4 Ways to Handle Anxiety

03/14/22

The world feels pretty scary right now.

For the last two years, we’ve been bombarded with tragedy after tragedy, bad news upon bad news. From a global pandemic to political division, to war and devastation, sometimes it feels like there is no break from the heartbreaking headlines. In times like these, it’s so easy for anxiety and fear to take root in our hearts, stealing our peace and our joy as we become consumed by the brokenness of the world around us.

I felt this anxiety particularly keenly back in 2018 when I was living in a country in political crisis. I remember not being able to leave the house because the streets were too dangerous. I remember scrolling Twitter for hours each day, trying to figure out what was going on in other regions of the country. I remember waking at dawn every morning and reaching for my phone first thing to see how many had died overnight. I remember trying to write university essays with the sound of machine guns in the background. And I remember having to leave home and return to the States with only two weeks’ notice.

Over the past two years, I’ve been reminded of that time often—from being confined to our homes at the beginning of 2020 to monitoring the crisis in Ukraine via Twitter. I’ll be honest—fear and uncertainty don’t really get any easier to deal with, no matter how many stressful situations you go through. That said, through my own experiences with anxiety and PTSD, I’ve learned a few strategies from the bible that help me cope with anxiety.

Firstly:

It will get better.

The last book of the Bible, Revelation, describes what will happen when Christ returns to earth to claim His kingdom. Death will be destroyed, evil will be punished, and perfect justice will be done. For believers, Revelation describes a future in which God will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away. // Revelation 21:4

This promise means everything to me when I’m confronted with the reality of sickness, suffering, and injustice. In times like these, I need to be reminded that every painful thing is only temporary and that Christ has promised to make all things new.

So take heart! The end of all sorrow is coming!

Having said that, though—

Don’t expect peace on earth… yet.

I realize this doesn’t sound very comforting, but hear me out.

Jesus told His disciples, In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world. // John 16:33
We like to focus on the part where Jesus overcomes the world, and that’s great! But don’t skip over the part where He promises His followers that they will definitely experience hardship while on this earth.

I’ve found that my anxiety gets worse when I expect to see peace on earth—when I expect to never witness or experience hardship. These are unrealistic expectations that come from placing hope for peace in human effort—whether my own or that of a political or social institution—rather than trusting solely in Christ’s ultimate victory over evil.

Make no mistake, Christ is coming to make all things new—but that hasn’t happened yet. And while we’re in this world, we will experience hardship. I know we all long for peace, in our lives, and in the world. But we cannot rely on any hope of peace and safety that contradicts God’s Word. Our hope must be in Christ, and only in Christ. All other ground is sinking sand.

You can experience peace even when things aren’t peaceful.

Although our circumstances on earth may seldom feel peaceful, the peace Christ offers us has nothing to do with our circumstances!

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. // Philippians 4:6-7

Did you catch that? The peace of God surpasses all understanding. That means God’s peace doesn’t make sense to our human way of thinking. It means that even when our circumstances are chaotic, stressful, and terrifying, we can still experience peace—beautifully irrational peace—when we bring every anxiety and request to God.

Christ is going to bring peace on earth. No one else can, and no other promise of peace is true. And even though the world may feel like it’s falling apart around us, God is ready and willing to guard our hearts and our minds with His peace in the here and now.

A biblical understanding of peace is important, but it’s just the starting point. What do we actually do in moments where anxiety feels overwhelming? There are no hard and fast rules for how to cope with anxiety, but here are a few things I’ve found helpful:

1. Put your phone down.
Have you heard the phrase “doom scrolling,” when you obsessively check all the news and social media to see how terrible everything is? That habit is definitely not helping your anxiety.

Being informed is great, but you don’t need to know about every awful thing that’s happening in the world as soon as it happens. When you feel your anxiety start to spike, put your phone away and focus instead on things that are true and pure and lovely (Philippians 4:8).

2. Take your anxieties to the Lord, not to the Internet.
Look, there’s nothing inherently wrong with social media or Netflix. But it’s way, way too easy to use screens as a drug to numb our anxiety rather than acknowledging our feelings and bringing them to the Lord. Remember, God promises His peace after we lay all our anxieties and requests before Him.

Distraction can be helpful sometimes, but it can never replace the presence of God. Make prayer your first response, not your last resort.

3. Don’t forget to give thanks.
Philippians 4:6 doesn’t just tell us to present our requests before God; it specifically instructs us to couple our prayer and supplication with thanksgiving. Be intentional about looking for examples of God’s goodness, especially when you’re feeling anxious or overwhelmed.

If you’re struggling with this, you’re not alone! Start with the smallest good thing you can think of—the first sip of coffee in the morning, a bite of good food, a smile, or a hug from a friend or loved one. Train your brain to notice tiny blessings even in the midst of hard times.

4. Focus on what is right in front of you.
When we worry about all the huge, devastating problems in the world, we feel helpless, like nothing we do has any value. While we shouldn’t place our hope for peace in our own efforts, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t take action to reflect Christ’s love, justice, and holiness in the world.

But remember: your community and your home are part of the world too.

Instead of despairing over the chaos that reigns around the globe, look at the opportunities God has put right in front of you. Whether it’s getting coffee with a friend to encourage one another, washing a sink full of dishes, or writing an essay, ordinary things done in Christ’s name and for His glory always further His purpose, even when they seem insignificant to us.

Whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. // Colossians 3:17

None of these are quick fixes. They won’t make your anxiety vanish overnight, and they won’t guarantee you’ll never feel worried or distressed.

What they will do is help train your mind to seek peace in Christ, not in your surroundings. When you practice placing your hope in Him and Him alone, your peace will no longer depend on your circumstances. Instead, you’ll be able to see God’s goodness, even when the darkness of this world seems overwhelming.

Take heart! He has overcome the world, and His promises will eternally hold true.

And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” // Revelation 21:5

To read more from Amy, visit her website.