Almost everyone feels anxious at times. It doesn’t have to be a full-on anxiety disorder; just the common worries that steal your joy and keep you up at night. Maybe you’re anxious about your finances, or an important test you need to pass, or a secret sin that you’re worried will come to the light.
Whatever the cause, anxiety is both uncomfortable and unhealthy—and it is not how God wants us to live. For example, Philippians 4:6-9 is one of many biblical passages that talks about worry. It starts off with a command: “Do not be anxious about anything.” Saying that you should not be anxious about anything—anything at all—seems like a pretty tall order. However, those verses also teach us three things we can do to overcome anxiety: pray, think, and practice.
The first (and probably most important) way to overcome anxiety is to pray for help. The full text of Philippians 4:6 says, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” Prayer is the thing we should be doing instead of worrying, and it is key to not being anxious in the first place.
The word “supplication” in that verse is not one that we tend to use in daily conversation, but the dictionary defines it as “the action of asking or begging for something earnestly or humbly.” We are to ask, or even beg, for God to give us what we need. Whatever is causing you anxiety, you should humbly and earnestly ask God for help with it. By placing the situation in God’s hands, you can trust that the outcome is meant to be and will be used overall for your good (Romans 8:28).
It also says to pray “with thanksgiving.” We all have many things to be thankful for, but anxiety causes us to overlook the positives and focus on potential negative outcomes. By actively being thankful, it turns our attention away from what might go wrong—the things we are anxious about—and focuses us on the things that are going right.
The result of praying and trusting God in this way is that God gives you peace: “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7).
The next verse, Philippians 4:8, talks about our thought life: “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”
Anxiety is a thinking problem; it happens when we fixate on negative thoughts and assume the worst. That is why, when talking about overcoming anxiety and having peace, the Bible says we should think about good things. Remind yourself about what God says is true, and will remain true no matter what: that He loves you (1 John 3:1), He is in control, and He will give you what you really need (Matthew 6:25-34). Turn to the Bible so you can fill your mind with instruction that is pure and worthy of praise (2 Timothy 3:16-17). Take your anxious thoughts captive (2 Corinthians 10:5) and replace them with hope (Romans 15:13).
What we’re describing is not necessarily a quick fix. If you are a habitual worrier, it will take time to change that habit.
Philippians 4:9 says, “What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.” Overcoming anxiety takes practice. As with any skill, there is a learning curve. You might not always succeed at first. But the more you put it into practice, and the more time you spend praying and filling your mind with God’s Word, the more natural it will become. You will build the positive habits of trusting God in every situation and turning your mind away from worrisome thoughts.
It will take time to get good at it. In a way, it is a lifelong process; we will always face the temptation and tendency to worry about each new situation that comes along. But the more practice you get, the easier it will become.
You can learn more about overcoming anxiety—including next steps, additional resources, and stories of people who have struggled with it—on our fear and anxiety issues page. You can also get in-person help with any struggle by finding a re:generation group near you.