How to Handle Stress & Anxiety as a Christian
Thank you guys for having me; I definitely really appreciate it! A quick word about me and my teaching style: I\’ve been a Christian for about 9 years. I was saved through Brian \”Head\” Welch\’s testimony; he\’s the bass guitarist for Korn if that means anything to y\’all. And I\’ve taught off and on for about 8 years. Basically, my teaching method is to just constantly discuss and ask the \”why?\” questions so that we always get to the heart of the topic and the biblical text. And that\’s what we\’re gonna do here tonight; I\’ll open us in prayer and then we\’re gonna first define what is stress and anxiety and then look at how to handle it as Christians.
So let\’s start defining our terms for this evening:
1) How would y\’all define stress and anxiety? And would anyone like to give an example of it in your own life?
So our dictionary definition of stress is \”distress in the midst of difficulty\”
And anxiety is a concern or painful uneasiness, or unceasing restlessness, of an event in the future; typically brought about by fear.
2) Can y\’all think of any examples of stress and anxiety in the Bible?
When I think of stress and anxiety what immediately came to my mind was Christ suffering in the garden in intense prayer prior to His crucifixion as well as Joseph of Genesis when he was sold into slavery by his own brothers. And of course, there are many more examples that could come to mind.
Before we move into directly talking about our topic; let\’s briefly consider some ways the world, non-Christians, might handle stress and anxiety.
3) What ways might an unbeliever handle stress and anxiety?
They might handle stress and anxiety though various drugs, entertainment, ungodly mediation, etc. Basically, they\’ll try and handle the stress and anxiety on their own with no regard for God. And we, as Christians, should be considering God and His word in all areas of our life-including the suffering of stress and anxiety.
Now, before we begin discussing \”how\” we handle those things differently than the world does let\’s establish \”why\” we handle them differently. And we\’ll do that by first studying the Providence of God in Matthew 6:24-34.
24 “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.
Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? 28 And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, 29 yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31 Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.\”
So let\’s start to analyze the text. What\’s the command of Christ therein 6:25?
\”…do not be anxious about your life…\”
So we\’re not to be anxious about our lives. Why are we not to be anxious? What reasons does Christ give for us not being anxious?
We serve or are devoted to God (6:24)
We love God (6:24)
Life is more than just food and clothing (6:25)
God cares for the animals, you (as the crown of creation) are of more value than them. Thus will God will care for you as well. (6:26)
Being anxious is worthless (6:27)
God also cares for His creation, He will care for you as well (6:29-30)
In your own words what would be the opposite of anxiety in this passage?
In this passage, the opposite of anxiety would be to trust or believe in God. Thus, Christ is ultimately commanding us to trust in God and His providence towards us; this is our first cure to stress and anxiety for tonight.
Now I know providence is kind of a big word. Are y\’all all familiar with that word? How would you define it?
Providence is God working all things (not just some things) according to the counsel of His will (Ephesians 1:11). That is, God has a plan and a purpose for us in this world and governs our lives in such a where everything, both small and great, accomplishes His purposes for us. Basically, God is good and in control of our lives and He will accomplish His purpose in our lives. Part of that plan and purpose for your life includes Him loving and caring for you by providing what you need in this life (food, clothing, etc.) and we trust Him in that. Thus, our first cure to anxiety: trusting in the providence of God.
On the topic of trusting God, let\’s discuss the main reason for trusting God. What in your opinion is the #1 reason for trusting in God?
The biggest need in our lives was one that we could never fulfill on our own. That being: our salvation that God has provided for us in the life and death and resurrection and ascension of Christ.
I had mentioned at the top of the lesson that I had been \”saved\”. What does it mean to be \”saved\”? Or, what am I saved from?
Consider Romans 5:9-11 where Paul says, \”Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. 10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. 11 More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.\”
Paul says that we are saved from the wrath of God by the blood, or death, of Christ. For our purposes tonight this means that God saved me from Himself, by Himself, for Himself. He accomplished my salvation for me as a gift of grace. Knowing, and believing, this means that God, in His good and loving-kindness, has solved my greatest and most urgent need in my life; thus, how will He not also provide me with the \”little things\” of life when He provided me the biggest thing-my salvation.
Does that make sense to everyone?
So now that we\’ve established God\’s goodness towards us in His providence-as best seen in His providing of salvation for us-let us consider \”why\” He saved us. That is, what is our purpose in this life as Chrsitians. Which will be our second cure to stress and anxiety.
There are lots of different texts to look at when considering our purpose but we\’ll start at Matthew 6:31-33 to start our discussion on our purpose.
\”Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.\”
What does Matthew say our purpose, or our singular focus, should be?
As we mentioned at the top of the study, we are to not be like the world (or \”the gentiles\” as Christ puts it in 6:32) in all its\’ worrying but we are to be focused on seeking God and His righteousness knowing that God will providentially provide for us.
Let\’s consider what that means for us. How are we to seek after God?
We are to seek after Him individually by constantly reading, and studying, of His word and prayer to live a righteous, or loving, life and corporately together with His people (the Church), in worship-singing, and listening to the preached word. We are to seek Him on our own for sure but also with His people as well.
4) If someone were to ask you, \”What is the purpose of my life?\” How would you answer that?
There\’s a lot of different ways to answer that question. But ultimately our answer must include, or come down to knowing, loving, glorifying God.
And as our proof text for tonight let\’s consider one of my favorite passages on purpose in Ephesians 1:3-6.
\”Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, 4 even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love 5 he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.\”
What does Paul here say is our purpose?
To be \”holy and blameless before Him\” (1:4) and to also praise His glorious grace (1:6).
5) Before I continue on with this lesson; I\’m curious to know: What other biblical texts would you go to to find what our purpose is? And would you be so kind to read them for us as well?
There are many different verse we could discuss like Colossians 1:16, \”For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him.
Or even 1 Thessalonians 5:9-10, \”For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with him.\”
There are, of course, more texts we could go to to find our purpose in life. But for our purposes here tonight we\’re going to zero in on just these two in Ephesians 1:3-6.
First, I mentioned at the top \”suffering of stress and anxiety\”. Let\’s establish why we suffer with the very simple question: what is the cause of suffering?
In short, sin. When Adam disobeyed God and ate the fruit, at the behest of Satan, sin entered the world. As well as the twin brother of sin called suffering. We grow old, get bumps and bruises, have pain, and less than perfect minds and bodies because of sin in the world and in us. While not all suffering is sin; all suffering is because of sin. To tie this back into our discussion so far; God, in His providence over our lives, uses suffering-like stress and anxiety-for our good.
In what way does God use our suffering for our good?
The first and most obvious, way God used suffering was for our salvation in Jesus Christ. That is Christ lived a perfect life and died (in submission to God) for us. In short, Christ suffered for us; He is our suffering savior (Isaiah 53). Thus, God used suffering for THE good of our salvation.
We\’ve covered the biggest way God has used suffering for our good. Do y\’all think God uses your suffering for your good? And how might He do that?
And in our personal, daily, lives God uses our suffering mainly for two purposes:
1) To bring us to repentance. Sometimes God will allow us to feel the full weight of our own indwelling sin so that we be broken by it and thus repent, or turn, from that sin and turn to Him.
and 2) God will also use suffering in our lives for the purpose of sanctifying us. That is; He will use the pain and toil of this life to make us hunger for Him and eternity with Him all the more.
Or to put it as Paul put it, God will use suffering in our lives to either draw us to repentance towards Him to make us \”holy and blameless\” or to love and \”praise His glorious grace\” in our lives all the more. This is the purpose of all pain, suffering, persecution, stress, and anxiety in our lives. Our stress and anxiety should not paralyze us but, rather, draw us closer to God either in making us of Him now or hungering for Heaven.
Now we understand how and why God allows stress and anxiety in our lives let\’s move into the application and talk about promises against stress and anxiety and how to apply that promises-prayer. Or to put it another way how we actually become more blameless and grow in loving praising His grace.
Now we said anxiety is an unceasing restlessness about the future. And this restlessness can be caused by any number of different things. For the sake of time let us consider a few common causes of anxiety and how to combat them.
In your opinion what is the most common form of stress and anxiety in everyday life?
Most likely its: fear. I\’ve read somewhere that \”fear not\” is the most common command found in the Bible. But for our purposes, let\’s briefly consider one promise of the anxiety of fear. Turn to Isaiah 41:10. \”fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.\”
So what\’s the command there at the start of verse 10?
Why does God give us this commandment? What reasons does Isaish record for us to NOT be afraid?
\”for I am with you…\” God is with me, with us, right now. Now, why is God\’s presence in our lives a reason to not be afraid?
Because He is God, sovereign creator, and sustainer of all things (Colossians 1:15-23). The most awesome, perfect, and good being in all of existence is
1) with me and
2) is my God who personally, fully, and intimately knows me who will
3) strengthen me
4) help me and
5) uphold me.
I\’d say those are all pretty darn good reasons to not be afraid. Wouldn\’t y\’all agree?
Or perhaps maybe you struggle with the anxiety of assurance of your salvation or God\’s forgiveness toward you? You know, the \”Am I really saved??\” question.
Let\’s look at John 6:35-40
\”Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. 36 But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe. 37 All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. 38 For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. 39 And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. 40 For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”
So what is the promise, here in these verses, against the anxiety of assurance or unforgiveness?
\”Whoever comes to me I will never cast out\” (6:37)
and in 6:39 \”And this is the will of Him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that He has given me, but raise it up on the last day.\”
Thus, God promises in His word that He will forgive and keep you forever.
What about the stress and anxiety of evangelism, or fear of failure in evangelism?
Let\’s look at Isaiah 55:10-11
“For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, 11 so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.
What\’s the promise here against the fear/anxiety of evangelism?
\”[His word] shall accomplish that which I purpose\”. Why does His word accomplish/succeed?
Because it is God who spoke it (55:11), it is God who purposed it (55:11), and God who will send it through you. The success of evangelism depends not on you, but on God and thus it succeeds and is a cure for fear/anxiety of failure.
What about the anxiety of assurance of God\’s love? What veres come to your mind that mind help to reassurnce you, or someone you know, of God\’s love for them?
We might look at something like Ephesians 1:4-5, \”in love He predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ…\” The promises there being God loved you before time began and took you in as a son or daughter.
I know I just set forth a bunch of examples. But is there another type of anxiety that either y\’all or someone your might knows struggles with that you might want to talk about?
The point to all that is this: We first, identify what stress or anxiety we\’re struggling with, then consider what God in His word has to say about it, then read, study, memorize and meditate on all the treasures that promise of God has for us in our situation. In this, we grow in faith, or trust, in God in our lives, and by that our love for Him grows all the more.
So, quick summary, in stress and anxiety we Identify, Memorize and are Santificed.
Ok, so we got our verses against stress and anxiety. You can all go home now because you\’re never ever ever in a million years going to struggle with stress or anxiety ever again right?!
Wrong. Big wrong in fact. There are many promises in God\’s word for many many anxieties we will face in our lives. But merely having them is not enough. We must ultimately believe them, and that\’s usually easier said than done. So, we know the providence of God, the purposes of God, and the promises of God now we must reach out and believe, or have faith, in them.
This, of course, brings us to our final cure: Prayer.
And let\’s begin to close where we began the lesson at Matthew 6:30.
But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?
How do we put all these promises/truths into practice?
By believing/trusting in them, for that is the essence of faith. And faith is mainly exercised in prayer. So we should pray for faith in God and His promises towards us to sustain us in our lives.
Let\’s consider an application of the promises of God in Hebrews 4:14-16.
Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need
Look at 4:16; how do y\’all think we have this \”confidence\”?
By going to God with His own word. Reminding Him, as it were, of His own faithful promise to us. So that we can receive His mercies and gain grace sufficient for our trails in our stress and anxieties.
To sum up this lesson and then I\’ll pray us out: We understand that God, in His providence, has a purpose in our stress and anxiety and we thus seek to know and believe His promises and make use of them in prayer so that we will remain faithful to Him. We mediate/carry these promises in our minds to treasure them in our hearts so we are can, as Hebrews puts it, seek mercy and find help in our time of need-our stressful and anxious times.