You know that thing that’s keeping you up at night?
That stress you feel from a strained friendship?
That crippling anxiety that floods your mind no matter how many deep breaths you take?
Did you know that Jesus cares about that?
Jesus sees you when you jerk awake at night in a panic, when you’re crumpled up in a corner in a flood of tears, or when you stifle every emotion you feel in order to get through the day.
Jesus sees and Jesus cares. And even better than being an understanding, empathetic friend, Jesus offers you His healing power so that you may experience comfort in the midst of the pain and find freedom from the bondage of anxiety.
The Fight for Peace
Because of my personality, I naturally desire peace within myself and with those around me. Dealing with a tense relationship or confronting someone over sin feels like having a tooth pulled without the help of anesthetics. But the anxiety that often creeps into my heart and steals my joy is not something I have to resign myself to live with.
And the same is true for you. Things like breathing techniques, getting a good amount of sleep, and opening up to someone you trust are extremely beneficial practices for battling anxiety. But in case you need the reminder (because I certainly do), there’s an additional, even better way we can find freedom.
The apostle Paul wrote about it in his letter to the Philippians:
Remember, the Lord is coming soon. Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.
And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me—everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you. (Phil. 4:5–9 NLT)
Notice first what the passage does not say, “Tell God what you need . . . and He will remove you from this painful situation,” or “He will smooth everything out right away.” There’s no mention of circumstantial change. That’s because this is not a formula or secret potion for making your problems disappear.
Next, we have to remember that God knows our needs better than we do. We bring to Him what He has said we need (His forgiveness, His care, the fruit of His Spirit), as well as what we think we need, we tell Him our desires, and we trust Him to do what is best.
But if we’re not guaranteed a free pass from pain, what are we supposed to do with it? Simply not worrying about anything feels like a tall order! It’s not like there’s a shutoff switch to anxiety. Are we supposed to just stop it—to turn off our feelings and move on?
Jesus knows that our tendency may be to forget all reason and freak out or lash out. So in the middle of those freak-out moments, Jesus offers us something better than relief from our circumstances. He gives us Himself. He invites us to come and tell Him everything.
The Peace You’re Looking For
One time, Jesus fell asleep on a boat in the middle of a squall. His friends were dumbfounded that He could sleep while they were sinking and surely heading to their death! When Jesus awoke, He surprised them even more. He did not jump up in a frenzy or panic along with his friends. He did not lose His cool. He did not lose His peace. In faith, He calmly rebuked the water, and the waves obeyed as His peace pervaded over the wild storm.
You don’t have the authority in yourself to banish every worry or anxiety. But you have a Friend who does. This doesn’t look like buttering someone up in order to get what you want. It’s talking with Jesus in prayer and dwelling on what is true of Him. Jesus is not your ticket to finding peace within yourself. Jesus Himself is the peace you’re looking for.
When the Storms Rage On
Desiring harmony within our relationships is, of course, not wrong. Becoming consumed and obsessed with having it, however, is. There are times I want peace so badly that I’ll do anything to restore or maintain it, even to the point of making an idol out of the idea of peace itself. But things only get more complicated when I step in and try to manufacture peace instead of waiting for Jesus to calm the storm. In my effort to slay tension, I sacrifice my own peace with Him.
This is not what Jesus wants for me or for you. While peace with others can and should be pursued, we cannot let rocky relationships determine or dictate our level of peace or trust in God. When your mind is one with Christ, the peace of God will be in you because the God of peace is with you—even when the storms continue to rage all around. Choosing to let the Prince of Peace Himself reign within us, instead of our concocted version of peace, is better than the removal of any troublesome circumstance.
There will always be conflict in this world. That’s something we cannot change, manipulate, or control. So our only options are to continue to live in fear and misery or to surrender and trust God with our deepest emotions. Together, let’s choose to let go of the angst and instead hold on to Jesus; to cast all our cares on Him. To come to Him and rest. To experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand.
So What Does This Look Like?
It’s not as if we can schedule a coffee date with Jesus to talk about all our burdens—or can we?
I’m going to let you in on a little secret: I once threw a tea party for just Jesus and me, complete with berries and scones. I then sat down on my couch and told Him everything that was on my heart, as if He were sitting there with me. Maybe that feels a little silly to you, but it was one of the most sweet and freeing afternoons I’ve ever had.
There are many other ways to express your concerns to Him. If you don’t know where to begin, you can talk to Jesus by praying the Psalms or other written prayers. There are beautiful prayers found in The Valley of Vision, or others in Scripture, such as Ephesians 3:14–21 or Luke 11:1–4.
Another way is to do what the Philippians passage says—to think about what is true of God. I often use the Pause app and the Dwell Bible app to fill my mind with truth and reorient my heart to Jesus. Still another way is journaling your thoughts or talking to a wise friend and asking her to pray with you.
What your time with Him looks like or how long you linger isn’t as important as just being with Him. Since Jesus Himself is perfect peace, having Him is what we need to face the fiercest storm. We don’t need perfect circumstances to have peace. We just need Jesus.
Leanna Shepard worked on staff with Revive Our Hearts from 2014 to 2019. She loves a cup of hot tea with a good book, experimenting in the kitchen with a new recipe, and cheering for the St. Louis Cardinals.