Few things make me more anxious than getting off schedule. I have a strong internal clock, which is a blessing when it comes to getting places on time. But when I’m in a meeting or at an event that falls increasingly behind schedule, my internal clock is a curse. It’s an alarm that goes off inside me, raising my blood pressure and anxiety. I lose the ability to focus on what other people are saying because all I can think about is how in the world we might get back on schedule.
Even if you’re not someone who gets as uptight about schedules as I do, you may have felt at some point that your life is off schedule. Maybe you’ve ended a multiyear dating relationship that didn’t culminate in marriage. Perhaps you are facing financial difficulties when you expected to be entering retirement. Most of us have a rough idea in our minds of a schedule for our life. If we get derailed from that schedule, anxiety strikes. We feel we must do something to get our lives back on track.
The apostle Paul must have known what this anxiety felt like. He had a mission from God to take the gospel to the Gentiles, and he worked tirelessly to fulfill it, traveling all over the Roman world. Yet more than once, Paul’s gospel journeys had to be put on hold because he was thrown into prison. In fact, Paul was in prison when he wrote to the church at Philippi and commanded them not to be anxious about anything.
The maker of the universe is not far off—he is nearby. . . . Realizing this is a huge first step in trading anxiety for patience.
What grounds did Paul give for this comprehensive command? “The Lord is at hand.” The maker of the universe is not far off—he is nearby. He has not forgotten you and he has not abandoned his plan. Realizing this is a huge first step in trading anxiety for patience.
The second step is to talk to God about the thing that makes you anxious. Ask him to do something about it. Thank him that he can! Pray that no matter what happens, you would trust him and want his will to be done.
Our lives may feel stalled. It may seem as if nothing is changing and nothing is ever going to come of our hopes. But that overlooks what God is doing below the surface. If a farmer looks at his field a week, or even a month, after he has sown his seed and sees nothing, he doesn’t conclude that he’s never going to reap a harvest. No, he knows that under the surface—in the unseen places—life is budding. Belief that growth is not always visible gives the farmer great patience. The Lord is at hand, working out his will, even when we don’t see progress.
God has a schedule. He doesn’t share it with us, but he has told us that it has a happy ending for his children: the coming of the Lord. We can spend our days and nights full of anxiety about the time that is slipping away from us. Or we can trade that anxiety for patience that waits for God to unfold his plan, in his time.
- Is there an area of your life where you feel behind schedule?
- Can you think of a time when you felt impatient for something but later saw the goodness of God’s timing?
- How could knowing that “the coming of the Lord is at hand” (James 5:7) affect our anxiety?
Thank you that you will perfectly fulfill all your plans for my life, even if they don’t include some of the benchmarks I have planned and expected. Give me patience as I wait for you to answer my prayers and help me to prefer your plan to my own.
This article is adapted from Rooted in God’s Love, a free 9-day devotional for women available via ESV.org.
- Rooted in God’s Love: A 9-Day Devotional for Women
- Signs You Are on the Pathway from Stressed to Depressed (Shona Murray)
- 3 Things to Remember When You're Feeling Anxious (David Powlison)