I’ve walked the laborious road of anxiety. Compulsions and panic attacks have ruled me. I have had countless sleepless nights, palpitations, and times where I felt paralyzed by the prospect of the future. I’ve felt the oppressive choke that anxiety grips around the throat, expecting both obedience and allegiance. I was convinced that anxiety was a possession of mine and for that reason I found myself treating it as a pet. I fed it, kept it company, and entertained it. It was my anxiety. I had to keep an eye on its pulse.
There wasn’t some magical turn of events at my conversion, either. It’s particularly easy for those who don’t experience anxiety to assume that a switch flips upon the acceptance of Jesus as Savior, anticipating an immediate cure for the vice grip on your psyche. I’d venture to say that more often than not this simply isn’t the case.
Because we often don’t know how to biblically approach the subject of anxiety, spiritual damage runs rampant among our churches. One such trend that I’ve seen rise unwanted from the ashes of poor thinking is that anxiety is suddenly “mine.” We hear excuses like, “My anxiety is really bad today,” or “My anxiety would never let me get on that plane!” or “My anxiety is just a cross to bear, a thorn in my flesh.” But this is a fatal, sinful flaw, a method straight from the pit of hell. Anxiety is not mine. It is not yours. Anxiety is sin’s; an inept sword yielded by the devil. When we use language that indicates that anxiety is ours we trick ourselves into believing a blatant lie.
By these he has given us very great and precious promises, so that through them you may share in the divine nature, escaping the corruption that is in the world because of evil desire. 2 Peter 1:4
At the moment of our salvation a very important change does occur. No, struggles don’t disappear. Suffering doesn’t dissipate. But our very identity is changed, and we are suddenly and permanently imparted with the righteousness of God. We become partakers in the divine nature. Jesus Christ nullifies our old nature through His sacrifice and we are given a new identity. We are made righteous. Blameless. At our conversion God no longer looks at us seeing the injury of sin. He sees the blood of the Son washing us clean. He sees His own righteousness, as if looking at a mirror.
Don’t you know that if you offer yourselves to someone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of that one you obey—either of sin leading to death or of obedience leading to righteousness? But thank God that, although you used to be slaves of sin, you obeyed from the heart that pattern of teaching to which you were handed over, and having been set free from sin, you became enslaved to righteousness. Romans 6:16-18 15
In Christ, we are His slave. We are sealed with the Holy Spirit and guided into better behavior and thinking. We are granted access to His fruit, which we bear by pruning away the acts of flesh to which we were once so accustomed. We are freed from the yoke of slavery to sin that once oppressed our necks and we are granted liberty to walk in the Lord. In Christ, we become slaves to righteousness instead. God’s power surpasses the work of the flesh enabling us to act in holiness; the Spirit pushes us toward righteousness. We are no longer a possession of sin. Anxiety doesn’t own us, nor do we own it. Sin doesn’t enslave us. Satan doesn’t conquer us. Anxiety is not mine.
For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but one of power, love, and sound judgment. 2 Timothy 1:7
Anxiety is also not God’s. The panic, worry, fear, palpitations, and attacks are certainly not from our Father who loves us so greatly. He is not the inception of the anxiety we experience. He is not the source of fear. Instead He gives us His own power, discernment, and affection to defeat these dealings. Anxiety is not our possession, nor is it the Lord’s.
I must be clear: sin doesn’t disappear when we come to know Christ. The effect of it does; we are immediately granted life and communion with God eternally, but we still wage war each day to slay the sins that tempt us and defy the demons that haunt us. But through Christ we’ve already won this battle. Anxiety, doubt, fear, depression, and sorrow will still rear their ugly and vicious heads at us, but they are not our pets to keep. We do not feed them. We do not entertain them. There is no incentive to please them. They have no power over us.
I would never want to diminish the experience of anxiety. It is difficult, domineering, and malignant. The struggle against it doesn’t disappear. The challenges it presents do not vanish. It is a very real and very tangible mode of suffering, one that seeks to condemn us. But fellow Christian, it will never prevail. That doesn’t mean we don’t experience it. That doesn’t mean it isn’t real. But anxiety will not endure. It will not arrive in Glory. There is a definitive end to anxiety, even if our eyes are blinded to it in this life.
There is power in our language. Words mean something, and we must take care to steward them. We please God when we strive to be precise communicators, and we are told we will give an account for the words that we speak (Matthew 12:36). When we say “My anxiety is bad today” or anything in its likeness we testify to a watching world that anxiety has dominion over us and that is certainly far from the truth. Whether you experience anxiety on a serious level, or the woes of each day despair you, the biblical truth is that it has no enduring power. I still advocate and find value in seeking help through counsel, both through professionals and through the Word of God, but regardless of anything else know this: anxiety is not to be possessed by the Christian because it is not a possession of Christ Himself. It will not endure, and we are continually being restored to the likeness of Christ.