Jesus’ Cure for Anxiety

Too many things all at once.

That’s the problem I’ve had this past month. Unexpected stressors have been pushing from too many directions. Complicated relationship and work issues. Financial struggles. Complicated parenting issues. None of these have a good clear solution.

Maybe you’ve felt the same kind of stress and anxiety. I’ve been flooded with it. Late this week I was reminded, however, that I don’t have to live with it. Neither do you.

In Luke 12:22-34, Jesus offers a cure for anxiety. When I came across it (a text I’ve read a thousand times before) it re-focused me. If you’re struggling with worry, maybe it can help you too.

Stressed Woman Cartoon

In these verses Jesus was teaching. His disciples were worried about food and clothes and how they were going to make ends meet. Jesus told them to consider the lilies and the sparrows and the grass in the field. Do they worry? No. Does God provide for them? Yes.

I’ve read those verses before. They sound nice. But are they practical?

After all, the grass in the field doesn’t have a mortgage to pay or a pre-existing condition the insurance company won’t cover. But Jesus isn’t being flippant. As he continues, he actually offers an alternative to worry. This alternative is the cure for anxiety.

The cure is made up of a focus, an identity, an attitude and an action.

Where Do You Focus?

Your focus is where you look. When you worry you are focusing in a certain direction, looking anxiously at a potential future outcome. Perhaps your anxiety is plausible given what’s happening around you, but that particular outcome hasn’t happened yet. Anxiety becomes a droning emotional buzz, keeping you out of the present moment, focused on something that might happen in the future.

When I’m struggling with anxiety, my emotional energy is consumed. My entire vision is occupied with seeking my own security. I’m a solver by nature, so my brain starts spinning around the puzzle of how to fix the source of my fear. What can I fix? What can I change?

When I’m feeling that kind of stress my priorities can get all out of whack. I’m less emotionally available to my family. I’ve got a shorter fuse. I’m liable to fall back into unhealthy patterns and coping mechanisms. It’s not good. Let me be clear: This isn’t happening because I have a problem. It’s happening because I’m focusing on that problem (and my lack) so intently that I can’t see anything else.

So Jesus starts by directing our focus away from the worry. Luke 12:31: “Seek His kingdom, and these things will be provided for you.” Jesus says, “Keep your focus on what matters most: God and God’s rule in your life.” It doesn’t matter what you have or what you need. Don’t get distracted. Keep your focus here.

What Identity Will You Live Out Of?

The second element in the cure is choosing our identity. In Luke 12:32 Jesus says: “Don’t be afraid, little flock, because your Father delights to give you the kingdom.”

We are identified in two ways in this verse. First, he calls us “little flock.” That’s calling us sheep.  Not in the derogatory “sheeples” way, but as a term of endearment. This is a shepherd talking lovingly about the sheep that he cares for and protects.  Second, Jesus tells us that “our father” delights to give us the kingdom. If God is our Father, then that makes us his Children.

This is about identity.

Your identity is a special belief that you hold. It’s your core story. It shapes you and gives you a way to understand your life. It also impacts your reactions and thoughts about the future. Here’s the identity Jesus says we can live out of: We’re the shepherd’s sheep–the ones he watches out for and protects. We’re the father’s children–the ones he loves and provides for.

Why would this identity matter? Because it counters the identity that so many of us live out of that says we’re on our own. We can only depend on ourselves. We can only trust ourselves. We aren’t enough. These beliefs are powerful.

If your identity is that you are alone and you can only depend on yourself, how is that going to shape your thoughts and actions? It’s going to lead to you fighting and striving. When things aren’t working well, it’s going to lead to you living in anxiety and stress. It’s going to push you into a place of performance-based value.

Now consider the identity that Jesus is offering. If your identity is that you are cared for, that you are loved and provided for, how is that going to shape your thoughts and actions? It’s going to lead you to peace and trust.

What Attitude Will You Hold?

As the passage moves on Jesus gives an instruction to sell your possessions and give to the poor. (Luke 12:33) In order to do this, you must have an attitude of holding your stuff lightly. If your attitude is that your stuff gives you value or security or justification, you’ll be grasping it too tightly. In order to give something away, you’ve got to have a belief that something else is more important.

If your security is found in God, in God’s love for you, in your God-given identity, then you can release your grasping hold on money and stuff as a way to protect yourself and establish your value.

What Will You Do?

Once this open-handed attitude takes hold, you can begin to do something extraordinary. You can be generous and give.

Even if you’re poor, even if you’re uncertain how to make ends meet, even if you’re struggling, you can still live with an attitude of abundance. When you hold tight, when you are unwilling to be generous, you are living out an attitude and identity that says, “I must take care of me. No one else will. I am alone.” When you can give, you are living out an attitude and identity that says, “I am loved and provided for. There is enough for me.” This new identity allows you to give.

Ready to stop worrying?

I’ve been up to my ears in worry these past weeks. As I reflected on these words of Jesus, I was corrected. My focus had gotten off track. (How can I fix this? If only I can solve the problem, then everyone will be OK with me.)  I’ve been living out of an old identity (I’m not enough), instead of my identity in Christ. This has resulted in a grasping attitude (It has to go my way, or things won’t be OK.)  That’s led to acts that have been selfish, undermining, taking me away from who I want to be.

Jesus tells his followers, tells us, that there’s another way to live.  We don’t have to worry. Focus on seeking God’s kingdom, instead of seeking our own security. Live out of the identity that we are loved and provided for, instead of the identity that we are alone and don’t have enough. Hold what we have loosely and freely bless others.

This is the kind of life Jesus calls us into.  Notice there’s no fear.

Note: This post is the core of a recent sermon of mine.  If you’d like to hear more, including more of the Biblical background, you can watch it here, on Youtube.

21 thoughts on “Jesus’ Cure for Anxiety

  1. Marc, great and timely insights. Thanks for letting God work through you to help remind us how simple and wonderful God makes life for us if we let him. God is SO good!

    1. Hey Chip – You came back! I can’t tell you how happy that makes me. Thanks for the encouragement and for leaving a comment. I’m in the process of recovering that simple life you mention.

  2. I really enjoyed this post, Marc. I am also beginning to realize that I have to keep focused on the reality that I am His….I am in the heart and soul of the Almighty and under His care. It is soooooo easy to be distracted by the focus that life/the world around us bombards us with. Life isn’t all about me and it isn’t all up to me. Thanks for sharing. Your post about the campsite and letting go has stayed in my mind. Keep them coming! I am also looking forward to the book.

    1. Hey Julie, I’m so glad you stopped by to read and comment. This summer has been a long remedial lesson in this — I’m not in control. God loves me anyway. Now will I rest in that, or be stressed about it?

  3. Marc, thanks for sharing this.

    I went through some serious struggles about a month ago, right at the time when I was studying the trait of gratitude as part of my spiritual practice. Looking for things to be grateful for was no fun when I was in the midst of a difficult time.

    But I stuck with it, and it did make me feel a bit better, because it refocused my attention. I had an important realization – what if the glass is only one quarter full? Where should we focus our attention, on the part that is missing, or the part that we have.

    1. Isn’t that the truth! Spiritual disciplines are always easy when we don’t need them. It’s in those difficult times when we need their focus. I hope that things have evened out for you. Thank so much for coming by and commenting! That means a lot to me.

    1. Hey Jason, thanks so much! And thanks for leaving a comment. I really appreciate it. (By the way… I love Postmatic!)

  4. Good reminders for those pressures we all face in life. I’d just like to point out (I know, here I go again) that following these points may help alleviate the stress and worry of everyday living, but they are not a cure for the pain that many face with an anxiety disorder. Only reason I bring this up is because churches in the past have attempted to say “just follow the Bible, cast your cares on Him and all well be well”, but this is a gross oversimplification of what people with deeper issues face, and churches have tended to minimize. Just sayin. Thanks for your posts Marc

    1. You’re quite right. Mental illness and all forms of central nervous system dysfunction are an area we need to be mindful of. I definitely don’t want to put additional burdens on the backs of people already burdened. I know, dealing with depression myself, that spiritualized solutions rarely help. We need to come around these folks in a much better, more supportive way.

  5. I am really struggling today to pull out of anxiety. Lots of stress. Lots of pressure. Lots of worry. Lots of exhaustion. I feel the great weight of life. My anxiety shows up as the high functioning kind. When I get a minute to rest, I want to do nothing but sleep. There just has to be more than this, and i want to be free.

    1. Hey Rachael, I’m so sorry your facing this. I’ve lived with nearly incapacitating anxiety in certain seasons of my life, and I know how terrible it is. I’m also the high-functioning one, too. Everyone on the outside thinks I’m doing great, but then I crash in private.

      There is definitely more!

      For me, part of my path of healing came through really good therapy. In the safe hands of a professional therapist, I was able to unpack the parts of my story that led to why I was experiencing the anxiety. That helped me discover ways to manage it, and even let some of it go.

      I also have a pretty rigorous routine that is vital in my recovery from depression and anxiety. That involves daily prayer, journaling, reflection and meditation. (I use the Headspace app for meditation, and it has literally been a life-saver for me.)

      Most importantly, for me, is having a supportive community of people who really understand that this is real for me, and who don’t need to fix me, but love me. I don’t think you can face this stuff alone, even though it may sound terrifying to open up about the state of your heart, it’s the best way to move into a place where healing can happen.

      I’m stopping right now to pray for you.

      God who made us, Jesus who walks with us, Spirit who speaks in the quietness of our hearts — Rachael needs light, and hope, and healing. Bring the right supportive people in her life. Help her have the courage and will to take the necessary steps she can take to restore stability and to let go of things that are not truly hers to bear. I ask that you can lead her to the healing of the deep stuff in her heart that contributes to all of this. And along the way, help her to experience your close presence, so she can know that she is not alone. Amen.

  6. Your amazing, thank you for reminding me I need to trust in an believe in our father an Jesus…. Bless you

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