God didn’t create our hearts big enough to hold all of the worries and concerns about life. For those who are concerned about the future, he said, “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” Matthew 6:34. Even worrying about today can be overwhelming.
God has a suitcase to carry the concerns of the world and it’s quite large. In fact, it is so large, that only he can pick it up. In order for you to experience God’s grace to help you with your anxiety, you must put your concerns into his suitcase and let them go. Give them up. Release them.
To hold onto your worries is to try to control them. It’s as if you continue to believe that you can carry the suitcase. But it’s so heavy, so weighty, that trying to carry it is wearisome and upsetting. When you release control, recognize that the potential dangers ahead will be met with the grace of God, then you can make the important choice to put your worries into the suitcase.
Now, keep in mind that this is not a once for all decision. You have to make this decision daily, or even more than that. Whenever the worries of life begin to control you, you realize that the suitcase is right there as well. When you do release the worries into God’s care then a very big thing happens. It’s called the great exchange.
The Great Exchange
God promises us that when we put our worries into the suitcase then he gives us what we truly want and need: peace. Philippians 4:6-7 describes this process. God knows that, left to ourselves, we will accumulate anxiety so he says, “Do not be anxious about anything.” That’s a big statement. But in order to enjoy life, you can’t carry around a heavy suitcase that wasn’t meant for you to carry.
The type of prayer you pray in this moment is important. The prayer isn’t “Lord, give me peace.” The prayer is, “Lord, here is my anxiety.” There’s a big difference. In order for us to receive, we must first give.
When you give your anxiety to the Lord, then a great exchange takes place. The verses continue this way, “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” First of all, note that the peace surpasses understanding. This isn’t about getting all your questions answered. God doesn’t promise us that we will know how it all turns out. His peace is bigger than that because we get it even though we don’t know how things will turn out.
Next, notice that God’s peace attacks two anxiety problems at the same time. First, it guards the heart directly. It protects the heart from the emotional overload or the feeling of being overwhelmed. Your heart rises about the problems, and it flies like an eagle, high above any challenges that might pull it down. That’s an amazing feeling to leave the anxious feelings behind because they no longer have any hold on you. You are learning to control your feelings instead of allowing them to control you.
This amazing peace does another important thing; it guards your mind. The racing thoughts can now be curbed by this peace. Your mind doesn’t have to go down the rabbit trails of potential danger. You can solve problems without having to know everything. You can do the best you can, not having to race through all of the potential mistakes. God’s grace has this powerful effect because you do your best and rely on God’s grace to do the rest.
God wants us to exchange our worries for his peace. It’s not a one-time experience. It’s a lifestyle. In the same way God expects us to release angry offenses against our brother over and over again until it becomes a lifestyle. The daily work of transferring our requests to God exercises our hearts to be more open to his peace and care.
How do you help children experience this spiritual reality? Spirituality requires exercise. Paul calls it “walking in the spirit.” (Galatians 5:16). You might want to start each morning with this prayer, “Lord, how can I fit into your plans today?” Then, end each day, with the question, “How did I see God work today?” These questions position children well to experience God and connect them to God’s spiritual strength.
Many children, like adults, have more knowledge than they are putting into action. Faith is an amazing thing and Jesus reminds us that children are the examples (Matthew 18:2-4). It’s actually fascinating to watch kids when they understand what faith is really all about. They lead the way.
As you proceed through these ideas, you might discover that your child needs more. That’s why God has given two more very practical tools to address anxiety. We will share those Secret Weapons in our next blog post.
As you’re learning and thinking more about the heart, you might want to look into the book Parenting is Heart Work. Concordia University’s Family Ministry Program requires that every student read Parenting is Heart Work. Dr. Ben Freudenburg says, “This is our go-to book for parenting. It’s biblical, practical approach is powerful.”
This is part 3 in a 5-part series on helping children who struggle with anxiety. If you missed our first article in this series, Click here to read Two Quick-Fix Anxiety Solutions that Usually Don’t Work.