Do Not Be Overcome by Anxiety
“NEVER be anxious about the next day, for the next day will have its own anxieties. Sufficient for each day is its own badness.” (Matthew 6:34) That counsel given by Jesus Christ certainly is practical for all of us living in today’s fast-paced and stressful society.
Realistically, though, is it possible for us not to be anxious about our problems, decisions, obligations, and responsibilities? Millions of people feel depressed, distressed, and burdened. That is why tranquilizers and sedatives are a multimillion-dollar business.
Where to Draw the Line
We need to plan and prepare for our obligations, assignments, decisions, and problems—be they urgent or otherwise. The Bible encourages us to “sit down and calculate the expense” before embarking on any major undertaking. (Luke 14:28-30) This includes weighing the available choices, analyzing the possible effects of the outcome, and assessing the cost in terms of time, energy, and money.
While one should carefully consider what is likely to occur, it is not possible or constructive to try to think of every eventuality. For example, in the interests of family safety, you might consider what to do in case of a fire in your home. You might purchase and install smoke detectors and fire extinguishers. You might plan and rehearse escape routes from different parts of the house. But when does sensible, practical planning end and excessive, unwarranted anxiety begin? Such anxiety begins when you start to agonize over an endless number of hypothetical situations, many of which may be the product of a fertile imagination. Disquieting thoughts may overtake you, convincing you that you must have overlooked something or that you have not done enough to protect your family. This self-inflicted anguish can weigh so heavily on your mind that you may lose sleep over it.
Moses Before Pharaoh
Jehovah God gave his prophet Moses a difficult assignment. First, Moses had to appear before the Israelites and convince them that Jehovah had appointed him to lead them out of Egypt. Next, Moses had to appear before Pharaoh and request that he let the Israelites go. Finally, Moses had to lead a throng numbering in the millions through the wilderness into a land occupied by hostile people. (Exodus 3:1-10) All of this could have been most intimidating, but did Moses allow this responsibility to fill his mind with undue anxiety?
Obviously, Moses was concerned about a number of issues. He asked Jehovah: “Suppose I am now come to the sons of Israel and I do say to them, ‘The God of your forefathers has sent me to you,’ and they do say to me, ‘What is his name?’ What shall I say to them?” Jehovah gave him the answer. (Exodus 3:13, 14) Moses was also concerned about what might happen if Pharaoh refused to believe him. Again, Jehovah answered the prophet. One final problem—Moses admitted that he was “not a fluent speaker.” How could this be remedied? Jehovah provided Aaron to speak for Moses.—Exodus 4:1-5, 10-16.
Prepared with answers to his questions and having faith in God, Moses proceeded to do as Jehovah had commanded. Rather than torture himself with frightening thoughts of what might happen when he confronted Pharaoh, Moses “did just so.” (Exodus 7:6) If he had allowed anxieties to take over, these could well have weakened the faith and boldness needed to carry out his assignment.
Moses’ balanced way of tackling his assignment is an example of what the apostle Paul called “soundness of mind.” (2 Timothy 1:7; Titus 2:2-6) If Moses had not exercised soundness of mind, he could easily have become so overwhelmed by the enormity of his assignment that he would probably not have accepted it.
Taking Control of Your Thoughts
How do you react when in your daily life you are confronted with tests of your faith or with trials? Do you tend to become panicky just thinking of the obstacles and challenges looming ahead? Or do you view them in a balanced way? As some would say, ‘Do not cross the bridge until you come to it.’ There may be no need to cross that imaginary bridge after all! So why be tormented by something that may never occur? The Bible says: “Anxious care in the heart of a man is what will cause it to bow down.” (Proverbs 12:25) The result often is that one will procrastinate in making a decision, putting things off until it is too late.
Far more serious is the spiritual harm that undue anxiety may cause. Jesus Christ indicated that appreciation for “the word of the kingdom” can be completely choked out by the deceptive power of wealth and “the anxiety of this system of things.” (Matthew 13:19, 22) Just as thorns can prevent seedlings from reaching maturity and bearing fruit, so uncontrolled anxiety can prevent us from making spiritual advancement and bearing fruit to God’s praise. Self-inflicted, destructive anguish has even kept some from dedicating themselves to Jehovah. They worry, ‘What if I do not live up to my dedication?’
The apostle Paul told us that in our spiritual warfare, we are endeavoring to bring “every thought into captivity to make it obedient to the Christ.” (2 Corinthians 10:5) Our archenemy, Satan the Devil, would be very pleased to capitalize on our worries in order to discourage us and to weaken us physically, emotionally, and spiritually. He is a master at using doubts to trap the unwary. That is why Paul also warned Christians not to “allow place for the Devil.” (Ephesians 4:27) As “the god of this system of things,” Satan has successfully “blinded the minds of the unbelievers.” (2 Corinthians 4:4) May we never allow him to control our minds!
Help Is Available
When facing problems a child can go to a loving father and receive direction and comfort. Similarly, we can go to our heavenly Father, Jehovah, with our problems. In fact, Jehovah invites us to throw our burdens and anxieties upon him. (Psalm 55:22) Like a child who no longer worries about his problems after he has received assurances from his father, we should not only throw our burdens upon Jehovah but also leave them with him.—James 1:6.
How do we throw our anxieties upon Jehovah? Philippians 4:6, 7 answers: “Do not be anxious over anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication along with thanksgiving let your petitions be made known to God; and the peace of God that excels all thought will guard your hearts and your mental powers by means of Christ Jesus.” Yes, in response to our persistent prayers and supplications, Jehovah can give us an inner calm that protects our minds from being disturbed by unnecessary anxieties.—Jeremiah 17:7, 8; Matthew 6:25-34.
To work in harmony with our prayers, though, we should not isolate ourselves either physically or mentally. (Proverbs 18:1) Rather, we would do well to consider Bible principles and directions that touch on our problem, thus avoiding reliance upon our own understanding. (Proverbs 3:5, 6) Young and old alike can turn to the Bible and Watch Tower publications for a wealth of information on making decisions and dealing with problems. Additionally, in the Christian congregation, we are blessed with wise and experienced elders and other mature Christians who are always willing to talk to us. (Proverbs 11:14; 15:22) Those who are not emotionally involved and who have God’s mind on a matter can often help us to look at our problems from a different perspective. And while they will not make decisions for us, they can be a great source of encouragement and support.
“Wait for God”
No one can deny that there is enough stress in dealing with our real problems each day without adding to them by worrying about imaginary ones. If anxiety over what might happen makes us feel apprehensive and uneasy, then let us turn to Jehovah in prayer and supplication. Look to his Word and organization for direction, wisdom, and soundness of mind. We will find that whatever circumstance may arise, there is help available to deal with it.
Feeling heavy of heart and agitated, the psalmist sang: “Why are you in despair, O my soul, and why are you boisterous within me? Wait for God, for I shall yet laud him as the grand salvation of my person and as my God.” (Psalm 42:11) Let those be our sentiments.
Yes, plan for what can reasonably be expected, and leave the unexpected to Jehovah. “Throw all your anxiety upon him, because he cares for you.”—1 Peter 5:7.
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Do you, like David, throw your burdens and anxieties on Jehovah?