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Hearing God in the Midst of Anxiety

Hearing God in the Midst of Anxiety

Everywhere I go—the plaza, the grocery store, Chick-fil-A—I can’t help but notice that people are riddled by anxiety. I watch them and remember the years I spent frantically trying and failing to find peace. I hated that I didn’t have the power to make my life more peaceful.

Ever been there? Have you ever asked, Where is the peace I’ve been promised in the Lord? I know men and women of all ages, races, and backgrounds who have asked that question. The way we wander anxiously about the world, unsure of where we can go to find peace, reminds me of the way I wandered around the woods when training for service in the Army. If you’ve spent any time in the woods, you know it’s easy to get lost out there. When you don’t know where you’re going, panic sets in fast. Especially at night. On more than one occasion, I found myself hopelessly lost, wondering if I’d ever find my way out.

Imagine yourself in the woods at night. No iPhone. No compass. No map. Very little water and no food. It’s starting to get cold. Branches crackle behind you. You turn around just in time to see a pair of shiny eyes disappear into the night. 

How do you feel? Are you calm? Confident? 

How about anxious? 

Of course you’re anxious! Nobody enjoys getting lost. 

Now imagine a voice in the darkness calls your name. What would you do? Run away? Dive behind a tree and hope the voice goes away? 

No way! You would sprint toward the voice that knows your name. Maybe the voice also knows the way out of the woods. 

God calls our name in the midst of our anxiety. He says, “Incline your ear, and come to Me. Hear, and your soul shall live” (Isa. 55:3 NKJV). I think the “ear” the Bible is talking about here is the heart. God is calling out to us, offering a path to peace, but we can’t hear Him if our hearts are not inclined to hear His voice. 

Start with your anxiety. Come Up to God with everything— including the way you feel, especially when you feel anxious. Acknowledge the chaos around you but allow your heart to rest for a few moments and listen for the voice of Jesus. Can you hear Him? He says, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matt. 11:28). 

The path to peace is not found by stumbling upon it in the dark. It’s found by responding to the voice calling out to us from the dark. Stop trying to find your way through the dark and respond to the voice calling your name. He knows the way out. 

A Voice You Can Trust 

I had already settled into my seat on the plane when my phone buzzed. It was a message from my wife. I just had time to look at it. Then I almost dropped my phone—I had to read Denisse’s text twice to believe it. 

“Rashawn, there’s only $42 in the bank account.”

“What happened?”

“Rent happened. So did cell phone, seminary tuition, car payment, medical . . .”

My heart sank as the plane taxied out to the runway. This trip to Grand Rapids had been planned for months. I was ready, but apparently my bank account wasn’t. The anxiety set in. I was really upset. I mean . . . $42! That’s not much. 

“No bueno. This isn’t good, hon. Well, I love you, and I will pray about it.”

I set my phone on airplane mode and tried to get myself into prayer mode. Then I remembered I had forgotten to make a hotel reservation. “Lord,” I prayed, “I could really use Your help right now.” I thought about the car I had rented and wondered if it was big enough for me to sleep in. I had an important meeting the next day, and the thought of walking in without showering ratcheted up my anxiety to a whole new level. The flight was terrible. 

Finally we landed—in a driving rainstorm. Great, I thought. Things just keep getting better. I had no money, no hotel, and now I would have no dry clothes. I was so stressed and frustrated. I’m usually the guy who never stops smiling, but this was more than I could handle. 

“All right, God,” I said. “You’re in control.” 

Had I known my bank account was going to sink down to $42, I’d never have boarded that airplane. But I don’t believe in happenstance. I believe in God’s divinely orchestrated circumstance. He wanted me on that plane. Even though I had no idea what to do, God knew exactly what to do. So I did the only thing left for me to do: I trusted. I came up to God with no money and no plan, believing that the voice in the night was a voice I could trust. 

As the plane taxied toward the gate, I did my best to take a child’s posture toward my Good Father and be completely dependent upon Him. But after a few more minutes of listening to the rain pummel the fuselage, my anxiety was still skyrocketing. I had no idea what to do. 

When I turned my phone back on, it flooded with notifications. 

The first text I read was from my buddy Grant, who was scheduled to attend the same meeting as me the next day. 

“My friend’s parents are out of town, so we will have their house to ourselves!”

You have to be kidding me, I thought. My anxiety was immediately replaced with gratitude. Once again, God provided whenI didn’t deserve it. I deserved to sleep on the streets of Grand Rapids. Instead I was going to sleep in a comfy bed. 

I slept so peacefully that night, overwhelmed by the blessings God had given me through the spontaneous generosity of strangers. I wish I’d felt that peace on the airplane. I wish I’d remembered that in chaos God is always calm. 

The only times I lack peace are when I don’t trust God enough. Jesus left us with peace. It is His peace that forever abides in us. The only question is whether or not we will trust it enough to live into it. 

Instead of trusting God in chaotic circumstances, I often ask God to change my circumstances. But God wants us to ask for the faith that will take us through our circumstances. Job said, “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him” (Job 13:15 NKJV). Jesus’s disciples cried out, “Increase our faith!” (Luke 17:5). And when Daniel was thrown to the lions, he remained faithful to the Lord. That’s the kind of faith I want to have! But this kind of faith requires believing God knows more than we do. We cannot have peace without trusting in God beyond the measure of our circumstances. My miracle on the plane didn’t happen because of my faith—I wouldn’t say I had much faith at all. The miracle happened because God is always in control.

Rashawn Copeland, Start Where You Are, “Baker Books, a division of Baker Publishing Group,” Used by permission.

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