In Philippians 4:6–7, the apostle Paul instructs the believers: “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.”1
Attaining relief from anxiety, worry, stress, and pressure is a high priority for most people today. We live in a world with an increasingly rapid pace of change, and change brings uncertainty. Uncertainty tends to bring worry, stress, and a general feeling of being unsettled. A friend of mine expressed it like this: “When I feel unsettled, I feel uneasy, like something is going to go wrong, or like I’m missing something important. It often involves an unknown, a risk, and it brings in an overall unsettled, in-flux feeling.”
Sometimes you just wake up feeling unsettled, or you feel uneasy but you can’t pinpoint why. Other times you know or have an inkling why you’re feeling that way, what circumstance or decision it’s connected to. It could be that you’re putting off making an important but difficult decision. Perhaps you’re experiencing conflict in a relationship and amends need to be made. Maybe it’s time for a change in your life—of career, location, parenting, priorities, or within your circle of friends—and while you know the change is needed, it will cost you personally to make the change, so you feel reluctant or afraid, and as a result, you avoid doing whatever it is you feel you need to do. Or maybe you are taking steps toward a change in your life and you feel unsettled because you don’t know how things are going to play out.
Feeling unsettled, uneasy, and anxious tends to sap your joy and faith. Those feelings of dread or “not knowing” can throw a wet blanket on your outlook or hope for the future, and can inhibit you from making solid progress in your life. That gnawing feeling of too many loose ends, lingering decisions that need to be made, things you might be forgetting or just can’t get to can leave you feeling frazzled, nervous, distracted, and emotionally exhausted.
There are several wonderful promises in the Bible on this topic which give both spiritual and practical advice. For example:
Cast your burden on the Lord, and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved.2
Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you.3
You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You.4
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.5
Learning to “give all our worries and cares to God” and to be “anxious for nothing”6 is a process that requires practical steps on our part. We need to make a conscious effort to give our burdens to God. We must commit to spending regular time with Jesus. We need to learn to surrender our fears and worries to Him. We need to meditate on God’s Word and intentionally focus our thoughts on things that are praiseworthy, noble, good, true, honorable, and right.7 We have to make a conscious effort to replace bad habits with good ones that lead us to a healthy lifestyle.
Some people assume that once you become a Christian, God automatically protects you from bad things. That’s not how it works. Trusting in God doesn’t eliminate problems, stress, or difficulties that might arise, but it does provide us a firm foundation for our confidence and an outlet for our anxiety: God Himself.
I find it helpful to review God’s promises to remind myself of His unconditional love for me. He cares. He wants to help me. He has promised to take care of me. When we put ourselves and our loved ones in His hands, we can know that it is the best place possible.
There are also some helpful practical tips, and I’ll include a few below.
Write down your concerns and anxieties. This is especially helpful if you have a lot on your mind. Just listing it all can bring some clarity and relief. Write down your worries and give them to Jesus.
Once you have written down everything that is weighing on you, that list can become a list for both prayer and planning. If you can take action on a few items, even if they’re smaller points, it will whittle down the list and give you a sense of progress.
Talk with someone—your spouse, a friend, counselor, mentor. It can help to talk through your situation and seek good advice.
Beware of the “god of options.” This term represents the overwhelming number of choices available today. Too much information can result in decision paralysis, not to mention wasted time.
Be mindful and disciplined; seek out the information you need to make a decision, without getting caught up in the never-ending flow of new information and options.
Take one step at a time. If you are facing a number of issues that need resolving, don’t try to tackle them all at once. Pick one to think and pray through. Consider the pros and cons, with the end goal being to make a decision.
Decide. Do. Trust. Repeat. Once you make a prayerful decision, don’t keep doing comparison research or second-guessing your choice. Trust that you made a decision that is good enough.
I read a quote on the topic of open doors and the struggle that we, as Christians, often face when making life choices as we seek God’s will. The author wrote, “God can use even what looks like the ‘wrong door’ if I go through it with the right heart.”8 I believe that is true, and it is deeply comforting, because we will never get every decision 100% right. That’s part of the life experience.
If we can keep a more heavenly perspective, we’ll enjoy life’s journey more. Granted, the problems we face in life are not “easy.” But Jesus promises to give us strength to enable us to carry those problems. He says, “My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”9 When we draw on His strength, we can have peace in the midst of a storm and deep joy even in trying circumstances.
Jesus is our source of peace. His name “is a strong tower,” which we can “run into and be safe.”10
- Psalm 55:22 ESV
- 1 Peter 5:7 NLT
- Isaiah 26:3
- John 14:27 ESV
- Philippians 4:6
- See Philippians 4:8.
- John Ortberg, All the Places to Go … How Will You Know? (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale, 2015), 17.
- Matthew 11:30
- Proverbs 18:10