I’ve seen so many messages about how to manage stress and anxiety lately. They seem to come from all angles - continuing professional education services, colleges and universities, social media, even for profit companies. It's like the whole world is recognizing how stressed we all are, and we're trying furiously to relieve the stress and anxiety within us.
They recommend things like: clean your room, organize your desktop icons, breathe, listen to music, take a walk, practice self-care, go to sleep, stop drinking coffee, and the list goes on.
I don’t want to discount some of these practical tips for managing anxiety. I personally have found myself feeling calmer after cleaning my room or listening to music or taking a walk. I am not advocating against these techniques - with the exception of the no coffee tip. I am 1000% pro coffee, so take heart that I will not tell you to stop drinking coffee. But y’all as good as these suggestions might be, they are missing something crucial to finding true freedom from anxiety.
They are missing Jesus.
In the words of Augustine of Hippo, “Thou hast made us for thyself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in thee.”
We can take walks every hour, have music going 24/7, organize our computer icons so cleanly that we only have one or two little folders on our desktop, use all the practical tips we can find, and we can still find ourselves frustrated and overwhelmed with anxious thoughts at the end of the day. Why? Because these things on their own cannot heal our heart.
We are made by God, through God, and for God (Colossians 1:15-16). The beautiful thing about Jesus is that He has both the ability to know our anxieties intimately and heal our hearts intrinsically. Allowing Jesus into our heart to heal and restore is natural because we were made for it, for Him.
When anxiety stirs within us, Jesus extends beyond the practical and speaks straight to our heart - the very heart He created. His words are sweet and so liberating, but they still require action on our part just as taking a walk or turning on the radio.
He says come to me and learn from me. (Matthew 11:28-30)
He says pray about everything with thanksgiving. (Philippians 4:6-8)
He says seek me first. (Matthew 5:25-34)
He says cast your anxieties on me. (1 Peter 5:7; Psalm 55:22)
He says be strong and fear not. (Isaiah 35:4)
He says trust me to provide. (Psalm 127:1-2)
Come, learn, pray, seek, cast, be strong, fear not, trust.
These are not empty words when paired with the power of Jesus. They are the antidote to anxious thoughts. We can confidently come to Jesus, unload all our worries and praise Him in prayer, and trust that He will replace the heaviness with a burden that is light because He will do what He says He will do.
I’ve seen it happen. I’ve experienced it. And honestly, I’m writing this right now because I need to experience it again. I need to be reminded that Jesus can break through my heart and speak over anxious thoughts until those thoughts fall before the cross in defeat.
When we lose sight of Jesus and find ourselves with eyes on our productivity or our empty ring finger or our unjust criminal justice system or our uncertain future, overwhelm and anxiety may quickly steal our peace. But in His love Jesus beckons us with the same words again and again. To take actions that bring us back to Him.
Come to me and you will find rest for your souls. Pray to me and you will find peace that guards your hearts and your minds. Seek me first and you will find all you need. Cast your anxieties on me for I care for you and will sustain you. Be strong and fear not for I will come and save you. Trust in my promises and you will find freedom from anxiety.
These are the words of Jesus, and they are for me and for you.