Anxiety has been a significant part of my life for as long as I can remember. It has affected my decision-making, my relationships, and how I view myself.
Anxiety is a strong motivator for me. It turns me into someone driven to achieve and accomplish at any cost, often at the expense of the people close to me. When I’m anxious, it becomes impossible to enjoy life with my family and friends because I’m constantly reacting to what’s happening around me.
These Bible verses about focus will help us learn to stay locked in on what’s important instead of being led astray by what may seem urgent.[powerkit_toc title=”Table of Contents” depth=”1″ min_count=”4″ min_characters=”1000″]
Understand your anxiety
Jesus continued from there toward Jerusalem and came to another village. Martha, a resident of that village, welcomed Jesus into her home.  Her sister, Mary, went and sat at Jesus’ feet, listening to Him teach. Meanwhile Martha was anxious about all the hospitality arrangements. Martha (interrupting Jesus): Lord, why don’t You care that my sister is leaving me to do all the work by myself? Tell her to get over here and help me.  Jesus: Oh Martha, Martha, you are so anxious and concerned about a million details,  but really, only one thing matters. Mary has chosen that one thing, and I won’t take it away from her.Luke 10:38-42 Voice
Martha’s anxiety about the “million details” distracted her from the person she was making preparations for in the first place. Instead of focusing on spending quality time with Jesus, she was consumed with getting all the hospitality arrangements just right.
Her relationships were collateral damage to her anxiety. While lost in her busyness, she wound up interrupting Jesus and missing his valuable teachings, all the while seemingly getting frustrated with her sister.
We can sympathize with Martha, and learn from her how our worry can get in the way of building relationships. When anxiety runs our lives, the very relationships we want to care about become unimportant. It makes us ignore people or get frustrated with them, instead of choosing to value them. Mary chose to focus on the one thing that mattered – her relationship with Jesus.
- What are you most anxious about? Why?
- Do you allow anxiety to push God or others to the side?
- How does your anxiety affect your relationships?
God’s Word guides us to be free from our anxiety and teaches what to focus on instead. Philippians chapter 4 provides us with great direction on how to overcome our anxiety so we can think clearly, choose what’s important, and focus.
Pray about everything
Prayer is powerful. And how we pray matters. I can’t count how many times I’ve gone on a long prayer walk where I wind up venting all my anxiety to God. These times left me just as anxious as I was when I started praying, if not more so.
God gives us a guide for how to pray differently:
Do not be anxious or worried about anything, but in everything [every circumstance and situation] by prayer and petition with thanksgiving, continue to make your [specific] requests known to God.Philippians 4:6 AMP
In this scripture, Paul gives us a template for what we can pray about to help us with our anxiety:
- Pray about everything (not just anxiety). Pour out everything on your heart and mind – your thoughts, emotions, sins, desires. God wants the good, the bad, and the ugly – He wants to hear it all!
- Petition to God (humbly request or beg). Don’t hide desperation if you are feeling desperate. Humbly request or beg for what you need or want for yourself and others.
- Praying with thanksgiving (reminds us who God is). This is important because it reminds us of what God has already done along with what he can do, which helps build our faith.
- Keep at it! (“continue to make your [specific requests known to God”). Pray every morning and throughout the day. Choose to allow God to own your anxiety daily instead of it owning you.
When having these prayers, it helps to find or create a sacred space where you limit all possible external distractions in order to have these prayers that help relieve your anxiety. Check out How to Have a Quiet Time: A Comprehensive Guide for some more direction on how to do that.
- Are you honest with God about everything?
- What do you withhold from God in prayer – emotions, sin, desires, humble requests for you or others, gratitude?
- We all have areas of our lives that are harder for us to pray about. Decide to pray to God about everything.
Believe God gives peace
And the peace of God [that peace which reassures the heart, that peace] which transcends all understanding, [that peace which] stands guard over your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus [is yours].Philippians 4:7 AMP
God can give us a peace that is beyond our comprehension. When I’m feeling overwhelmed in life, I tend to do one of the following:
- Jump to action – Try and cross something off my to-do list as quick as possible
- Procrastinate – ignore what’s on my plate, or avoid conflict
- Look for a distraction – Do something that makes me feel good
The problem with these routes is that none of them actually eliminate anxiety – they simply brush it under the rug, or push it off to a later time.
When we choose to believe God can give us peace when we turn to him he will give it to us. This peace will guard our minds from distractions and worst-case-scenario thoughts, calming our hearts.
- Where do you turn to instead of God to try and get peace?
- Does that change your circumstances or change you internally?
- Decide to believe God gives peace and turn to God in prayer for it.
Replace your anxious thoughts
Finally, believers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable and worthy of respect, whatever is right and confirmed by God’s word, whatever is pure and wholesome, whatever is lovely and brings peace, whatever is admirable and of good repute; if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think continually on these things [center your mind on them, and implant them in your heart].Philippians 4:8 AMP
Anxious thoughts can take over our minds. They make us fixate on worst case scenarios, perseverate on perceived failures, or worryingly anticipate painful experiences. We can replace these anxious and reactionary thoughts with good things that are either happening or can happen with God.
Here are some examples of some things you can continually center your mind on:
- Thinking of creative ways to love and grow closer to your family and friends
- Teaching someone about God
- Becoming loving, honest, disciplined, sacrificial, humble and courageous
- Having vision for others’ lives and who they can become
- What anxious thoughts do you choose to entertain?
- What good has God been doing in your life and in the lives around you?
- What opportunities to do good has God revealed to you?
- Choose to focus on some great things that God is doing and opportunities to do good.
Learn and do
Prayer is essential to having an internal peace and focusing on what God is doing and the good he wants us to do. Once we learn from God what to focus on, we must take action and do something about it.
The things which you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things [in daily life], and the God [who is the source] of peace and well-being will be with you.Philippians 4:9 AMP
When we take faithful and focused action, God is able to give us peace; there is a confidence that comes when we are doing something right and good. We are also meant to involve others in our lives so we can learn from their words and examples. With friends who know everything about us, we can share one another’s burdens and help each other turn to God.
You don’t have to go through life alone! With God and spiritual friends you have all you need to overcome anxiety and focus on what matters.
- What friends has God put in my life to learn from?
- What friend has God put in my life to learn from me?
- What good does God want me to do in the lives around me?
I hope this Bible study on staying focused helps you begin to change how you respond to the challenges and distractions life throws at us all every day. Today, make a choice to focus on the good God wants you to do. Decide you will no longer live in reaction to your life’s circumstances, no matter how pressing they may seem.[powerkit_alert type=”info” dismissible=”false” multiline=”true”]
This devotional is part of a collection of studies about turning to God with our anxiety and worry. View the entire selection for a deeper dive.