CALL TO PRAYER: 'Do not be anxious....'

NASHVILLE (BP) -- Most of us know that the Bible says not to worry. Jesus put it memorably when He said, "Do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble" (Matthew 6:34).

But often that's easier said than done. Anxiety can feel uncontrollable when finances are tight, when relationships are strained, and when there doesn't seem to be enough time to fulfill all of life's obligations

Does the Bible provide any specific strategies for avoiding worry? Fortunately it does. Try the following next time anxiety feels unavoidable.

Go deeper with Christ

God wants to walk with His people like He did with Adam and Eve in the garden. In fact, He "takes pleasure in His people" (Psalm 149:4). In times of great worry, depend on Jesus as a personal friend and return to your first love (Revelation 2:4-5). Experiencing His friendship is often the only force more powerful than life's overwhelming cares.

Pray

The apostle Paul advised the Philippians to "not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer ... let your requests be made known to God" (Philippians 4:6). Sometimes the best antidote to troubled stewing over life's problems is to translate the stewing into specific requests for the Lord.

Meditate on an uplifting thought

Paul told the Philippians to think about whatever is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent and worthy of praise (Philippians 4:8). The possibilities are almost limitless, and you can't think about such things while also mulling over your stresses.

Go to church

One reason God commands Christians to be part of a local church is that being with His people provides encouragement and "stirs" us up "to love and good works" (Hebrews 10:24-25). Attending a prayer meeting, worship service or small group Bible study can provide a needed lift of spirit.

Serve others

Ministering to others can help us get away from the self-focus of worry. The Macedonian believers, despite their own "severe test of affliction," experienced "abundance of joy" by turning their energy toward assisting others (2 Corinthians 8:2).

Sing

This can be a powerful alternative to worry. Think about the psalms of lament in which King David soothed his cares with worship songs. When his own son usurped the throne and sought to kill him, David sang, "You, O LORD, are a shield about me, my glory, and the lifter of my head" (Psalm 3:3).

Spend time with family

Scripture has much to say about the joys of family, whether biological (Proverbs 12:4; Psalm 127:3-5) or spiritual (1 Timothy 5:1-2). To put the subject of your worry aside momentarily and enjoy time with loved ones can markedly reduce anxiety.

Seek wholesome entertainment

"A joyful heart is good medicine," according to Proverbs 17:22. The next time you're anxious or stressed, try watching an uplifting movie or television show, reading a book or attending a play. Entertainment of the wholesome variety is among God's gifts to lighten troubled times.

Thankfully the Bible doesn't just give us abstract commands, but also provides concrete strategies for doing what God says. Avoiding anxiety is a case in point. The next time your stress level elevates, remember that Jesus cares about your troubled heart and provides all the strategies needed for those "who labor and are heavy laden" to experience His "rest" (Matthew 11:28).

David Roach is Baptist Press' chief national correspondent. This column first appeared at the blog of BibleMesh, a website that teaches the Bible as a unified story pointing to Christ (online at www.biblemesh.com/blog).
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