“Shortly after my father died, my husband told me that he was seeing another woman,” relates Janet. “Soon afterward, without further warning or good-bye, he emptied his closet and left me and our two children.” Janet found a job, but her pay was not enough for her to keep their house. And she has faced more than just financial concerns. “The crushing anxiety of all the new responsibilities that I now had to handle alone was overwhelming,” she recalls. “I felt guilty that I could not provide as much for my children as other parents do. And even now, I worry about how others view me and my children. Do they wonder if I did all I should have to preserve my marriage?”
Prayer helps Janet tame her feelings and nurture her friendship with God. “Nighttime is the hardest, when everything is so quiet and my anxious thoughts are so loud. Praying and reading the Bible help me to sleep. A favorite passage of mine is Philippians 4:6, 7: ‘Do not be anxious over anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication along with thanksgiving, let your petitions be made known to God; and the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and your mental powers.’ I have spent many nights in prayer and have felt Jehovah’s peace comfort me.”
Jesus’ reassuring words about prayer in his Sermon on the Mount apply to anxieties of all kinds: “Your Father knows what you need even before you ask him.” (Matthew 6:8) And we do need to ask him. Prayer is the primary way we can “draw close to God.” The result of doing so? “He will draw close to you.”
Yes, prayer does more than simply make us feel better for having expressed our anxiety. Jehovah, the “Hearer of prayer,” also acts on behalf of all who seek him in faith. (Psalm 65:2) That is why Jesus taught his followers “always to pray and not to give up.” (Luke 18:1) We must keep asking God for his direction and help, confident that he will reward our faith. We need never doubt his desire or ability to act. To “pray constantly” in this way shows we have genuine faith.
WHAT HAVING FAITH REALLY MEANS
But what really is faith? Faith involves “coming to know” God as a person. (John 17:3) We do so first by absorbing God’s thoughts through the Bible. We learn that he sees each of us and wants to help us. Yet, real faith involves more than just knowing something about God. It also means having a bond of respectful friendship with him. As is true with a human friend, we cannot forge such a bond overnight. Our faith “continues to increase” over time as we learn more about him, as we “do the things pleasing to him,” and as we experience his active help. (2 Corinthians 10:15; John 8:29) That is the kind of faith that helps Janet deal with anxieties.
“What has truly helped build my faith is seeing Jehovah’s hand every step of the way,” says Janet. “Many times we faced injustices that seemed impossible to deal with. With much prayer, Jehovah always made a way out for us that I never could have figured out on my own. When I thank him, it reminds me of how much he has done for me. He has always come through for us at the right time, often just in time. And he has given me true friends who are genuine Christian men and women. They are always there for me and are good examples for my children.” *
“I know why Jehovah says at Malachi 2:16: ‘I hate divorce.’ For an innocent mate, it’s the deepest of betrayals. Years have passed since my husband left, but at times I still feel hollow inside. When I do, I try to do something to help someone else, and that always helps me too.” By thus applying the Bible principle to avoid isolating herself, Janet lowers her anxiety. *
God is “a father of the fatherless and a protector of widows.”
“My greatest comfort,” Janet says, “comes from knowing that God is ‘a father of the fatherless and a protector of widows.’ He will never abandon us as my husband did.” (Psalm 68:5) Janet knows that God does not test us “with evil things.” On the contrary, he gives wisdom “generously to all” and gives “power beyond what is normal” to help us deal with our anxieties.
But what if we are anxious because our life is in danger?