In Anxious Moments, Part 2
From the series I Choose Peace
When you have a loved one in intensive care, or the house hasn’t sold, or the job hasn’t come through, or the news is full of things that make you fearful – are you able to trust God’s goodness, or does the anxiety just seem too overwhelming? Chip explains how we can actually turn our upsetting circumstances back to God and experience His supernatural peace.
Helping you grow closer to God
Download the Chip Ingram App
I Choose Peace Resources on sale now.
About this series
I Choose Peace
How to Quiet Your Heart in the Chaos of Life
Why is it that as soon as we get that house, that job, that car, that, "you-fill-in-the-blank," the shine wears off so quickly - the horizon just keeps moving, and we never really experience peace? In this series, Chip unmasks a vicious opponent that's constantly poised to steal our peace and create an all-consuming discontent. If you’re ready for a spiritual journey of adventure and an intimacy with God like you’ve never known before, this series, from Philippians, Chapter 4, is the road map you're looking for.More from this series
When Jesus taught His disciples to pray, what did He say? “When you pray, say, ‘Our Father,’” oh. So, in the midst of all the craziness of the world, the One who created all that there is, the One who sent His Son to die for you and rise from the dead, the One who is the sovereign King who is all-wise, all-powerful, and all-knowing of every circumstance real, possible, and potential – He is your Papa? And say to Him, “…who art in heaven.”
You’re not pulled into this or that, You are the Creator. You’re in control. Holy is Your name. I can know a hundred percent of the time that God will never lie to me, God is always going to be pure, His intentions…
So, it’s this moment where you pause and you get a high, clear view of God. When anxiety knocks at the door of your heart, let prayer answer it. And the first prayer is worship and adoration.
Here’s what I can tell you: as you get a really big God, you will get really small problems. If you have really big problems, you have a very small God. See, what happens, what the “take thought of,” it means: to focus on; get obsessed with. Okay, here’s a problem. Okay, maybe eighty-five percent or ninety percent of your marriage is pretty good or at work, you really do have a good job but there is a supervisor. But whatever the part that really makes you anxious or there is uncertainty, here’s what you do: you focus on it and you focus on it and you focus on it and you focus on it and you focus on it.
And pretty soon, you look at all of life through this thing, this anxiety. And then when, as you look at all of life, the way we’re made is then your emotions and your physiology begin to respond and then your body and your world gets messed up because you think this is the world.
He says when anxiety knocks at the door of your heart, whoo, let prayer answer it. And the first thing you do: this is the God that can deal with that. You think God can heal someone of cancer? We have seen it. You think God can give people grace to go through cancer? You think God can actually take someone that you love to heaven and you recover from it and be okay, knowing you’re going to see them later? You bet. You think God can give you a new job if you don’t have it? You think God can get into the heart of one of your kids that’s not walking with God? Do you think God can…? Of course He can! Intellectually you believe that.
But [you don’t] experience it until you worship Him. Put a little “A” to the left of where it says prayer and circle it and I’ll tell you why later.
The second is petition. This is the second most common word in the New Testament. It is focusing on your need. It’s a prayer that expresses my need or my want before I ask. It’s a sense that I – it’s the awareness that I am unable, that I have limitations in this situation that: I need You, God. I can’t handle this.
Much of anxiety is about: here’s a problem or here’s an issue and the resource you unconsciously look to is, “What am I going to do? What am I going to do? How do I fix it? How do I fix it?” And the more it’s overwhelming or the more it’s out of your control, and the more you realize you can’t fix it, guess what happens – it just grows and grows and grows.
And so, the kind of prayer that answers the door when anxiety knocks and causes you to run to your Father is, first, adoration. And this is confession. God, I can’t handle this. I don’t know what to do in this marriage. I have tried everything under the sun. I can’t get one of my kid’s attention for the life of me. You know what? Unless you transfer my supervisor to Siberia, I don’t – he doesn’t like me. She doesn’t like me. I feel like…
I can’t handle this. Lord, I need You. You know what that is called in Scripture? Humility. Dependency. And you know what? You can’t cast your cares on Jesus as long as you are holding on to them and assuming that someway, somehow, my ability, my moxie, my personality, my brains – I am going to solve this.
And so the kind of prayer is, first, worship and then confession. And you say, You care for me. I can’t handle this. And then it positions you to begin to ask Him, to really ask Him for help.
The third word is thanksgiving. It’s a very interesting compound word. It means: to be good or well and combined with grace. I love one commentator. He says, “The way this is phrased, it’s like sprinkling like salt and pepper into the rest of your prayers where you are constantly giving thanks.”
I find myself, when I look at the stars or when I am worshipping God, all of a sudden He will just bring to my mind, You’ve got almost forty years with your wife after all that you guys have been through. And think about that day when your one son was in ICU or you thought this was an impossible problem. God, thanks.
So, I’m worshipping but I just fall into thanksgiving. Or how about when you are confessing, I can’t do this. I can’t do this. I can’t do this. You know what God reminds me? Hey, remember two years ago or three months ago when it was an impossible situation and you couldn’t do it – do you remember what I did? Oh, yeah! You were faithful. Thank You!
In fact, let me show you a little tool and I know some of you are not writers, you’re not verbal processors. I don’t think people need to keep a journal to be godly, okay? But if you’re a little ADD. In services like this, sometimes, we say, “I want to ask you a question, but don’t raise your hand.” Can I try the opposite? I am going to ask you a question and I am going to ask you to raise your hand.
Does anybody else except me, does your mind wander when you pray? Oh my gosh. It’s just – and then I feel so guilty. I’ve been out in the stars, I have worshipped Him, and I’m reading the Bible, God, I can’t do this! And then my mind is all the way over to here and then it’s over to here and then it’s over to here. Oh.
And what I realize is I can’t concentrate very well. So, when it comes to – I am just – and then I get paralyzed and then I feel bad that I can’t concentrate. And then I tell God I’m sorry. And then it’s like, confession, sometimes I just give up. And the anxiety doesn’t leave.
And here’s what I have learned to do. I have learned when I am going through that, I realize that anxiety and biblical prayer cannot coexist.
And anxiety can’t live with thankfulness.
So, for example, I just couldn’t concentrate. Lord, I am overly aware of what I am not, in varying degrees of what awaits me. I was away for a few days and what I returned – I had – right? Anxiety. Two hundred emails. Three meetings. Holy Father, please forgive me for my self-focus and please renew my heart and my mind. I am viewing things through a negative lens and it is producing negative emotions.
And so, this is what I did. Thank You for the rest, the walks, the time to read, relax, and laugh with Theresa. Thank You for Theresa, that she said she is feeling better physically than she has in a long time. Thank You for the long and beautiful pool to swim and rehab my back. Thank You that I rarely had to take Advil for the last few days.
Can you imagine thanking God for no Advil? Here’s what I’m trying to get: this is how life really works! It’s in the details of life where you say, well, you know what? That’s big! Thank You for the inside encouragement to listen to the book by John Ortberg, “The Life You Have Always Wanted,” and the resilience and encouragement it has brought to my heart. Thank You for the God impulse to help people that we have met on the streets that are poor.
Thank You that despite all the unpleasantness I see in my life, my mistakes in leadership, personal struggles and failures, as a Christian, as a husband, as a father, and as a leader, that You love me, delight in me, and have exceeding mercy upon me and my family, my life, my ministry, and that You’re not surprised or shocked that I don’t measure up. You remember, even when I forget, that I am but dust. I cannot, in this life, measure up. I am need of Your mercy and Your grace every moment of every day.
The truth is, many of the things that bother me about me, they bother me because they’re true. Anybody else have that?
And the last word, he talks about is, so, what do you do? It’s requests. You outline your specific needs. This is like, you know why some of you don’t experience much of God? You pray prayers like this, Lord, bless my family. Help me have a good day. Help my children. Help me someday, someway, somehow to meet someone. Lord, cause me to grow spiritually, somehow, someway. That’s like my wife sending me to the grocery and say, “Could you buy some food that we will all like and that I will cook well?” She would go, “Oh my gosh!”
Whenever she sends me and if she was here she would say she doesn’t send me very often. Man, I’ve got a list and then it’s like, here’s the label, it’s got to be organic, it has got to be this. She wants very specific things.
Once you have: this is who God is, this is your need, I am thanking Him – what do you want? God, I ask You specifically to move in my supervisor’s heart to give me favor with him and that I would have great affirmation in this meeting.
God, I am asking You for “x” amount of dollars because this is what is happening in our family situation and I need that. God, I am asking You for the best doctor in all the Bay Area. Help me get, bring someone in contact, how do we deal with this cancer?
Write specific things and expect specific things and then, like a grocery list, give them to the God who is all-wise, all-knowing, and you’re His son, His daughter – and He will help you.
My little, the next thing I do in my journal is, this is my – I pray, once I have gotten there, these are all little boxes. I turn all my concerns, all my anxiety into prayers.
And here’s a box, there it is. Here’s a box, here it is. And I am turning them into requests. And this is a month old. All but about two have check marks next to the box. You know what I am experiencing? God is alive in my life. God is showing up. I’ll guarantee He is showing up in your life, you just don’t know it. You don’t track it. You don’t pray specifically.
Here is what He is saying: when anxiety knocks at the door of your heart, let prayer, this kind of prayer – adoration, confession, thanksgiving, supplication – let prayer answer it and then run into your Father’s arms. Run into your Father’s arms.
It’s like, remember for some of us, when you had small kids or some of you who have small kids? When they have a bad dream, what do they always do? They’re four; they’re three. They have a bad dream. They get up. They run and what do they do? They are at your bedside. What do they want to do? They want to get in bed with you? So, what do you do? Open the covers and you go, “Oh brother.” Because they take up the whole bed. And then they lay next to you and thirty seconds later, what do you hear? [Deep breathing noises]
You think that’s an accident? See, they think that their parent loves them, is in control, and it’s a safe place, and they are at peace. And the God of the universe says, Come. Come. Stop fretting. Stop worrying. Stop trying to figure out how you can solve it all.
In fact, the promise here: peace and anxiety cannot – write the word – coexist. Peace and anxiety can’t coexist. Second, anxiety and biblical prayer cannot coexist.
Now, I want to give you a little warning because I hope some of you are going, Wow, now okay, I get it. I asked you to put an “A.” “A” – okay, anxiety is coming into my life. “A” – adoration. The next, put the little letter “C” next to that one, under the petition. Confession. “T” for thanksgiving. And then “S” – supplication, what I am actually going to ask. So, A-C-T-S. So, it’s just a little “ACTS” – this is my – when anxiety knocks at the door of my heart, I am going to let an “ACTS” kind of prayer – adoration, confession, thanksgiving, and supplication – I am going to let it answer. And I am going to run into my Father’s arms.
Now, here’s the deal. If you never played golf or if you never went bowling, if you never played an instrument, or if you did it thirty-five years ago, would you expect to go and roll a three hundred or shoot par? Or would you expect it is a skill to learn about, a skill to practice, a skill to develop, and that over time, you would get better and better and better and better?
You don’t have to live an anxious life, but you have built and I have built lifelong habit patterns to respond to anxiety in ways that are very dysfunctional and very painful and they are bad for you, your soul, your relationship with God, your family, and with other people.
So, what I just described, you’re going to have to go into training and begin to practice. So, when you feel peace leaving because, by the way, you can do all four of those kind of prayers in about three or four or five minutes if – right? You can take a break.
I have had situations where I have been in a situation and I am anxious like this and I don’t know what to do. “Excuse me, I’ve got to go to the bathroom.” I have gone to the bathroom and while I’m washing my hands, God, help me to remember, and I’ll just walk through that and ask the peace of Christ, because, I need Your power. I need to abide in You. I need Your peace and Your power. And Jesus said He has given it to us freely.
To summarize on the very back, biblical prayer is God’s antidote to anxiety. It’s simple and, yet, profound. Biblical prayer is the antidote to anxiety.
When anxiety pounds at the door of your heart, let prayer – oh, they are beautiful, Lord. “…answer it as you run into your Father’s arms.”
What I understand is there might be some people that grew up like me is if God is not your Father, if you have never received Him as your Savior, this doesn’t work. Because these promises aren’t for people outside of Christ.
And so, the prayer that relieves the biggest anxiety, it was my most amazing experience, even though I had been to church, even though I intellectually believed in God, I didn’t realize I needed to turn from my sin, my self-will, and running my life and I needed to turn and say, Lord Jesus, I believe that You came from heaven, that You are in fact God and You died upon the cross. And as You hung upon the cross, You paid for my sin and You covered or atoned for my sin. And what You have said is that as many as believe and would invite You into their heart and life, You would literally take up residence and that’s how Your peace starts.
If you have never done that, we would love to help you on your journey to make that decision. Because He brought you here today because you matter and He loves you.