“…The Lord is at hand; 6 do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Phil 4:5-6
Some times I wonder if Paul understood the struggles of young American college and seminary students while writing these words. How could he possibly tell us to not be anxious? We have lots to be anxious for; our futures, relationships, finances, loans, families, papers, exams etc. How could I not find myself worrying and caring about the things that will affect and impact the rest of my life? How could I not be distracted with thoughts about my future spouse, or the impending loan repayment that awaits.
Anxieties. Distractions. Worries. Cares. We all carry them. And yet the scriptures remind us, that if we pray and “cast all of our cares upon Him (the one who cares for us)” ( 1 Peter 5:7; Psalm 55:22), he will take care of us and the peace of God, will guard our hearts and minds. If this is true, then how come so many college and seminary students find themselves like me, in a constant battle with anxiety?
While I don’t claim to have all of the answers, I do have MY answer. MY battle with anxiety was one that I fought long and hard. I found myself constantly mulling over different scenarios and options for my future. You see, I need to have all of the answers. I need know the how’s, what’s, when’s and where’s that have yet to come. But those are the questions I rarely have the answers for when it comes to my future.
My battle with the HUGE distraction of anxiety, came from the need to KNOW and the need to CONTROL my future. I needed to know and I needed to control, because I didn’t trust the one who holds my future in HIS hands. Because I believed that he couldn’t possibly have something good in store for me. I truly believed that only I, could know what is best for me. And because I feared that the God I serve, didn’t love me enough to give me his best. So I wanted to find myself In the Center of my will, instead of his. I filled my mind with pictures of what I wanted my life to look like, and I obssesed over them.
Thoughts of what my future romance should look like, drowned me in my own mind. Ideas of the ministry I one day want to partake in, blinded me from the opportunities right in front of me. And the idea of the more, kept me from the intimacy that God the father so longed to have with me.
My battle with anxiety came to an end two weeks before orientation at the Alliance Theological Seminary. I’d driven up to Camp of the Woods (www.camp-of-the-woods.org/), where I had worked the previous two summers as a Nyack College Student. One night a group of Nyack friends, others and myself had a bible study, at the end of the study, a dear friend of mine pulled me aside and said the Lord told him to tell me; ” to stop looking so much into the future.” I walked into my room knowing there was something more God was trying to say. With my roommates sleeping, I went into my bathroom and asked: “Lord, what is it? What are you trying to say?”
The answer rang loudly: ” Would you be content if you never got married? Would you be content if you never preached again? Would you be content if you never got the family or the ministry you so desire? Would you be content with just me?”
I began to cry when I realized how little I trusted God. My reply was simple: ” Lord, help me to be content with just you.” That night, the chains of anxiety that plagued my thoughts and heart were broken by the realization that God IS more than enough and what HE has for me is WAAAAYYYY better than ANYTHING I could think of or imagine.
I was reminded of this victory this past Monday, when at Resting Place ( a house of prayer, many Nyack and ATS students frequent) the Lord removed yet again the distraction of future earthly hopes.
God is a good Father, who gives amazing gifts to his children (Matt 7:11). There is truly nothing to worry about. When we leave our lives in his hands, we can trust that he will give us his very best. Find freedom and rest, knowing that HE LOVES YOU. Let go of control, let go of the need to” know” and embrace the truth that what’s ahead of you is: “…far more abundantly than all that we ask or think…” Ephesians 3:20