Overcoming Anxiety

by | 06 February 2021 | Encouragement

It’s difficult to get around these days without a car, truck, or motorcycle. Modern society, especially in the suburbs or more rural areas, almost requires that one have access to a vehicle and a driver’s license to get anywhere. Many people spend a good deal of time operating their vehicles. What’s interesting is that how we drive reveals a great deal about us that can be hidden at other times.

Just about every time I drive my wife’s SUV or ride my motorcycle something happens that reveals the hearts of those operating vehicles around me. It’s very common for drivers to be amazingly rude to one another. Whether it’s cutting someone off, tailgating, slamming on one’s breaks, or speeding past at high speed, I often wonder if the driver in question would act like that while standing in line at a grocery store or walking down the street.

The fact is, people generally don’t act as rudely in person as they may while driving. The difference is that driving is a relatively anonymous activity. Drivers in the darkened bubble of their vehicle are free to act out what’s really in their hearts rather than to mask their feelings as they do in person. After all, tailgating while standing in line to pay for your groceries would be really odd.

Red traffic lights seem to bring out the worst in us. It’s remarkable how many people speed through them, seemingly oblivious to the incredible danger of doing so. Other’s sit and nervously tap their steering wheel as they wait for the light to turn green again. Let’s face it, red lights get in our way when we’re trying to get somewhere, and they can be very frustrating. In some ways they serve as an indicator of how much anxiety we do or don’t have in our lives.

And yet, have you ever thought about the fact that God knows even the smallest details of your life? He knows what’s best for us in every circumstance, even to the degree of when a traffic light turns red.

I remember a conversation I had with a friend many years ago after someone we both knew was killed in a collision. With great sadness and frustration she said something like, “If Sandy had left the house two seconds earlier she would be alive today. She would not have been in that crash.”

The next time you’re frustrated when a traffic light up ahead turns red, think about the possibility that had you made that light you may have been involved in an accident somewhere down the road. We have no way of knowing, and yet God knows even the smallest details of your life. The next time you see a red light, try to remember this and to thank God for it.

Anxiety may be more obvious while driving, yet it’s present to a greater or lesser degree deep within all of us. In some ways anxiety is the opposite of peace. The word “peace” is used more than ninety times in the New Testament. It’s a central biblical theme related to faith and trust, and is only available to followers of Christ. While preparing his Disciples for what would happen surrounding his impending death, Jesus said the following words as recorded in John 14:27 (NIV):

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

Worldly peace is based on the illusion that all is well. It comes and goes depending on factors like how much one has and how much one has to face at the moment. The amazing thing about the peace Jesus offers is that it’s available no matter what happens. That’s because it’s not based on an illusion. Instead, it’s based on the certain knowledge that God loves us, is in control, and will never leave us no matter how difficult things become.

Think about the fact that Jesus spoke of peace just before the horrible torture and death he knew he would experience. He said that his Disciples could have this peace even after he physically left them. This is why the peace Jesus gives is spoken of as being beyond understanding. It’s there for us even in life’s darkest moments. This is beyond the comprehension of those who don’t trust in the Lord. In Philippians 4:4-7 Paul writes:

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 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.

What’s remarkable is that Paul wrote these words from prison. He was imprisoned for his faith in Jesus, and it was unclear if he would be killed or eventually released. And yet, he knew peace in that terrible situation. We can know that same peace in our lives, even during the most challenging circumstances.

Christ followers can know the peace of Jesus no matter what happens. We can have peace deep within us based on the promises of God and the certain knowledge that he is with us now. We also know that when we eventually die we will be with him forever in heaven.

To give in to anxiety is to forget that God has the power to do what he promised he will do. God promises in Romans 8:28 that in all things he works for the good of those who love him. Similar promises are echoed throughout the Scriptures. I suspect that the process of allowing this truth to take root deep within us is the reason we’re on this earth. The trials we face are intended to teach us to trust God.

Like many others, I’ve struggled with anxiety to a greater or lesser degree all my life. I’m thankful that the Lord has taught me more about peace in the past few years than I’ve ever been able to experience before. I have a long way to go, and yet the path is clear. I invite you to join me as I seek to cast off the anxiety, the sense of foreboding, and the apprehension about the future that the enemy loved to sow inside me at various points in my life.

The red traffic lights in our lives, whether actual or metaphorical, serve as opportunities for us to trust in God and to enjoy a peace that relatively few will ever know in this world. That peace is there for us, and God longs for us to know and experience it. May we do so with joy and thanksgiving!

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