Fr. Mesrop Parsamyan
4 Tips for Overcoming Anxiety
In psychological science, anxiety disturbances represent a variety of mental disorders. Those experiencing anxiety commonly describe having feelings that are very unpleasant, such as fear and apprehension, as well as perspectives that are vague and diffuse, that is to say, not concentrated in one place. Bodily features can include motor reactions such as the inability to relax, jumpiness, tightness of muscles, trembling, hyperactivity, heart palpitation, perspiration, and vertigo. Apprehensive thoughts and expectations can accompany these symptoms. (American Psychiatric Association, 2014)
From the spiritual perspective, anxiety challenges the very core of our relationship with God: allegiance, confidence, loyalty, and trust. Recall the words of Jesus as recorded by St. Matthew: “You of little faith? Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things; and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33 But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today.” (Matthew 6:30–34)
Anxiety means we’ve forgotten God’s promises. Anxiety is a failure to understand God, His sovereign love and His sovereign care.
But there is hope and freedom for anyone caught in this despair. The Bible does offer the way to overcome your anxiety.
Keep reading if you want to know how. . .
TIP#1: Live in the present
Some people are constantly looking back at the past; for good and bad reasons. Sometimes they tend to pine for the past they never had, so much so that never live in the present that they have. There are others who are frozen with fear over what might happen next week or next month or next year. They live in constant distress over possibilities, which have not yet happened.
I imagine Jesus saying with a smile on His face: “Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today.” (Matthew 6:33). Today has enough trouble to keep you busy. There will be plenty of pleasure and pain tomorrow.
It’s the devil that whispers in our ears “Yesterday” or “Tomorrow”. He wants us to live in the past with nostalgia or in the future with apprehension. But the Holy Spirit of God speaks to us deep in our hearts and tells us TODAY! “This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it” (Psalm 118:24). If you want to win against anxiety, live and rejoice in the here and now of the present moment, for every minute that you have, every breath you take, is a gift from God, which opens out upon the Eternity.
TIP#2: Set right priorities
If you set you priorities in order, then everything in this life will fall into place right where it needs to be. In Matthew 6:33 Jesus exhorts to his disciples: “But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these things will be given to you as well.”
To strive means to have an intense, single-minded focus, to go after, to pursue. It’s in the present imperative, which means that the antidote to anxiety is to make a daily choice to prioritize God’s kingdom. The word “first” means one’s first and ever dominant concern. We need to stop making material things central and instead make the Kingdom our priority.
The promise Jesus makes is conditional – if we seek Him first, then all things will be added. If you want to win against anxiety, then put God first.
TIP#3: Place your future in God’s hands.
The third tip is from St. Peter. In his epistle of encouragement to the churches in Asia Minor, Peter wrote: “Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that in due time he may exalt you. Cast all your anxieties on him, for he cares about you.” (1 Peter 5:6–7)
God’s counsel concerning our cares is that He cares. We are therefore to cast the whole of our care on Him—not just some areas while we seek to run the others ourselves. The fundamental issue is the need for us to humble ourselves, or to allow ourselves to be humbled and thus also transformed, changed by His sovereign work into the character of His Son.
This is exactly our task in overcoming the anxieties we have in our lives. To be humble before God is to acknowledge our dependency on Him and trust in his caring love.
TIP#4: Take everything to God in prayer
Trusting that God cares about your anxiety is expressed in prayer. Prayer is the spoken trust turned toward God.
In his letter to Philippians 4:6 he says, "Be anxious for nothing, but in everything, by prayer and supplication, let your request be made known to God. And the peace of God which passes all comprehension will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus."
God may not always remove the problems that were the initial cause of our anxiety, but He promises a "peace which surpasses all understanding"! It is a peace that the world cannot provide, but He can! – (cf. Jn 14:27; 16:33) It is a peace that guards our "hearts" and "minds" against wrong feeling and wrong thinking. This does not mean the absence of trials on the outside, but it does mean… a quiet confidence within regardless of circumstances, people, or things that would otherwise steal our joy!
This amazing peace and freedom from anxiety is the result of letting our requests known to God. Someone has well said: “If your knees are knocking, kneel on them.”
If you are filled with anxiety, fear and fretting, get alone in the quiet and open your heart to the Father. Make your requests known to God with this beautiful prayer from St. Gregory of Narek:
Take me out of my prison and free me from my bonds.
Remove my chains and rescue me from drowning.
Free me from anxiety and release me from my irons.
Deliver me from preoccupations and banish my doubts.
Console my sadness and calm my vexation.
Dispel my afflictions and quiet my agitation.
Cure me of my tears and stop my sighing.
Drive away my lamentations and heal my sobbing,
For you are God of mercy and giver of sweetness
And to you is fitting glory, forever and ever. Amen.