The title of this article is not, “How to Avoid Anxiety” because that’s impossible this side of heaven. Anxiety disorders affect one in four youth over their lifetime, and it’s the most common disorder for youth to face in childhood and adolescence. While some of us will never have a diagnosed anxiety disorder, we all face anxious, fearful, worrying feelings at different points.
Life can feel like a juggling act – we try our best to keep relationships, school, work, health, and money in the air, but circumstances can cause them to fall out of sync or to drop, or maybe even cause us to fall with them.
But the truth is that it’s not a tricky juggling act. Someone much more capable is holding your life in His hands. Here are three short prayers that can help you trust God in your anxieties.
God, I confess you designed me to be dependent, not in control.
Shortly before he is arrested, Jesus delivers the scary news to his disciples that he will be going away with His Father, and the disciples will be persecuted badly. I can imagine the looks of fear and confusion on the disciples’ faces. Talk about anxiety about the future! Their looks must have been what inspired Jesus’ next words, and I imagine he put his hands comfortingly on their shoulders as he said, “I’ve told you these things so that in me you may have peace. In this world, you will have trouble, but take heart. I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).
Jesus confirms that troubles are a certainty, but then he gives us the best news possible: he has conquered those troubles. He has conquered the whole world! He is greater than any fear, anxiety, or circumstance we could face.
Not only that, but Jesus is promising us that if we believe that we are dependent--that we need God’s love, Jesus’ salvation, and the Holy Spirit’s power in us to get through this life and into eternity--then we too can be “unshakable and assured, deeply at peace” (John 16:33, The Message).
And that’s because the one who is in control is a loving God who wants the best for us.
God, keep me in your perfect peace.
It is possible to be deeply at peace. The key is that we can’t find it in ourselves – we can only find peace in Jesus. “You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you” (Isaiah 26:3).
When you are struggling with anxiety, you are vulnerable, and the enemy knows this. He will send shooting arrows of doubts and accusations at you. He will make you restless. He will tempt you to find ‘peace’ in food, drugs or alcohol, achievements, relationships, TV, etc.
To guard yourself against the enemy, the Psalmist says to keep a steadfast mind. When you are anxious, remind yourself of these Biblical promises:
- God alone knows and loves every detail about you.
- God alone knows your past, present and future.
- God is the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. He’s walking right next to you now and he’s also at the end of this difficult road.
You can rest when you are grounded and centered in Jesus. He may not choose to quiet the waves around you, but he can calm the waves of anxiety within you with his peace.
God, in this anxiety I am thankful for...
As difficult as it may seem, trusting God with your life begins with giving thanks. More than anyone, Paul knew this truth personally. He was beaten, bruised, and imprisoned for his faith, yet he praised in prison. And this is what he wrote to the church:
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, 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” (Philippians 4:6-7).
Instead of asking, “why?” (Why is Jesus allowing me to suffer? Why am I being targeted? Why am I so scared?) a thankful spirit asks, “how?” How does Jesus want to teach me through this? How can I grow? How can I reflect the light of Christ through my circumstances?
Consider keeping a gratitude journal. Take a few moments each night before bed to reflect on the blessings of the day. You can even train your thoughts toward gratitude for the things that didn’t go so well--what did you learn?--or thank God for the sacred unseen.
In praise, we see God’s blessings, God’s hand, and God’s promises.
As you pray these three prayers in the darkest hours of your anxiety, may they help you to know your Creator more deeply, and trust your Creator more firmly. He has only the best plans for his cherished child. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight” (Proverbs 3:5-6).