The only lasting cure for anxiety


I’ve gotten a lot of advice over the years about how to deal with anxiety and worry. On the advice of an older Christian (one who probably had a bit too much prosperity in his gospel) Emily and I once had a “worry box.” What we were encouraged to do with it was write down whatever it was that we were worried about and put it in the box to symbolically represent “giving it God.” Any time we were tempted to worry about such-and-such a thing, we were to point to the box, and thus we were not allowed to worry about it.

Now, maybe some people find things like that helpful, but… Yeah, that didn’t go so well for us.

The challenge of the box was it was just your garden variety white-knuckle religiosity. It was an attempt to use human effort to address the sign of a problem rather than addressing the real issue itself—that proneness we all feel to wander from God. So we run to ideas like this, and we rebuke people for not having faith, rather than encouraging them to pray as we should: “Lord, I believe—help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24)

Reflecting on Philippians 4:6-7, and Paul’s encouragement to be anxious over nothing, Charles Spurgeon wrote:

Carry your desires to the Lord of your life, the guardian of your soul. Go to Him with two portions of prayer and one of fragrant praise. Do not pray doubtfully but thankfully. Consider that you have your petitions, and therefore thank God for His grace. He is giving you grace; give Him thanks. Hide nothing. Allow no want to lie rankling in your bosom; “make known your requests.” Run not to man. Go only to your God, the Father of Jesus, who loves you in Him.

This shall bring you God’s own peace. You shall not be able to understand the peace which you shall enjoy. It will enfold you in its infinite embrace. Heart and mind through Christ Jesus shall be steeped in a sea of rest. Come life or death, poverty, pain, slander, you shall dwell in Jesus above every rolling wind or darkening cloud. Will you not obey this dear command?

Yes, Lord, I do believe thee; but, I beseech thee, help mine unbelief.[1. From Faith’s Checkbook]

The key to dealing with worry—the only lasting cure for anxiety—comes from bringing the reality of your anxiety before God. Not that he doesn’t already know it, but because in doing so, you are echoing that prayer, “I believe, help my unbelief.” It is an act of obedience, trusting the Lord will do as he has promised—not simply to provide for the needs of the day, but that when we lay our burdens before him, he will indeed give all who are weary and heavy-laden rest (Matthew 11:28).

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