When Anxiety Attacks

By Danielle Erwin

Anxious: full of mental distress or uneasiness because of fear of danger or misfortune; earnestly desirous or eager.

I know I’ve read Philippians 4:6 at least a thousand times before; “Be anxious for nothing; but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” It wasn’t until recently, when I was going through a situation at work and felt anxiety setting in, that I sought to really study and understand this scripture.

The situation causing the anxiety was a negative one; I was unsure of what the outcome would be and worried about a thousand different things that could go wrong. Now, it wasn’t a very significant situation, but it was enough to cause anxiety.  For at least three days I was on edge; I was short-tempered, fidgeting all the time, and staying up later than usual - just letting my mind wander. I would wake up early and pray about the situation. Each morning, my prayer would sound something like “Lord I just lay this situation at your feet…let your will be done…” I would get off my face before the Lord…and the anxiety was still there. What was I doing wrong?

As I really began to study Philippians 4:6 I learned a few things about anxiety:

Anxiety can be caused by something negative. Ok, so this isn’t exactly breaking news. Nine times out of ten, when someone mentions anxiety we automatically think of something negative. My background in psychology tells me that anxiety is normal. It helps us to focus and weigh consequences and yada, yada, yada.

Look again at the definition of anxiety at the beginning of this post. “Full of mental distress or uneasiness…” I don’t know about you, but there is nothing appealing or normal about being full of mental distress! The world tells us that anxiety is there to protect us, to warn us and by definition to fill us. But the Word of God tells us to be filled with the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is designed to protect us and to warn us, not anxiety.
Anxiety can be caused by something positive. The second part of the definition of anxiety tells us that anxiety also means being earnestly desirous or eager. I love a good definition so in reading this, I had to look up the words earnest and eager.

Earnest: marked by or showing deep sincerity or seriousness; of an important or weighty nature; grave.
Eager: impatient expectancy.

What do you desire earnestly? What are you eager for? What next phase or blessing or event are you anticipating so much that without even realizing it, you’ve become anxious about it?

Is it marriage?

Having children?

Buying a new car?

Graduating college?

Getting that promotion?

Hear me; there is nothing wrong with looking forward to the future.  However, when we are so focused on the future that we ignore our current season…when we become so eager and earnestly desirous for our next, that we ignore our now…that’s anxiety friends.

Anxiety, whether it is caused by something negative or something positive, is a trap. When anxiety sets in we are no longer focused on the task at hand. If we’re anxious over something negative, we can’t focus or think straight. Our minds are leading us down a slippery path that gets steeper the more we dwell on the situation. If we’re anxious over something positive, we ignore our current blessings. We miss opportunities to grow in our current season and become discontent with what we have; where we are and who are we. We develop a case of the “gimmes” and begin telling God, “gimme my blessing now, I’ve waited long enough.”

Anxiety, be it positive or negative, is a trap. It is designed to attack our faith in God. Anxiety is our way of telling God that we don’t trust Him. By being anxious, we are telling God our situation is bigger than Him. By being anxious, we are telling God that His timing is not perfect.

Philippians 4:6 urges us to be anxious for nothing but to bring our requests to God in thanksgiving. Ever looked up the definition of thanksgiving? Thanksgiving means an expression of gratitude. When you feel anxiety settling in, stop everything. Go to God in prayer and most importantly in gratitude. What are you grateful for? Be grateful that you serve a God who fights your battles (2 Chronicles 20:15), be grateful that you serve a God whose timing is perfect (Isaiah 55:9).

I’ve been asking myself this question daily for the past few days and I’ll ask it of you too; do you trust God enough to trust Him?