How to Gain Victory Over Stress, Anxiety and Worry
Stress and anxiety have grown to epidemic proportions in our society. Statistics say that anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S., affecting 40 million adults in the United States age 18 and older (18.1% of U.S. population)1. 65% of Americans lose sleep because of stress while 32% report losing sleep at least one night a week.2 Beyond sleeping disorders, stress contributes to heart disease, high blood pressure, strokes, and other illnesses in many individuals. 3
With all these statistics to reinforce the damaging effects of stress, you need to know that stress is not your friend. In fact, God wants you to live a completely worry-free life. Now I know that sounds absurd or even incredulous. Worry free, is that even possible? Friend, it is not only possible, it is God’s will for your life! The Lord desires for you to be anxious for nothing at all. (Philippians 4:6-7)
If worry, anxiety and stress have crouched in upon your heart and mind and made themselves home, it’s time for you to get serious about kicking them out for good. Worry is an enemy that will rob you of God’s peace, but if you digest and act on the following truths of God’s Word, worry will soon flee.
The Reason We Worry
Underneath nearly every worry, you will find two root causes. The first root cause for worry and stress is the feeling of being overwhelmed (by the number of things we need to do). The second reason we feel stressed is due to a fear concerning the outcome and future of a situation (project, career, relationship etc.).
It is important to first identify the root cause of your anxiety in order to know the appropriate solution. At times, we feel both overwhelmed and fearful of upcoming events, but often times it is only one of the two culprits. The first five truths presented here will set you free from the feelings of being overwhelmed and the last five will help you overcome the fear of the future.
Feeling Overwhelmed? : Know that God cares about you.
At times, the reason for our worry is that we forget, or never have fully understood the depth of God’s care and love for us. Listen to Jesus words concerning the Father’s care for his children.
“Therefore, I tell you, don’t be anxious for your life: what you will eat, or what you will drink; nor yet for your body, what you will wear. Isn’t life more than food, and the body more than clothing? See the birds of the sky, that they don’t sow, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns. Your heavenly Father feeds them. Aren’t you of much more value than they?” Matthew 6:25-26
God truly does care for you, more than the birds, the trees or anything else in all of His creation. Contrary to the world’s opinion, God is not aloof, uninvolved or disinterested in our daily lives. In fact, God was so interested in us that He sent his only Son to live on the earth with us and die for us. (John 3:16) He promises to answer us as we call upon Him. (Psalm 145:18, Jeremiah 33:3) And He even has every hair on our body numbered! (Luke 12:7) God cares about you and wants to practically help you.
Feeling Overwhelmed? : Turn Your Care into a Prayer
Once we acknowledge God’s care for us, we must respond by turning our cares into a prayer. Repeatedly throughout the Scriptures, God instructs us to bring Him all of our heavy burdens and cares. Cast your burden upon the LORD, and he shall sustain you: he shall never permit the righteous to be moved.” (Psalms 55:22)
We can bring our cares to God because He cares for us (1 Peter 5:6-7) and can also give us the rest and peace of mind that we need from Him. (Matthew 11:28, Philippians 4:6, 7) From a practical standpoint, I like to make lists of the things that are concerning me and one by one release them over to the Lord. “Lord, I commit to you this situation concerning my neighbor…”
Feeling Overwhelmed? : Evaluate Your Current Workload
At times the feelings of being overwhelmed are justified. We have taken on too much work. Listen to these words from a Corporate Executive.
I was a workaholic, working 18 hours a day. I frequently skipped meals because, as I thought at the time, being on time for appointments was more important than my health. Two years into that routine and mindset, I found myself in a hospital diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes. While the cause of that disease is complex and unknown, the leading hypothesis for my case was that excessive stress had put my body’s immune system on overdrive, and triggered an antibody response against the islet cells in my pancreas.
When we try to take on the world, we do it at the expense of our own health and livelihood. Take some time and write down all the things you are involved in and one by one, asking the Lord, “Is this something you want me to be doing?”
Sometimes the sense of being overwhelmed is no more than a feeling and false perception. I remember the story of a teacher I had who told of being stressed before his wedding. He went to his Father and said, “Dad, I have a million things to do before this wedding.” “A million?” The Father inquired, tell me all you have to do. After listing five things, this nervous young man couldn’t think of anything else on his “to-do” list. He then realized that his feelings of being overwhelmed weren’t rational and his workload was manageable.
Feeling Overwhelmed? : Delegate Responsibility
At times the feelings of being overwhelmed are justified and we really are responsible for multiple tasks. At that point, we need to consider delegating to other responsible people. Consider the Trinity for a moment and how the Father, Son and Holy Spirit all work together taking on different roles and responsibilities. It’s a marvelous example of team work!
Or take Moses for an example. He was trying to play the role of judge over all the people’s disputes. When his wise father-in-law Jethro caught wind of what he was doing, he counseled him to teach the statutes and laws to other trustworthy men and then delegate his responsibilities giving each person the authority to rule over a designated number of people. (Exodus 18:17-21) Jethro taught his son-in-law a great lesson in delegation and literally saved Moses from a near pending burnout.
Feeling Overwhelmed? : Consider the Positive Results of Stress
Finally, if you are feeling overwhelmed, you need to consider the positive results of stress on your life. A healthy level of stress allows us to grow as individuals. When we feel the challenge of meeting a pending goal or taking on an enormous task, it allows us to learn how to depend on God more, to trust Him, to pray to Him and to grow as a mature individual taking on greater responsibility.
“Count it all joy, my brothers , when you fall into various temptations, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. Let endurance have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” (James 1:2) Realize that with every test you face, God wants to build your faith and character.
Fearing the Future: Live for the day and not in the future.
Maybe it’s not the number of items you need to do, but a future event that has you worried – an upcoming court date, a wedding, a big day at work. I am learning that God’s grace is dispensed on a daily basis. When we try to live for tomorrow, we have no grace to support our anxieties. (2 Corinthians 9:8)
Consider again the teachings of Jesus. “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (Matthew 6:34) Try to picture your life between bookends. Place one bookend at the start of your day and one at the end of your day, then live between the two. If you focus on what you can do today, you can remain in God’s peace and provision.
Fearing the Future: Recognize the Futility of Worry
Ask yourself, “When was the last time worry did something for me?”
Worry has never paid the bills. Worry has never got you to work on time. Worry has never watched over your children. Worry has never found you a job. Worry has never met a deadline. Friend, worry is notoriously worthless!
“Which of you, by being anxious, can add one moment to his lifespan? (Matthew 6:27) Worry will not add anything to your life. Worry is a spiritual cancer that will only rob you of peace, health, joy.
Fearing the Future: Do what is in your power to do today.
In the late 1980s, the song “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” was a great success reaching number one on the Billboard Hot 100. 4 But I think a better title for the song would have been, “Don’t Worry, Get Busy”. It’s good not to worry, but it’s better to proactively do something about the things that worry you.
Taking action and doing whatever is in your power to help a situation is not only good advice, it’s your duty. “To him therefore who knows to do good, and doesn’t do it, to him it is sin.” (James 4:17) We must understand what is in our control and power to change and then do that very thing. “Don’t withhold good from those to whom it is due, When it is in the power of your hand to do it.” (Proverbs 3:27) The world needs us as believers to do good in the world, to be active and to exercise our faith.
Fearing the Future: Do what is in your power to do today.
While we can’t control the future, we can plan for it. Diligent planning is a godly trait that should not be forsaken. “The plans of the diligent make rich.” (Proverbs 21:5) Many of God’s great men, followed detailed plans to accomplish their goals. Consider Noah and the Ark, Solomon and the Temple and the plans of the Apostle Paul with each missionary journey.
While planning is good, being presumptuous is not. We need to be careful not to bank on tomorrow knowing that our lives are but a fleeting mist and seek God’s will above our own agenda. (James 4:13-16) “A man’s heart plans his way: but the LORD directs his steps.” (Proverbs 16:9)
Fearing the Future: Trust God with your life & situation
When we have diligently done our part to pray, live for today and do what’s in our control, we must trust God to do his part and work on our behalf.
Trust in the LORD, and do good; so shall you dwell in the land, and verily you shall be fed. Delight yourself also in the LORD; and he shall give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way unto the LORD; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass. (Psalms 37:3-5)
Trusting in God and relying on His promises will give you greater peace, joy and direction for your life. (Romans 15:13, Proverbs 3:5,6) If today, you need to entrust your life into God’s hands, for the first time or again in surrender, I invite you to pray this prayer below:
Father God, I put my trust in You. I give over to you all my cares, worries, doubts and anxieties (Name anything specific you need to hand over) I surrender my control over the outcome of these situations and ask for You to work on my behalf. Empower me now, by Your Spirit to know and do my part, to represent you well and to be diligent. Give me the strength, the wisdom and the focus to accomplish all You have put before me. Forgive me Lord, for trying to do it on my own or take on more than is my responsibility. I entrust my entire future to You, Amen.
If you enjoyed it, you may also enjoy, my book Born to Grow, or one of this article:
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