Anxiety is a peculiar thing. On the one hand, it is something that seems to be merely a state of mind as we cope with the difficulties managing stress and pressure that exist in our lives. On the other hand, it is a real phenomenon that elicits physical symptoms, making it much more than something that is “just in our heads.” For some people, anxiety can be crippling and prevent them from living their lives in a normal way. No matter the level of anxiety that one might experience, whether light or overbearing, I think it is safe to say that most would rather live without it!
What stands opposed to the heavy weight of anxiety is a lightness of being. This describes a state of mind that places the stressful burdens of our life into a perspective that limits the effect of unwarranted fear. Lightness of being describes the way that we react to pressure, by not taking consequence more seriously than we ought. This state of mind allows us to gain control over the circumstances of life, rather than allow circumstances to take control of us. With such a state of mind, we can find joy in the most trying of events.
The Bible has much to say about developing this state of mind. Philippians 4:6-7 summarizes this very succinctly, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” Not only do we see the instruction to put anxiety in its place, we also learn about how to do it. We can achieve a peace of mind by placing our worries into the hands of God, through prayer, and by being thankful for all He does for us. Once we do this, the result is true relief from all kinds of stress and pressure. Obtaining the peace of God is a powerful thing when we manage to do it.
What strikes me the most about how this process works is the involvement of thankfulness. To offer thanksgiving for all things, especially the challenges that we might face, can be a difficult thing to do. However, when we know that God works in our lives, we also know that even the challenges we face are an opportunity for us to develop and grow. By offering thanks for everything and in our circumstances, we no longer have to worry about them, but we give them over to God so that He can help us out. The struggle to control the difficult circumstances in our lives, all by ourselves, is a significant contributor to the phenomena of anxiety. But when we cease worrying about those difficulties, and offer thanks to God instead, there is no more anxiety. What a relief!
With anxiety fading away and with fear returning to its proper place, contentment is an additional result. This all happens by inviting the peace of God into our lives to guard our minds and hearts through Jesus Christ. We are also reminded, “Now godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out” (1 Timothy 6:6-7). By reacting to the events we face in life with godliness, and being content about the outcome, what exactly do we gain? While it might not be anything physical that we can take with us when we die, the gain we obtain is a far greater gift than anything we might anxiously struggle for in this world. When we completely submit our lives to God, the gift we obtain is eternal life. God has given us an opportunity to place our burdens into His hands, and when we do that, we are relieved both in this life and in the eternal life to come. With God on our side, who can be against us? (Romans 8:31).