Day 13: Anxiety
Anxiety in a man’s heart weighs him down,
but a good word makes him glad.
I was lost, driving through an unfamiliar neighborhood when my GPS died. I looked around my car, but could not locate a single map. (Yes, there was a day when maps were made of paper.) Since I get anxious when I don’t know where I’m driving, I began to feel a headache and a terrible feeling in my stomach. I was also running low on gas and late for an appointment. Then I had a second appointment after that one, which I would probably miss as well and have to pay late fees. My fear started spinning out of control. Then, at that moment, another car blocked my lane . . . .
I missed my turn and found myself getting agitated at a complete stranger. Anxiety can be a downward spiral as sinful responses increase life’s pressure. This descent eventually leads to a crash, so squelch your anxiety as soon as it begins.
I first had to take responsibility for my sin. The problem wasn’t the driver in front of me, the poor signage, or my phone’s dead battery. I had to accept my fault for responding with anxiety. Secondly, I had to recognize my selfish heart and ask the Lord to forgive me. I was so focused on myself that I hadn’t been thinking about others: “How were my actions affecting them?” “How could I be a more courteous driver?” “How could I set a godly example for my son in the back seat?” I confessed my heart of anxiety which had led to anger, impatience, and lack of trust. I confessed my selfish craving for comfort and not wanting to be inconvenienced. I also confessed my love of money at trying to escape late fees and my fear of man: “What will people think if I’m late?”
Then once I put off my fear and my heart idolatry, I had to put on love for God and love for others (Matt. 22:36-40). I had to say, “No!” to fear and “Yes!” to God. So I prayed, “Lord, how I can honor you in the midst of my anxiety? How can I serve the people around me instead of focusing on myself?” I had to take captive the barbarians in my mind (2 Cor. 10:5) and replace those irrational fears with biblical thoughts (Phil. 4:8)—not simply optimistic ones.
“So what if I’m late? What if I’m lost?” “God is still in control: ‘The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps’” (Prov. 16:9).
“What about that dumb driver in front of me? Don’t I have the right to be angry?” “No, actually I don’t: ‘For the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God’” (Jas. 1:20).
“What if I lose time or money because my car runs out of gas or I have to reschedule?” “Remember Matthew 6:33, ‘But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.’”
“What if I lose face because I miss my appointment? ‘The LORD is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do to me?’ (Ps. 118:6). The overarching purpose of my life, even in trials, is to become more like Christ each day” (Rom. 8:28-29).
Despite my feelings, I had to believe the truth and act in faith (Phil. 4:9). My driving became less erratic and my attitude more patient (v. 5a). I asked my son, “Would you pray with daddy?” (vv. 5b-7). I treated others on the road with kindness even though my desire had been to run them over. Then as I acted in faith, my feelings of anxiety began to diminish. Praise God, I didn’t get lost or run out of gas. I made it to my first appointment slightly late and the second one actually cancelled on me. It all worked out. But even if it didn’t, God was doing something bigger in my heart.
Dads, anxiety will drive you to helplessness as you parent your children. Consider this list of top ten fears for new dads:
Fatherhood provides ample opportunities to be anxious, so let your helplessness drive you closer to the Lord as you fight anxiety with Philippians 4:
Prayer: Dear Heavenly Father, I am anxious about so many things. I struggle with my barbarian thoughts and need to trust in you. Help me to recognize my fears and replace them with biblical wisdom. Show me the peace that passes all understanding even in the midst of the most difficult times. In your Son’s name, Amen.
LifeWork: Write down one way you will apply today’s Proverb.
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