The Bible makes it pretty clear that as Christians we are not designed to live worried, fearful lives. So, how do we reduce anxiety?
We’ve all read Philippians 4:6-7 and heard preach after preach about it. Maybe we’ve even recommended it to others. This powerful teaching on anxiety, written by Paul, says:
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
Paul doesn’t beat around the bush here. “Do not be anxious about anything” he says. He goes on to explain that the key to reducing your anxiety is in prayer and petition.
Where would you say your anxiety levels are today? Are you worrying about anything? Perhaps something kept you up last night? The truth is, anxiety affects millions of us in the Church. So, how do we reconcile feeling anxious and worried with Paul’s encouragement to not be anxious about anything?
Firstly, remember that you are loved, you are known and God adores you. No matter how much you worry or how big your fight with anxiety is, nothing can separate you from the love of God or lessen how much He longs for you.
Secondly, what the Bible lays out is a beautiful invitation. An invitation to live without anxiety. We believe that God heals all and has overcome all. No matter how big your worries are or how pervasive your anxiety is, God can heal all.
How To Reduce Anxiety: What Does The Bible Say?
Paul’s teaching in Philippians provides a brilliant starting point for learning how to reduce anxiety.
In his letter, Paul says that in every situation we need to pray. It sounds simple doesn’t it? But it’s so easy to forget to pray about something that’s worrying us. Maybe it’s a meeting at work, a tension in a relationship or fear about an approaching trip? Remember to pray about every single situation, even if they seem small or mundane. It’s not just the big areas of your life that God wants to come and transform, He is interested in it all.
Next we have the word ‘petition’ or ‘supplication’. The word Paul uses here is the Greek word ‘deēsei’. This word carries an implication that you are in want or in lack. In its truest meaning it is a heartfelt request driven by a deep, personal need. Petitioning God automatically puts us in a posture of humility. To petition acknowledges a personal lack. In doing so we reaffirm God’s place in our life and on the throne. This humble posture is a deeply healing, transformative one for us to take.
Paul is not only encouraging us to pray about every situation, he is reminding us to take every one of our heartfelt desires to God too. He teaches us to take our needs, however personal, however emotional and offer them to God.
Next up Paul tells us to present everything to God with thanksgiving: “With thanksgiving, present your requests to God”.
This passage in Scripture is seriously challenging. In amongst a teaching on anxiety and how to take your deep, personal needs to God, Paul is encouraging us to be thankful.
While we’re worried, while we’re anxious and while we’re desperate on our knees before God, we are told to be thankful.
In the same breath, we must bare our deepest hurts and declare our thanksgiving. We have to be honest about our worries to God while also thanking Him.
This isn’t always easy. In fact, it’s usually very difficult. Can you open your prayer time to God with endless gratitude and declarations of thanks after learning of a loved one’s cancer diagnosis? Or while dealing with severe financial pressure? Or a relationship break down?
Paul’s unique recipe for living anxiety free is: to thank God in every situation, in every time of prayer. To bare our souls to Him. To pray about everything.
A Beautiful Exchange
Paul lays down a big challenge, to remain thankful even in our darkest moments, but next he lays out an incredible invitation.
The apostle describes the beautiful exchange that takes place when you hand over your worries to God.
“And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
God wants to take our worries, fear and pain and exchange it for His perfect peace.
A peace that transcends all understanding is one that can carry you through the very hardest of days and most anxious moments.
Imagine peace as the very presence of Jesus, walking with you. While your circumstance may not change immediately, you are no longer alone. The Prince of Peace is with you, making a way forward.
Paul’s teaching is simple and clear: when we stay thankful and pray and petition about our anxieties, we then receive the peace of God.
This beautiful exchange is on offer for all of us.
Daily Tips To Help Reduce Anxiety In The Moment
If you find yourself trapped in a series of worrying thoughts then here are some tips on how to reduce anxiety in the moment.
Your breath is a great ally in anxious moments. A simple way to use breath work to help in overwhelming moments is just to focus on breathing out for longer than you breathe in.
Simply slowing down and focusing your breath as you extend your exhale can help you find calm in a tense moment.
Stretch it out
If you’re somewhere with a bit of space and privacy then try doing a short series of gentle stretches. It can be incredible soothing to intentionally move your body. If stretching isn’t an option then try a short walk, even just round the block.
There’s a range of audio devotionals and meditations designed to relieved anxiety on the Glorify app. Find somewhere peaceful and take a minute to tune into one. Let it give you the words to pray and Scripture to declare to help in that moment.
How To Reduce Anxiety: Your Glorify Playlist
Here are two tracks on Glorify to use this week as you surrender to God’s beautiful exchange of peace for anxiety.
Meditate with: I Will Not Be Anxious narrated by Lucianne Collins
Pray with: A Prayer For Anxiety narrated by Boaz Dawson