Turning to God in the Midst of Anxiety
Is godly anxiety possible? How can we remain faithful, even in the midst of anxiety?
In 2 Chronicles 20, we find an example of godly anxiety. Jehoshaphat is king of Judah – a faithful king who loved and obeyed God. In the closing verses of 2 Chronicles 19, Jehoshaphat issues a challenge to his people: to remain brave, because God is near. A few short verses later he has the opportunity to live out what he’s called his people to do. Trouble arises suddenly, as two neighboring kingdoms rise up against Judah and gather other nations to go to war against the little kingdom.
Anxiety would be the natural response for Jehoshaphat. Judah was not prepared at all and only had a small army. Jehoshaphat knew that the people in Judah could never overcome the enemy. God was their only chance. But look at the five things that Jehoshaphat did in the midst of his anxiety and natural fear.
Turn to God in Prayer
“Then Jehoshaphat was afraid and set his face to seek the Lord, and proclaimed a fast throughout all Judah.” (2 Chronicles 20:3)
In his fear, Jehoshaphat turns to God in prayer. Philippians 4 tells us the result of this kind of prayer: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
When we turn to God in prayer, he gives us his peace – the peace that he has in himself. God isn’t fearful! He isn’t taken aback or surprised by your anxiety. He has a purpose and plan for all events and is at perfect peace, not just knowing the outcome of events, but directing them towards his purposes. The peace that Christ has at this very moment – he gives to us! The peace that he has while we might be in anxiety and fear – he gives to us.
John 14:27 says, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.”
The peace Jesus offers us is not dependent on worldly circumstances. It is constant – it doesn’t come and go based on circumstances. The world can give us some peace of mind – through health insurance, retirement accounts, security alarms, or bomb shelters. But the peace Christ gives is not based just on good circumstances – it is constant through good and bad. In fact, Jesus gives it to us because he promises bad will come.
The faithful turn to God in prayer in the midst of their anxiety and they are met with the peace of God.
Embrace Truth About God
“O Lord, God of our fathers, are you not God in heaven? You rule over all the kingdoms of the nations. In your hand are power and might, so that none is able to withstand you.” (2 Chronicles 20:6)
Jehoshaphat turns to God and then he remembers and embraces what is true about God. Many times, our anxieties escalate when we falsely start believing that we are in control and that everything depends on us.
1 Peter 5:6-7 gives us the antidote for this false belief: “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.” Pride holds onto the illusion of control and leads to more anxiety, but humility is casting your anxieties on God. In humility, we acknowledge that we aren’t in control, which leads to peace. Embrace the truth that he is God in heaven, ruling over the nations.
Remember God’s Faithfulness
“Did you not, our God, drive out the inhabitants of this land before your people Israel, and give it forever to the descendants of Abraham your friend?” (2 Chronicles 20:7)
Jehoshaphat turns to God, remembers who God is, and remembers God’s faithfulness in the past. He remembers that God has always been faithful to his promises.
In Psalm 42, we see the psalmist practicing this same remembrance:
“Why are you cast down, O my soul,
and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
my salvation and my God.
My soul is cast down within me;
therefore I remember you
from the land of Jordan and of Hermon,
from Mount Mizar. (Psalm 42: 5-6)
When our souls are cast down in anxiety, hope is found as we remember God and his faithfulness.
Cast Your Dependence on God
O our God, will you not execute judgment on them? For we are powerless against this great horde that is coming against us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.” (2 Chronicles 20:12)
Dependence starts by confessing our need for God. Jehoshaphat acknowledges that Judah is completely powerless against the enemy, but look at what he says next:
“We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.”
This is coming to the end of yourself and casting our dependence on God, rather than turning to things like busyness and distractions for relief. Jesus uses the same word for anxiety in Luke 10, when he tells Martha, “Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10: 41-42) Instead of the path of distraction, the right path is to turn and cast our dependence on the only One who can address our anxiety.
Turn to Community
In 2 Chronicles 20:14-17, another brother stands and ministers in the midst of Jehoshaphat’s anxiety. Jahaziel stands and tells the assembly, “Do not be afraid…the battle is not yours but God’s.”
We need one another in our anxiety. We need to turn to each other in community, without embarrassment or fear of the response, to allow our brothers and sisters to minister to us with prayers and reminders of truth.
Praise and Thank the Lord
“Then Jehoshaphat bowed his head with his face to the ground, and all Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem fell down before the Lord, worshiping the Lord. And the Levites, of the Kohathites and the Korahites, stood up to praise the Lord, the God of Israel, with a very loud voice.” (2 Chronicles 20:18-19)
Jehoshaphat led the people in singing praises to God - not after the deliverance, but in the midst of it. The people declared, as the Lord fought on their behalf, “Give thanks to the Lord, for his steadfast love endures forever.” (2 Chronicles 20:21) We praise and thank God in advance for the ways he will sustain us in our anxiety.
The account in 2 Chronicles 20 closes with quiet in the realm of Jehoshaphat, “for his God gave him rest all around.” (2 Chronicles 20:30) This is the promise that Jesus makes in Matthew 11: “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28)
This is godly, faithful anxiety. In your anxiety, turn to God, embrace truth and remember his faithfulness, cast your dependence on him, turn to community, praise and thank him for his steadfast love, and find rest for your soul.