filled with anxiety and greatly troubled in our hearts, it’s hard to muster up the kind of faith we think will make us stronger, more peace-filled Christians. The good news is we don’t have to find it somewhere within ourselves. It is based on who God is. Having faith in troubled times means we remember who God is, trust that He is who He says He is, and begin to apply that to our current worrisome situation.
Who is God in our trouble?
Think about one thing you are anxious about today. Your response to that situation or that person says a lot about who you think God is. What do you know about God’s character that might change your perspective? Is your God powerful? Is He kind? Is He a loving Father? Is He in control of your life? Which aspect of God’s character are you not considering as you process your troubling circumstance? Choose a verse to meditate on that describes this particular character of God. Then apply this verse to your thinking throughout the day. Finally, begin to make choices and respond to your circumstance or the people around you in a way that reflects this truth.
One of my very favorite verses is found in Isaiah
You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on you because he trusts in you.Isaiah 26:3
When we take our eyes off the storm in our life and keep our eyes on who we know God is, we will find that place of peace we so long for. Our first step in dealing with our anxiety is to understand that it’s not really about what is going on all around us. It’s not about the outward circumstances that we often have no control over. It has nothing to do with our problems in life but everything to do with our faith.
Not faith in who we are but faith in who we know God is from His Word. Your anxiety will decrease as you learn more and more about His character and apply this knowledge to your troubles. Often we try to manipulate our circumstances or try to get people around us to change in an effort to create a more peaceful environment; however, this isn’t the Bible’s answer for anxiety. Faith is the answer that Jesus gives to calm an anxious heart.
Listen to Him today as He urges you ” Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me.