The Roots of Anxiety

After you read this, I urge you to listen to this sermon by David Platt and this sermon by John Piper. A lot of what I have to share in this post was influenced by the words of these two godly men.

Anxiety can come upon us suddenly and unbidden, like this morning when I woke up at 4:29am with anxious and despairing thoughts about my children. Questions dogged me as I probed into their futures.

I was able to go back to sleep but I didn’t get at the roots of my anxiety until later. It’s what I should’ve done at 4:29am, but who thinks clearly at 4:29am? Did I also mention I’m on vacation? Who wants to battle sin when they’re comfortably ensconced in a mountain cabin? But I guess anxiety never goes on vacation.

I needed to stop (like David Platt suggests) and examine and pull up the roots of my anxiety. I don’t often do that. Often I just try to get through life accepting that there will always be this kind of low level anxiety hovering around. It seems to be the default atmosphere we live in and even more so in our current state of affairs. But anxiety is a sin. We are commanded by Jesus (Matthew 6) and Paul (Philippians 4) to not be anxious.

So if anxiety is a sin then we need to fight against it, not accept it. And in order to fight any sin it’s helpful to get at the root of it. Did you know sin starts in the mind? Sins don’t come out of nowhere. They begin in the mind, create desires in the heart, and eventuate in sinful action.

There could be many roots to my anxiety but the root I needed to get at today and pull up like a noxious weed was the root of unbelief in God’s sovereignty.

Isaiah 46:8-11 (which Piper preached on) was one of the ways I started pulling up that weed. “Remember this and stand firm, recall it to mind, you transgressors, remember the former things of old; for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose,’ calling a bird of prey from the east, the man of my counsel from a far country. I have spoken, and I will bring it to pass; I have purposed and I will do it.”

God knows the future, he has a purpose for the future and he will accomplish that purpose, for the world, for me and for my children. I had forgotten. When I woke up at 4:29am I thought I was on the throne. I thought I was God. And I panicked. I let my thoughts go to the future I didn’t know, a future I didn’t really have a plan for, and a future I certainly didn’t have the authority or strength to accomplish. That left my heart vulnerable for despair to creep in, just like a weed.

My husband has been trying to kill off the weeds in our backyard so he can eventually grow some good grass back there. He sprayed the whole backyard with weedkiller and eventually the weeds disappeared. It was fine for a few weeks but he didn’t lay down new topsoil and spread grass seed. And guess what happened? Almost overnight it seemed, weeds sprung up where there were none.

This is what will happen if we forget to renew our minds with the truth. We can pull up the weeds of anxious thoughts by confessing and asking for forgivenesss, but if we’re not diligent and watchful those weeds will come back. We need to lay down the topsoil of the truth of God’s Word and spread the seed of his promises. We need to consistently preach to ourselves and to others the truth that God is God and we are not (Isaiah 46:8-11), that his mercies are new every morning and great is his faithfulness (Lamentations 3:22-24), that he knows what we need before we ask him and so we can seek his kingdom and his righteousness knowing he will provide (Matthew 6:8, 25-34), that he will never leave us or forsake us (Hebrews 13:5-6).

Weeds don’t take a vacation and neither does sin. So let us then encourage one another all the more with these truths, especially in these anxious times.

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