With worries about coronavirus swirling in society right now, it is natural to feel anxious about the future. As Christians, we can face this anxiety by following the three A’s: Acknowledge, Ask, and Act.
Acknowledge: Sometimes as Christians, we think that we are somehow being unfaithful when we feel anxious. After all, isn’t anxiety a sign of lack of faith? The thing to remember here is that we aren’t yet who we will be. In Philippians 4:11-13, the apostle offers these words of personal testimony:
I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.
Notice here that Paul learned to be content whatever the circumstances. That means there was a time when he wasn’t content! It was only through a learning process that Paul came to understand what it means to find contentment by relying on Christ.
We Christians sometimes get frustrated because we don’t feel like we are as mature as we think we should be. The problem with this line of thought is that we forget that God is molding us in our present circumstances. The thing to focus on isn’t so much on how we fall short as it is on how God is working in and through us right where we are.
Anxiety is a natural emotion that Christians that even the most mature Christians will feel. We certainly don’t want to let it control us, but we also don’t want to act like its not real and normal. The first step in facing anxiety is to acknowledge that it is there. After all, we can only face something when we admit that it exists!
Ask: Once we acknowledge the anxiety that we are feeling, we can bring it to God in prayer. This means that we bring both the situation and our anxious feelings to the Father to ask for help. When it comes to the situation, we ask God to resolve it for us. When it comes to the feelings, we ask God to give us peace to still our troubled hearts.
I can’t stress enough how important asking is for Christians. Sometimes we think that God is too busy to hear our requests or that we are being selfish by focusing on our own needs. But scripture clearly tells us to bring our needs to our good Father, who inclines his ear to his children. Think of it this way: To assume that God doesn’t have time for us is to have too small a view of God. God is big enough to hear all of the prayers lifted to him! Similarly, to assume that we are being selfish by bringing our needs to God is to underestimate his love for us. As our good Father, God wants us to come to him with our needs!
The second step in facing anxiety is to bring the situation and the feelings to God to ask for help.
Act: Once we ask God for help, we begin to act in accordance with our prayer. This means that we act in both the situation and in the anxiety itself. Regarding the situation, we can’t control everything – that’s why we’re anxious in the first place! At the same time, we can control some things, even if they are small. When it comes to COVID-19, we can’t control the virus, but we can take the recommended measures against it like self quarantine and social distancing.
Notice how the Apostle Paul speaks in these two passages from Philippians:
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, 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.
Finally, brothers and sisters, 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.
Notice that quite a bit of what Paul is saying has to do with how we focus our minds. I don’t know about you, but when I’m anxious I have a tendency to focus only on the thing that has me worried. For Paul, we should definitely pray about our anxieties, but we should do so with thanksgiving. If we are to be thankful in times of anxiety, we’ll have to focus on more than just our anxiety. We’ll have to look at the bigger picture to see that there are still things to be thankful for.
Beyond thanksgiving, Paul also tells us to think about good things. In this time when our attention is constantly drawn to coronavirus, our temptation will be to stay glued to the news networks that are just telling us the same things over and over. Instead of doing that, get your news from a reliable source and then turn off the TV. Pick up a good book or listen to a good playlist. Sit on the back porch with coffee. Call a friend to chat for a while. Or turn the TV back on and watch a good movie. When we focus on good things, we give our brains space to see more than just our worry.
So, to sum all that up:
Acknowledge your anxiety. It is a completely natural emotion that is common to both human and Christian experience.
Ask God to deal with the situation and the anxiety in prayer.
Act in accordance with you prayer. Control what you can, find things to be thankful for, and focus on good things.
By Mike Smith, Discipleship Minister