6 STEPS TO REST AN ANXIOUS MIND
Dr. Randy Carlson
I have read Paul’s words, “Be anxious for nothing” many times (Philippians 4:6). That means when something happens that we didn’t expect in our health, we’re not to be anxious about it. When there’s been a reversal in a relationship, we’re not to be anxious about it.
That’s a troubling verse, because the reality is, researchers report 40 percent of Americans say they have more anxiety today than they did a year ago. Some people wrestle with unexpected panic attacks, heart palpitations, sweating, trembling, shaking, shortness of breath, feelings of impending doom and feelings of being out of control. When I was in my thirties, out of the blue, I started having panic attacks. I didn’t have symptoms when I was working. It occurred when I tried to rest my mind.
As Christians, we need to make sure we are practicing these six steps to resting an anxious mind, but you may also need to seek professional help. Don’t feel like you are less spiritual than you ought to be. Some of the great giants of scripture wrestled with mental illness issues. We live in a fallen world, a broken world and the stresses that we face today are very real.
We should all be practicing these six steps in our lives, if we have anxiety or not.
- Let it go.
1Peter 5:7 says, “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” Casting literally means to throw it or to drop it. It means to simply take whatever it is you’re carrying and leave it.
A good picture of this is going into the grocery store. The other day, I was there to pick up some things for home, and I didn’t get a shopping cart. I thought, I’m just getting a few things. I got milk, eggs and paper towels – just walking along picking up things, and I realize I really needed a cart. If you’ve ever done that, you’ve got all this stuff in your arms and you begin to feel the tension in your muscles as you’re trying to hang onto it. You get to the conveyer belt and release it all, and that tension in your arms immediately releases.
That’s what happens to us with the worries and anxieties in our life. When we finally drop it, it’s no longer our responsibility. The key is to know the difference between the things we should drop and the things we need to hang onto. So, the first step is to let it go.
- Activate your spiritual life.
Paul gives us the solution in Philippians 4:6, “Don’t be anxious for anything, but in everything” – in your finances, health, relationship, work – “by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.” Paul says these three things are the way to treat feelings of anxiety in your life.
Something happens when we pray to God and say, “Father, I am really anxious about this.” And use the word, anxious. Take it to the Lord on a regular basis and admit to Him “I just can’t handle this myself. I need you.” Something happens when we pray that’s not only spiritual, but also psychological and emotional, as well. Supplication means I need you. It’s asking boldly, “God, would you please take this anxiety I’m feeling from me.” And Paul says, “Do this in a thankful heart.”
- Just breathe.
If you see a professional about anxiety, one of the things they are going to teach you is to breathe. Breathing exercises are a part of good health, reducing anxiety and blood pressure. When people wrestle with great levels of anxiety, we breathe shallower. We’re not breathing as deeply as we should. There’s something relaxing about being able to breathe deeply when we’re feeling anxiety.
This is something I wrestle with in my life. I’m a high control person. I like to know what’s going on. This message is to help me, and I believe it will help you as we learn these things together.
We have looked at the first three steps that the Apostle Paul outlined in Philippians 4:6: “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God” (NKJV).
Number four on our list of how to rest an anxious mind is a few verses up from that. Paul is writing to us from prison and he’s talking about rejoicing …
- Rejoice in the Lord always. Again, I will say, rejoice (Philippians 4:4 NKJV).
But what is he encouraging us to rejoice in? He’s not to rejoice and celebrate my anxiety. Many times, we confuse rejoicing in the Lord with rejoicing in the junk that’s going on in our lives. I’m just going to rejoice in this pain. I don’t want to rejoice in the cancer diagnosis.
No, it comes back to the focus that we have – being able to rejoice in God no matter what we are facing at any particular moment. Not rejoicing in our worry, our fears or our problems, but rejoicing in the Lord, which is a daily commitment.
- Change your focus.
Jesus said, in Luke 12:29-31, “And do not seek what you should eat or what you should drink, nor have an anxious mind. For all these things the nations of the world seek after, and your Father knows that you need these things. But seek the kingdom of God, and all these things shall be added to you” (NKJV). We’re to seek the kingdom of God. We’re to focus on Christ’s reign. When we focus on the fact that He rules and reigns in the universe, it puts us into our own little perspective, doesn’t it?
- Meditate intentionally.
Meditate means to contemplate, ponder, think and consider. If you’re dealing with an anxious mind, meditate on the right things. Again, we have more wisdom from Paul. He says, “Finally, Brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue, if there is anything praiseworthy, meditate on these things” (Philippians 4:8).
Our meditation is to be on God, to be on scripture, to be on His love for us intentionally. After all of these things, if we have this restless mind, and we do these things, scripture promises – And then we will experience God’s peace (Philippians 4:9). I’ve learned when we do these things every day intentionally, they truly make a difference in our lives. Paul’s instruction comes with a promise – then the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:7).