Updated: Jul 9, 2020
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. – Philippians 4:6
What usually happens when you allow your negative thoughts to cycle over and over again in your mind? Do they naturally work themselves out and leave you feeling better, or, like me, do they take over and become the only thing you can focus on?
Watch out! When toxic thoughts hijack our hearts, someone’s bound to get hurt.
It might be you who gets hurt when things like worry, insecurity, and fear spiral into anxiety. It’s well known that prolonged states of anxiety are linked to physical problems such as high blood pressure, headaches, irritable bowels, fatigue, and heart disease.1 Some of us are literally dying of worry.
Unfortunately, we’re not the only ones who get hurt. Our anxious thoughts have a rippling effect and can impact the people around us. Just ask my husband, Dan about the time I snapped and completely lost my mind.
When our kids were young, we barely had enough money to buy groceries. I took a part-time job caring for another little boy so his mother could work and we could keep the lights on. At the time, Dan was a medical resident. Hundred-hour workweeks were the norm, so my high hopes of family dinners and romantic walks never came to pass.
One night Dan came home late...as usual. I was cleaning the kitchen for what felt like the fourteenth time that day. He informed me that it was our turn to host all the residents and their families at our house for dinner. It had slipped his mind, he said, and he was truly sorry for the late notice. But nevertheless, he added sheepishly, they’d all be coming over this Thursday night. I quickly counted. That was only two days away!
I dropped my soapy sponge in the sink, spun around, and glared at him. Unfazed, Dan said, “Don’t freak out. I’ll order pizzas.” I quickly calculated the hours of cleaning required and the cost of pizzas for forty-some people. How could he be so oblivious?
I didn’t have time to shower, let alone entertain like Martha Stewart. Didn’t he know we were broke? Like as in zip, nothing in the bank, with two more weeks until he got paid.
I opened the cabinet next to me and saw our wedding dishes, layered with dust since we now mostly ate with plastic plates and cups. I reached up, grabbed a large round plate, and flung it like a frisbee at Dan’s head. I missed, so I reached back into the cabinet and, one by one, threw more plates across the kitchen. It was good for him that I stunk at Frisbee golf. He easily dodged the oncoming Pottery Barn missiles, scrambled out of the house, and went back to work unscathed. It was bad for me, though, since my tantrum left me with shards of glass all over the kitchen floor to clean up. Alone.
Remembering that day, over eighteen years ago, I can still see myself sweeping the broken pieces of glass into a dust pan. Moments before, ten pretty plates had been stacked neatly on the shelf, symbolizing gifts given to us by loving people at our wedding. Moments after I snapped, broken pieces went into the trash, leaving only four plates left, not enough for a family of five we’d one day be.
I think this is one reason God warns us to guard our hearts by reminding us that everything we do flows from it. (Proverbs 4:23) Out of control thoughts impact our hearts, and out of our hearts, our actions flow.
Think of a time when your anxious thoughts got the best of you. Maybe constant complaining turned into a full-blown fight. Or worry stole your sleep, leaving you irritable and miserable the next day. Or the possibility of “what could happen” paralyzed you from taking the next step of faith.
Jesus is familiar with all of these scenarios (and more) that stop us from living a confident life with Him. Once while teaching in a remote area, His own disciples came to him worried about how large the crowd was, how little food they had, and how late it was becoming. They didn’t want the crowd to get “hangry” so they suggested Jesus send them away immediately. Jesus had other plans.
He calmly asked them to bring Him what little food they had. He directed the entire crowd to sit down and wait. Then, taking the five loaves of bread and two fish, Jesus looked up to heaven, gave thanks to God, and placed the divided food in His disciple’s hands. The miracle of feeding 5,000 happened right in front of their anxious hearts and minds.
Jesus’ way of dealing with anxiety is timeless and true. The next time anxious thoughts try to hijack your heart, stop and sit down. Then look up to heaven and give God thanks in prayer. Invite Him into the chaos or challenge you face. Ask for His power, provisions, and plans for your life.
His Word reminds us to… not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. (Phil. 4:6)
Jesus knew that anxious thoughts eventually hurt us and others. That’s why He modeled the way out. Let’s practice thanksgiving, one praise at a time. When we do, miracles are possible. And trust me, there will be fewer messes to clean up.
3 O’CLOCK CIRCLES
Here are 3 questions you can discuss with someone or in a circle with several others.
Please take a few minutes and read Jesus’ Miracle of Feeding the Five Thousand in Mark 6:30-44 or in John 6:1-15.
1. If you were one of the disciples and Jesus told you to feed such a large crowd, how would you have responded?
2. When anxious thoughts crash into your heart, what’s usually your first response?
3. If you were to follow Jesus’ lead and combat anxious thoughts with thanksgiving to God, who would benefit and how so?
The Power of Giving God Thanks Will Ignite Your Faith and Change Your World!
Thank You for Being A Part of the 3 O’Clock Wake Up Call Movement