When we are in anxiety inducing circumstances, we should figure out what we need and take those needs to God in prayer. Figuring out what we need is our responsibility; God will not do the figuring for us. He will not do for us what we can and should do for ourselves. Of course, our Father already knows what we need before we ask Him (Matt. 6:32), but figuring out what our needs are and bringing those needs to Him in prayer are expressions of our trust in Him.
“Okay, I agree that it is our responsibility to figure out what we need from God in worrisome situations, but what does this look like? Do you have a practical way of doing this?” you ask. Yes. Here are some practical steps.
First, in worrisome situations, read passages of Scripture such as Matt. 6:25-34 and Phil. 4:6-7. These texts highlight the futility of worry and offer us a biblical alternative to anxiety. You have permission take your time as you read these texts. So much of our lives today are rush, rush, rush, rush, rush. We are so rushed that the very thought of slowing down for contemplative reading of the Bible makes us feel guilty. But in spite of our unfounded feeling of guilt in this regard, the Scripture is true: “There is a time for every event under heaven (Ecc 3:1).” Slowing down for reflective reading of Scripture is one of those times.
The effort to slow down and still the heart will be a major battle for some of us, but it’s a necessary battle, and by the grace of God, one that we can win. So, slow down your mental pace, still the waters of your heart (Ps. 46:10), and allow God’s words to sink deeply into your soul.
Second, in worrisome situations, in connection with your reflective reading of Scripture, journal about your anxiety-inducing circumstances. I am a firm believer that writing helps us think. Journaling is a form of writing and a wonderful devotional way for us as Christians to think ourselves clear before the Lord, and to bring order out of our chaotic and worrisome thinking.
Write a short narrative of the anxiety-inducing situation. Write down what you thought, how you felt, how you reacted, and how you are reacting. Question and answer yourself. Am I losing sleep at night? Am I sleeping too much? Am I using unhealthy coping mechanisms such as busyness, absorption in social media, self-medication, or something or someone else as a means of flight from personal responsibility? Am I fearful? If so, what am I afraid of and why? Journaling about these matters will help you become self-aware and clarify the nature of the problem.
Make sure you zoom in on your thoughts. Ask yourself questions about your thought process. For example, you may ask questions like, “Is my thinking biblical? Do I need to think differently in light of Scripture? What is the biblical thinking that needs to replace my faculty thinking?”
After your journaling of the experience, you should have a better, clearer, and more precise understanding of the cause of your worry. Journaling in the midst of anxiety also lays the foundation for us to develop specific and detailed requests. Journaling is one way to figure out what we need from our heavenly Father.
Third, in worrisome situations, in connection with your reflective reading of Scripture and clarification of what your concerns are, write down what you need from God. You may need grace, strength, wisdom, power, courage, fortitude, and dare I say it, patience. Be specific and detailed. Then, take your detailed and specific request to the Lord in prayer.
Fourth, after prayer, as you go about your daily life and carry out your responsibilities, wait and see what the Lord does. He may grant your request. He may not grant it. He may say, “wait a while.” He will answer in a way that He deems fit, and He promises to give us peace in all situations.
If, however, your request is not granted, journal about your response to heaven’s ‘NO.’ Be honest before the Lord. Remember, the Psalms teach us to be honest with God. Are you disappointed with Jesus? Are you angry with heaven? How are you working through your disappointment and anger? What lessons are you learning? Are you growing? If not, why not?
Remember, when God says “NO,” He always has an infinitely better plan, his purpose being better and wiser than our request. In these circumstances let the Lord’s words be a source of courage to you: “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness” (2 Cor. 12:9).
Dr. Winfred Neely a professor of hermeneutics, homiletics, and pastoral studies at Moody Bible Institute, Senior Pastor of Judson Baptist Church in Oak Park, IL, and the Author of How to Overcome Worry (April 2017).