His Perfect Peace: Calming My Anxious Heart Part 3
In Part 1 and Part 2, I shared my struggles with anxiety and how I learned to rest in God’s perfect peace. But what happens when anxiety begins to creep back into my life? How do I maintain a state of rest and calm when I am surrounded by chaos and confusion?
Learning to trust God and banishing anxiety was not a one-time, cure-all event. Hot topics and stressors like to pop up at the most inconvenient times. Isn’t this just a perfect reminder of our human weakness? We think we have it all together and that we’re doing life pretty well. Then a health issue arises (the cause of my most recent anxiety attack), we become sleep deprived, and we feel like we have lost total control. The struggle is heavy. The weight of responsibility is too much. The panic begins and we pace the living room for hours trying to pray ourselves down off the anxiety ledge.
How do we maintain a state of rest and calm?
“Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me… These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.” John 15:4,11
To have God’s perfect peace we must be sure of who He is and confident in what He can do. How do we learn who He is? He tells us! He has given us a whole book about Himself! How can we be confident in what He can do? We read His story. We mark His triumphs in our lives to recall during moments of uncertainty. When we abide in God’s Word it becomes ingrained in our hearts and minds. When we face trials or temptations, these verses (the very words of God) come to our rescue and relief. We can rest in the knowledge of our promised rescue. This is the power of Scripture and proof that it is living and active. The Holy Spirit moves in our hearts and calls to mind the truths that are needed in our anxious moments.
What does this look like? How is this applied?
I was feeling anxious about moving to a new unfamiliar state. That Sunday the sermon focused on Abram and his faithfulness to God’s calling to leave his home for an unknown destination, only with the promise of the Lord to lead and guide him (Genesis 12). Later in the week I saw an article focusing on James 2, which showcases Abraham’s obedience as the outward action to his faith in God. Then in Bible study Romans 4 was discussed, where Abraham is an example of increased faith during times of uncertainty. Over and over the same example was given. When God has a point to make He will bombard you with Scripture to back it up. In this case, He was reminding me that just as He went before Abraham to a new home so also He was going before me to my new home. God had so richly provided through my past that I was able to be confident in His future provision in the unknown.
When I feel overwhelmed with the busy schedule that comes with a family of five, wife/mother/housekeeper duties, and the loneliness of building a new community after relocation the Lord whispers a reminder to “keep my mind stayed on Him”. I search my Bible to find the verse. “You will keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you.” Isaiah 26:3. I write this on the walls of my heart and home where I can be reminded of this truth. But the busy and the cleaning and the care giving and the loneliness do not evaporate. Discouragement at my weakness builds and I open my Bible to where I left off reading. It is Isaiah 26 again. Praise God for another reminder of this truth and the encouragement that I am seen and known. My soul clings to this truth, but my flesh fails again. Anxiety creeps back in and seeks to control my outlook. I pick up my most recent read and what does the author reference? Isaiah 26! This is not accidental. This is providential. God is writing this truth on my heart and reinforcing it daily and weekly.
We choose how we spend our time. Are we investing our time in abiding with Christ, studying, and knowing Scripture? Are we filling our minds with Christ’s words and seeking to learn from scholars and pastors through podcasts and books? Are we meeting with the church regularly to share our stories and provide accountability? Or are we wasting our time complaining through our struggles, filling our minds with media driven worries, and participating in worthless activities? When your heart is full of Jesus your mind can rest in His faithfulness.
I do not anticipate gaining complete victory over anxiety in my life. I do not think I can conquer my anxious heart once and for all and fully rest in God’s perfect peace. But I know that I can do all things through Christ’s strength (Philippians 4:13). When I am weak, there He is to make me strong (2 Corinthians 12:10). I can seize victory each moment by taking every thought captive (2 Corinthians 10:5) and choosing to direct my thoughts to God’s truths instead of worldly lies. I can put my hope in the surety of Christ and not in the uncertainties of the future. I can equip myself day by day with studying Scripture and asking for God’s guiding, calming hand over my life. I can be still and listen for His promptings and be alert for His work in and around me. So often I get caught up in the “I can’ts” that lead to anxious restlessness. I need to focus on the “I cans” and rest in the perfect peace of God which He gives generously and eternally.