Just Breathe: Battling Anxiety
Written By: Emma Baldwin
“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 (NIV)
Take a deep breath—in and out. You’ve basically just started the school year. You’re probably coming to terms with the undesirable consequences of procrastination, possibly missing home, and, if you’re feeling the same way I am, slowly becoming overwhelmed. Breathe. Maybe there is a paper due at midnight that you just started writing—trust me, we’ve all been there. Breathe. Or, on a more serious note, maybe there are some things going on at home that you spend most of the day worrying about, wishing you could be there to help or wishing you could forget. Breathe. As unlikely as it may seem, there is an answer to the anxiety that creeps into your everyday life.
When my sister went off to college and began to battle these feelings, my dad frequently repeated a phrase to her and eventually started doing the same for me: “Worry is interest paid on a debt that never comes due.” We always laugh at him for saying this because we’re pretty sure he stole it from an old movie, but that doesn’t make it any less true. Similar advice is given in Luke 12:25, which says, “Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?” Worry is useless. It gains nothing. In fact, it takes away joy, peace, hope, time. In worrying, we cost ourselves so much of the beauty given to us in life.
I know that I try to rationalize anxiety in my life. I justify every doubt and fear by dwelling on upcoming midterms, homesickness, hardships the people I love are going through, mistakes I’ve made, or self-pity. In meditating on these things, I lose sight of what is worthy of meditation—the only One who is capable of taking these fears away.
So, what is the solution? My mom, instead of quoting an old movie to me, quotes a verse from the book of Philippians whenever I am overwhelmed: “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things” (4:8).
Replacing anxious thoughts with these things allows us to meditate on the character of God and His goodness. The incarnate Jesus in the flesh cancels out all the fears, doubts, and anxieties we could ever have. There is no problem—no sickness, no concern, no guilt—that is too big (or too small) to be conquered by the power and the love of our Father.
God did not create us out of obligation. He created us out of love and a sincere desire to have a relationship with us. And because of this, He is in full control, working everything for His glory. It is important to note that this does not necessarily mean for our happiness, but praise God for that. If it were up to us, we would only dig ourselves deeper into this pit of anxiety and desperation. But God sees us in that pit, wallowing in our filth and hopelessness, and extends His hand, offering us a life of boldness and peace. Why should we reject it?
I have no room to talk, seeing as my dad has to quote that old movie to me it seems about once a week, but that doesn’t change the fact that God is waiting. He’s waiting with an outstretched hand to pull you out of your anxiety to live a life of confidence in His omnipotence and His love for you.
So, here is a challenge for all of us as we continue through the semester: let go of all the stress that comes with college, relationships, and life in general and cling to the One who has control over all of it. This means clearing our thoughts of ‘what ifs,’ and meditating on the true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, and praiseworthy. The moment we try to take control is the moment everything goes down the tubes. All we can do is rest in God. Just breathe, knowing He’s got it. Just breathe, knowing that “all things work together for good to those who love God and are called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28). Just breathe, knowing that it is the Spirit who gives you life. Just breathe.