Wait! How did Christmas get in there? Slow down brain, you’re going too far too fast. Let’s get through Thanksgiving first.
Fold the cloth napkins. Display the Thanksgiving decorations. Didn’t we buy a new tablecloth last year? Who did you say is coming? Where will they sleep? Borrow an air mattress. Research activities for children. Check Black Friday sales.
Wait! You did it again; you jumped right over Thanksgiving. Ugh! Can’t you slow down just once?
Oh no, here they come – right on schedule – the most dreaded visitors: Stress and her ugly sister, Anxiety, and all their little offspring: headache, frustration, anger, harsh words, regret, fear, envy, jealousy, inferiority, and tears. Lots and lots of tears.
Does this sound familiar? Does it describe you this time of year? Is it too late to bolt the doors against both stress and anxiety? I don’t have room on my calendar to schedule all of their activities and I’m sure you don’t either. They take up too much space in our hearts, our minds, and our bodies when we let them in, so why do we?
Well, it’s almost impossible to keep stress away because sometimes stress is good, it’s the natural response to a threat. But, what is threatening about the holidays? Are we afraid of failure? Of looking bad? Of spending too much? Of not having enough? Of what others will say or think? When we let stress in to stay, anxiety is fast on her heels.
Anxiety is different from stress. Stress comes from something external; anxiety is the internal reaction to stress. Anxiety can paralyze us, overrule our rational thinking, create unsettledness, and leave deep scars. It can come and go in a moment, or it can linger for days, weeks, months, or years. Anxiety is a devastating visitor because worry, panic, depression, and loneliness are often packed in her suitcase.
We know there will always be things, people, or events that bring stress; things that are disquieting. However, we have a choice whether we react to stress with anxiety. That may be a novel thought to some of us – we don’t have to allow anxiety in.
Anxiety is the result of thinking that we are left alone to deal with the stressful things in life. But we are not. God promises us that he will never leave us alone, and that he is always working for our good (Romans 8:28). There is nothing that we need to be afraid of, because there is nothing in life that is bigger than our God.
If that promise is too hard to believe, then you will probably suffer from anxiety. Anxiety grows from a root of fear that is nourished by unbelief. We defeat anxiety to the degree in which we believe the promises of God.*
So, what are some of God’s promises?
- God promises us that he is trustworthy. When we choose to trust in him, delight in him, and commit everything to him, rather than worry about or envying other people, that he will provide for us and help us (Psalm 37:1).
- God promises that he is reliable; that he won’t change. He won’t change his mind, his purpose, his perfection, or his promises (Numbers 23:19). He won’t let us down.
- God promises us that he knows everything; everything that ever happened, that is happening, or that ever will happen. We don’t have to worry that he will be caught off guard by what is going on in our lives (Isaiah 46:3-10).
- God promises us that he is fully capable of taking care of us (Matthew 6:26-32). He promises that when we seek him above all else, he will meet all our needs.
- God promises us that the things he asks of us are not burdensome (1 John 5:2-5). As a matter of fact, he promises us that when we keep his commands, we will be overcomers – the world and its stressors will not have the victory over us.
These are just a few of the multitude of God’s promises, however, if we do not know God’s promises, how can we believe them? And if we do not know God, how can we trust him? The first thing we need to do in order to defeat anxiety is to get acquainted with God (message me and I’ll introduce you).
In the same way that stress can wreak havoc on our physical health, anxiety can wreak havoc on our spiritual health. We must feed our souls with the Word of God in order to strengthen our faith and experience victory over that which could otherwise defeat us.
I think that one of the ways we can defeat anxiety, and pull up the root of unbelief that feeds it, is to spend a few minutes each day reading and meditating on the promises of God. It might even help to set aside an entire day to slow down, focus on the goodness of God, and concentrate on being grateful – celebrating Thanksgiving, before we rush head long into Christmas.
How are you preparing for Thanksgiving this year? With stress and anxiety? Or with excitement as you count all the blessings for which you are eternally grateful? Are you relying on your own resources to get you through the stresses of the season, or are you resting in the promises of God?
*The relationship between anxiety and belief in the promises of God is unpacked more thoroughly by John Piper in “Future Grace”.
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