When you stop and think about it, it’s amazing that we're not all in a heap in the corner given what is happening in the world around us. Add to that the challenges we face in our personal world and you have a recipe for worry, fear, and, in the most extreme cases, a complete nervous breakdown. It’s easy to forget that we are not in charge of the universe, and we then run the risk of collapsing under the weight of the affairs of the world.
Anywhere you turn for help with anxiety you will find a few common themes. One of those is to relinquish control—to bend the knee and admit to God that we are trying to manage life on our own.
To admit this doesn’t imply that we shrink our responsibilities, or that we fail to pray in faith, believing that God can change nations and history. Rather, to admit we are not in control allows us to remember who it was that brought us from death to life in Christ, and causes us to realign ourselves with the reality that He is actually in control of this world.
Let’s do that now. Transfer control to Him. Pray and do what is in your hands to do. But leave the rest with Him, knowing that’s when your rest will come.
Another theme is taking deep breaths. You might hear the encouragement to stop and take a few deep breaths when you feel a sense of panic setting in. That’s because the “fight or flight” mechanism that keeps you from harm triggers when you feel like you are under threat (real or imaginary). Once this happens, your breathing becomes shallow, or you unknowingly stop breathing altogether.
Re-igniting your breathing has a calming effect. The American Institute of Stress (yes, we have one of those) echoes this view, “Deep breathing increases the supply of oxygen to your brain and stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system, which promotes a state of calmness. Breathing techniques help you feel connected to your body—it brings your awareness away from the worries in your head and quiets your mind.”
It is God who gave us our first breath and it is God who gives every breath (Acts 17:25). So, it is God who can give calming breath to those who are crumbling under the weight of worry. If you are going to be free of anxiety you must learn to take deep physical breaths and deeper spiritual ones.
Breathe out: I cannot.
Breathe in: But Jesus, you can.
When we breathe deeply, we remember the other side of the gospel story. Christ lives to be and do in and through us what we cannot do in our own strength.