From everyday worries to persistent fears, anxiety is a daily struggle for many of us. In fact, anxiety disorders are the most common types of mental illness in the U.S., affecting 18% of the population, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America.
While the medical community laudably strives to provide solutions for those who are suffering from anxiety, God has provided a different kind of healing.
Photo credit: ©Getty Images/tadamichi
It Is Well with My Soul
I’d only had my driver’s license for a few months when I visited my friend in the pediatric psychiatry ward at the hospital. There were several other families spending time with their sick kids in the visiting room. I really didn’t know what to say, so I wandered to the piano in the corner of the room. My friend and I had sung together countless times, everything from country songs to worship choruses.
One of our favorites was the hymn, “It is Well with my Soul,” because you can easily sing harmonies in the chorus. As we sang, the truth of the lyrics stood up strong in contrast with our surroundings. There we were, in a psych ward, singing of the peace of Christ. We declared, “It is Well with my Soul” in the face of rampant mental illness.
God is a healer, and he is able to bring wholeness to our minds, bodies, and emotions like no other. However, the peace of Christ runs deeper even than our mental health, our sense of emotional peace, or the physiological responses that so potently influence our lives.
Photo credit: Unsplash/Corinne Kutz
The Peace of Christ - Deeper Than Tylenol
Often, we are looking for peace in the moment. We want to be placid and cheerful no matter the circumstance. We want command over our emotions, we want to think clearly even when we’re afraid or insecure. So, we ask God to be our peace, hoping he will work like Tylenol works to help a headache.
But our need for peace is so much deeper than this. We were born to dwell in the perfect love of the Father, never growing up and moving out, but learning to walk and work alongside him. Instead, evil — both with and without our permission — has blackened our hearts and severed our ties with the Father.
We need peace in our relationship with God. Peace binds two severed things together. Consider this passage:
“But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace” (Ephesians 2:13-14).
The word “peace” in this passage comes from the Greek for “to join.” Peace is the tranquility that arises from the pieces being put back together. The context of this passage is bringing two ethnic groups together who are both following Christ. The author’s point is that the peace — the joining — of believers to God in Christ runs deeper than ethnicity, culture, or anything else.
Photo credit: Unsplash/Pawel Czerwinski
What Does the Peace of Christ Look Like?
Have you heard the story of the two armies entrenched against one another on Christmas Eve during World War I? As snow fell over the land, the firing ceased and the soldiers on both sides reflected on the sanctity of one of their holiest days. The soldiers began to sing “Silent Night” in their respective languages.
It was no doubt a beautiful moment. But this is not the essence of the peace that Christ brings. The peace of Christ working in that moment would seek to mend the rift between the armies, so they could no more fire at each other than they could shoot at their own family members. The peace of Christ is dissolving the greed, fear, and striving that fuels earthly warfare.
My point is not that sweet moments of reprieve are pointless. But they are the icing on the cake. If all we eat is icing, we’re missing the richness of the life God wants for us.
You may have come to this article hoping to learn some new “Tylenol” tricks for conquering your daily anxieties. But first, I urge you to look to the peacemaking that Christ has been working in your life. He wants more for you than to sail through life unperturbed by the big and little disturbances; he wants you to draw near to the Father.
By absorbing the poison of all evil for all time, the Son of God made a new law: Anyone who wants to rejoin God’s family can do so, free of charge. God has always been completely accessible and willing to dwell with us, but we have been covered with evil that keeps us from seeing, understanding or entering into his presence. So, he came to us and defeated that evil.
At the root of every anxiety, fear, or insecurity is the need for the nearness of the Father. David said to God, “the nearness of God is my good” (Psalm 73:28). If you are not yet reunited with God, that is your first step. He has come all the way to your house and is knocking on your door.
Photo credit: ©Getty Images/monkeybusinessimages
Anxiety as an Indicator Light
Learning tips and tricks for beating stress will not soothe your spirit long-term. For example, when you are fearful of a friend’s reaction to a confrontation, what you need is to remember that you are currently dwelling with God. Even though you might botch this conversation, or your friend might say something hurtful, you are secure in your relationship with your Father.
Perfect love drives out fear. Is not fear at the root of anxiety? When you are feeling anxious, consider it a chance to renew your mind in the truth. It’s like the indicator lights in your car: you need to refuel, or change the oil, or add air to your tires.
Sometimes Christians imagine maturity to look like peaceful feelings all the time. But that’s not the model Jesus presented to us. He had moments of explosive anger, seasons of brooding sadness, and long nights of anguish. These emotions grew out of his inseparable relationship with God. And he certainly knew what it was like to be tired to the bone.
There is good anger. There is godly grief. There are times when fatigue is the result of a day well lived.
Before you ask God to make your negative emotions go away, ask why you’re having them. Why, as Shelby Lorman writes, is anxiety more prevalent among those in affluent nations? Maybe because we expect that our wealth ought to enable a pain-free life. When we experience perturbance, we sometimes wrongly label it anxiety.
Our anxiety is sometimes a symptom of broken relationships, placated selfishness, or misplaced goals. When you feel anxious, look a layer or two below. Are you tense because you’re desperate to please someone? Is your mind filled with worries about getting what you want? Are you fearful of losing the control that you’re suddenly finding is fragile and thin?
Photo credit: ©Getty Images/baloon111
A Few Caveats...
These principles we’ve been discussing are most relevant to the persistent anxieties that you find influencing your life. Looking under the surface of these ongoing sources of stress and fear is needed for long-term resolution.
But it’s not always practical to halt everything for deep introspection. If you’re en route to a stressful situation, you can simply “cast your anxiety on him, because he cares for you.” This might look like:
- Turning off the car radio and talking to God about how you’re feeling
- Taking a 10-minute walk and talking with God instead of scanning social media or eating to escape your feelings
- Reminding yourself that God cares about your situation as much as you do
At my new church, we end our services with a strange little habit: Raising our hands toward the cross on the wall, we say,
“All our problems, we send to the cross of Christ.
All our difficulties, we send to the cross of Christ.
All the devil’s works, we send to the cross of Christ.
All our hopes, we set on the risen Christ.”
I often catch myself repeating one of these phrases when I’m worried about something. It’s not a magical cure, but it’s a turning toward Christ in my need.
Another caveat: your brain controls your body. Sometimes our brains don’t function like they should. Especially if you’re among the 18% who have a disorder (and sometimes for those without a disorder) you may find that in spite of all your faith, your brain acts anxious. It may send signals to increase your heart rate and tense your muscles. Fearful thoughts may sometimes stubbornly parade through your mind. The presence of these symptoms does not necessarily indicate that you are not dwelling with God.
It’s often useful to seek out prayer for healing and professional medical care if your brain is not cooperating when you take reasonable steps to find peace.
While you are seeking healing, think of these symptoms like hunger pains. Even though we fill up with Christ, we still hunger for more and more. Even though we are in unity with the Father, we still cry out for him. One day, we’ll sing “It is Well with my Soul” and nothing around us will stand in defiance to that peace.
“Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings. And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen” (1 Peter 5:6-11).
Photo credit: Unsplash/Elijah Hiett
Allie Boman is a wife, mom, follower of Jesus and freelance writer in the Chicago area. She served for fifteen years with Chi Alpha Christian Fellowship and studied classical piano in college. She loves to cook ethnic food and explore new places with her family. Her personal blog is QuickReads.blog. She’d love to connect with you!