Last week, I wrote about the first way to fight anxiety is to abase ourselves. By that I simply mean that we are humble ourselves. I would encourage you to read that article before getting to this one. As we are abasing ourselves, we go to the next step which is attacking our enemy. Of course, while we may mistakenly think that our bosses or our family members, or those who have betrayed us are our enemies, we know that our battle is not against flesh and blood. It is against spiritual forces. And so, we must be ready to attack.
When I was a kid I had two favorite verses. One was 2 Corinthians 5.17. The other was 1 Peter 5.8. It wasn’t until a couple of years ago that I realized the connection of 1 Peter 5.8 and the problem of anxiety–suffering from anxiety! For my entire life I looked at this verse as a stand-alone verse, but in reality it has everything to do with anxiety. “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour,” (ESV). In Mandan’s article he comments, “People describe themselves as excited, nervous, apprehensive, tense, stressed out, bugged, worried, panicky, vapor-locked, scared sh**less, sick to their stomach, and feeling like they’re gonna die.” Sounds like devouring to me.
When anxiety hits us, we tend not to think soberly. Our focus is on the situation that we are anxious about. We don’t think about anything else, or at least we can’t concentrate on anything else. Peter tells us we have to be sober-minded and watchful. We have to go on the attack against our own feelings. We have to watch for the signs of anxiety. We have to come to the realization that we are becoming anxious, because once those symptoms begin, Satan is ready to pounce. And when he pounces he has the opportunity to paralyze us. We don’t get out of bed, we don’t talk to anyone, we hole up in our houses in the dark. Anxiety is a natural reaction to the unknown, and yet it must be fought off with right-thinking and care. We must think rightly about our God, and send him our cares through prayer. Remember He cares about what stresses you, no matter how silly it seems to you or others.
Peter wrote, “Resist him, firm in your faith,” (1 Peter 5.9a, ESV). Go on the attack. We can’t be passive about anxiety. You know who your God is. You know what He has done for you in the past. You know of His grace, His extraordinary grace. You know He cares about you and your concerns. If He cares about your concerns and has the power to address them (and only He does) then you, being firm in your faith, must attack the lion and slay him.
Goodwell Nzou wrote an op-ed piece in the New York Times soon after the whole Cecil the Lion’s death (remember that story!?) titled, “In Zimbabwe, We Don’t Cry for Lions.” He wrote about how horrifying lions are:
When I was 9 years old, a solitary lion prowled villages near my home. After it killed a few chickens, some goats and finally a cow, we were warned to walk to school in groups and stop playing outside. My sisters no longer went alone to the river to collect water or wash dishes; my mother waited for my father and older brothers, armed with machetes, axes and spears, to escort her into the bush to collect firewood.
A week later, my mother gathered me with nine of my siblings to explain that her uncle had been attacked but escaped with nothing more than an injured leg. The lion sucked the life out of the village: No one socialized by fires at night; no one dared stroll over to a neighbor’s homestead.
When the lion was finally killed, no one cared whether its murderer was a local person or a white trophy hunter, whether it was poached or killed legally. We danced and sang about the vanquishing of the fearsome beast and our escape from serious harm.
They were ever mindful and watchful, ready to attack the lion at first glance. Peter is telling us to be the same way.
At the same time, notice how no one went out alone. It wasn’t just one person, but a group of people going out to collect water or firewood. So Peter said, “Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world,” (1 Peter 5.9, ESV). You’re not alone. I’m not alone. These churches that Peter was writing to were not alone. They were suffering for their faith, as are we; we suffer differently, in many ways, than they did. But the message is the same: we’re not alone. Brothers and sisters are going through the same type of suffering—the same type of anxiety—that we are going through. We don’t have to fight alone. We have people all around who will fight with us and for us. The question is will we let them. Will we tell them of our struggles and our anxieties, or will we go out and try to slay this lion alone. Guess which scenario boosts your odds of winning.
So let us not forget, first: abase yourself, second: attack the enemy.