We've all been there. You can probably remember a time when you felt the overwhelming symptoms of worry take over your body. Your heart starts racing. Your skin becomes flushed or pale. You may even have trouble keeping your body from trembling. At that moment you have a choice. You can give in to that worry and flee the threat, or you can choose to stand and fight. You may have heard this called “fight or flight.” When something causes you acute stress or anxiety, a physiologic response is triggered in your body, and hormones prepare you to either stay and deal with this stressor or run and flee from it.
We all experience times where we get sudden news that knocks the wind out of us. Perhaps a diagnosis we didn’t see coming derails us, circumstances out of our control devastate us, or we are falsely accused of something. Whatever may come that threatens to instill worry, anxiety, or fear, forces you to choose how you will deal with that threat. I am thankful that we are not left to figure out how to navigate these times of worry on our own. The Bible gives us instructions. Philippians 4:6-7 says, "Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
In this passage of scripture, Jesus clearly instructs what to do when faced with anxiety. Our first defense is prayer. Often, we resort to meltdowns, hysteria, or running to another person to process what has happened, when Jesus is directing us to run to Him first. Immediately turning our attention to Jesus allows us to step outside of how a situation is affecting us personally and allows us to view it from a different perspective. We know that all things work together for good, and so we approach Jesus first to center us in the crisis. I believe this is the first step a Christian can make in choosing to stay and fight worry instead of running from it.
Jesus then goes a step further and asks us to approach Him with thanksgiving. Approaching our difficulties in life from a heart of gratitude changes how we view things. It sounds so cliché, but we do have much for which we can be thankful. When we approach the Lord with a grateful heart, even thanking Him for how He wants to grow and change us in the difficult seasons, our minds are opened to view our worry and circumstances through an entirely different lens. When we are grateful for the struggle, we are open to being changed, transformed, and come out better on the other side of it.
After approaching prayer from a heart of gratitude, we can then let our petitions and concerns be made known. We have a God that wants us to run to Him. Jesus wants us to find security in approaching Him with what concerns us, hurts us, and grieves us. He knows that running to our best friend, or our spouse, or even our pillow to shed a thousand tears is not our best first response. We need the Holy Spirit as a comforter and a guide in our times of need.
Not only are we told how to combat anxiety, but we are given a promise - peace to guard our hearts and minds. Storms of life will come. If we want to get to the other side of them, we must go through them to grow. The Lord knew our path through the storm wouldn’t be an easy one, so He made peace available to us. This peace protects our hearts when they feel broken in a million pieces and our minds when we feel like we are losing it.
The Anxiety and Depression Association of America states that about 23% of women suffer from anxiety. Worry and anxiety is a real battle for women today. There are instances where medical counsel is needed in addition to prayer to fight your stress. You are no less of a person, and nothing is wrong with you if you need to seek professional help with this issue. But we all can start with this scripture in Philippians to combat the worry and anxiety that weighs us down. We are more than conquerors through Christ. He is on our side, so let us run to Him and allow Him to help us in the fight.