Recently, I decided to watch the first episode of Disney’s Doug, a cartoon that I grew up watching while I was in middle school. When the episode “Doug’s Last Birthday” aired, it was September of 1996. The episode followed up where the original Nickelodeon Doug stopped, as Doug was struggling with the fact that his hometown, his friends, and everything he was used to was changing. Fearful of change, he decides to try and cancel his birthday. But after Doug’s sister and parents talk to him about his struggle to accept change, Doug decides to see the changes happening around him as something to look forward too, and not as something to be anxious about.
I related a lot to Doug at the time because, much like him, I was starting seventh-grade at a new middle school and everything around me was changing. It seemed like everything from my favourite TV shows, movies, music, books, even taste in food was going through a change. And it was stressful. The awkward bodily changes, the feelings of anxiety with the struggle to fit in, and the concern over upcoming academic challenges were all building up.
Interestingly enough, it wasn’t until adulthood that I would find out that one of my issues is social anxiety, which was why I was always the kid in school or in big family gatherings who had his head in a comic book or headphones on his ears. I was doing anything and everything I could to stay out of situations that would make me feel even more awkward, uncomfortable, and unbelievably stressed.
But God already knows our thoughts and concerns. Throughout Scripture, the Lord constantly reminds those He uses for His glory and His plans to not fear — but rather, to trust Him.
Growing up in the church, I learnt verses like 2 Timothy 1:7, “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” I’m reminded that God has a plan for my life through texts like Jeremiah 29:11. And, lately, the Scripture portion that keeps coming to mind regarding anxiety is Philippians 4:6-7: “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”
Over the years, whenever I faced emotional reactions of fear and anxiety, I learned to pray in order to prepare for what I was going to have to face, be in prayer while in the midst of the circumstance, and pray after the fact. Maintaining an attitude of gratitude to the Lord for everything He is and all He’d done for me, also went a long way.
Over the years, I learned to pray in order to prepare for what I was going to have to face
I think back to how a great majority of my anxiety was the result of unnecessary concern over the things that all too often plague our adolescent and teen years: the concern to be accepted and liked by those we deem popular, the hope to not look strange or weird or different to people, and the real threats and lasting effects of bullying and other hateful acts.
As I got older and began growing closer to God, I learned to accept everything about me that God made. I began by thanking the Lord daily for the body and mind He gave me, as well as my creativity, skills and gifts. I even began asking Him to take my emotions and line them up with Him and His truth.
Philippians 4:6-7 tells us that God wants us to make our requests known to Him. The Lord already knows how we’re feeling. He is so loving and kind, and deals with us and our issues with much grace and mercy — but, in order to know that, we have to know Him.
If you’re feeling uncomfortable, nervous, anxious, out of sorts, confused, awkward, or even alone, know that God wants to meet you there and bring peace. It’s the kind of peace that surpasses all our “understanding” or ability to intellectually figure it out. This is also the kind of peace that will guard our hearts and our minds through Christ Jesus.
Hide Philippians 4:6-7 in your heart. Like many other Scriptures in the Bible, it will remind and encourage you that we can indeed look forward to the challenges and opportunities that come into our lives — but without being anxious.
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