The below blog is a guest contribution. You can find the original blog here.

Anxiety is crippling, sometimes even paralyzing. It’s hard to go a day without feeling anxious. Sadly, we worry about everything, even as Christians. Will we run out of money? Will my children turn away from the Lord? What if I don’t make it into college? What if I get in a car accident? Will my friends abandon me if I don’t join them at the party? What if I mess up my presentation and everyone thinks I’m incompetent?

Much of our anxiety is a result of trying to control things that we can’t. It is often an indicator, or a spotlight on what our hearts are idolizing or clinging onto with closed fists. If I desire security above all things; I’ll panic when it’s threatened by job loss, financial pressures, etc. If we place all of our hope in being noticed by those in our chosen career field, then we will panic when we sense their disapproval. We will do everything we possibly can to try to prevent losing our idol.

You may have expected this to be a blog post about God’s promises. Afterall, we do tend to panic the moment we forget who God is and what He is capable of. Much like Peter took his eyes off of Christ in the storm and began to sink, we experience the same spiritual decline when our gaze is fixed on our circumstances rather than our all-powerful, sovereign God. Even though God’s promises are a true and necessary “remedy” for anxiety, I want to challenge you to approach it from a different perspective. Could it be the result of priorities that aren’t in line with God’s? If so, what are God’s priorities for the child of God? As I was meditating on Scripture, I was captivated by the phrase, “one thing.” This phrase is used a few times in Scripture to tell us what God’s priorities are.

One Thing You Lack: True Repentance

You lack one thing: go your way, sell whatever you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, take up the cross and follow me.

Mark 10:21

Perhaps you are familiar with the story of the Rich Young Ruler. He asked Jesus what he could do to inherit eternal life. Jesus, knowing his heart, exposed the young man’s idolatry. This Rich Young Ruler was not willing to give up his love of wealth in order to follow Jesus. Instead, he wanted to mask his idolatry with other religious deeds. We like to do this too, don’t we? We might be convicted about how much we have been gossiping or the trash we have been viewing on television. Rather than confessing and repenting, we try to offer “sacrifices” of good works to the Lord in other areas of our lives so that we can continue to cherish our sin in our hearts. Surely, God sees all of the good I’m doing, right? Foolishly, we assume He turns a blind eye to the unrepentant sin in our hearts. God hates these attempts at self-atonement.

For you will not delight in sacrifice, otherwise I would give it; You are not pleased with burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, You will not despise.

Psalm 51:16-17

What is it that you lack, dear sister? Could it be genuine, godly sorrow over your sin? Are you comfortable in your sin? Are you turning a blind eye to the very thing that our precious Savior was brutally executed for? Ask Him to search your heart (Psalm 139:23-24). It is God’s mercy to reveal your sin in order to draw you to repentance.

One Thing I Ask/Desire

One thing have I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord.

Psalm 27:4

I’ve learned in my own life and in counseling others that often our problems are a result of disordered desires. I am not saying that all of our desires are sinful. It’s an admirable goal to desire a godly marriage, children that walk with the Lord or a promotion as a result of years of hard work. Actually, these are all God-glorifying desires. Anxiety displays itself when we place our hope in them- when we believe that God’s gifts will bring more satisfaction than God Himself. More specifically, we experience anxiety, depression, or despair when we are not seeking to know Christ above all else.

What is it that you desire more than anything right now? Be honest. A good way to find out is to evaluate what you spend most of your time thinking about. Can you say that your heart’s longing is to be with the Lord, to really know Him? Do you eagerly pursue Him through His word? If your heart is attached to the things of this world, it’s very likely that you are also experiencing much depression, anxiety, or even despair. There will not be peace in a life that is focused on self-worship. We are not meant to be satisfied by God’s gifts, rather by God Himself. He is our treasure. Dear friend, I ask you to pray right now for God to realign your heart to His. Don’t seek your treasures in this world, rather lay up treasures in eternity.

Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is there your heart will be also.

Matthew 6:19-21

One Thing I Need: An Attitude of Worship

But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her.

Luke 10:42

I’m sure Mary could have been doing a million other “good” things with her time. Cooking, cleaning, feeding the hungry, leading a women’s bible study… just to name a few. Clearly, Martha had many suggestions for how Mary should have used her time. However, in this moment, Mary realized the precious treasure that was right in front of her. She chose worship over “productivity.” She chose knowing Christ over the accolades of religious self-reliance.

Do you think Mary was anxious? Absolutely not. She had the one thing she desired above all else- Christ. She sat by Him, gave Him her full attention, and worshipped. I do wonder how much of our anxiety would vanish if we stopped more often just to thank the Lord for who He is and what He has done. Yes, even when you are in the depth of despair. When all of life seems bleak, worship more. Follow the example of Job who “tore his robe and fell on the ground and worshipped” right after the Lord stripped away everything that he held dear. Thankfulness is an antidote to anxiety (Philippians 4:6-7).

One Thing I Know: The Lordship of Christ

One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.

John 9:25

It is a beautiful thing when God brings a dead soul to life. Truly, salvation is a gift, not something that can be earned, so that no man may boast (Ephesians 2:8-9). It is fascinating how often we are told in the Scriptures to “remember.” We are constantly told to remember who God is and what He has done. How often do you meditate on the works of God in your own life? Do you remember the spiritual death He rescued you from? Do you think about all of the ways He has provided and worked in your life in the past? Do you recall His faithfulness? Furthermore, do you testify of his faithfulness? Consider the zeal of David who said, “I have not hidden your deliverance within my heart; I have spoken of your faithfulness and your salvation; I have not concealed your steadfast love and your faithfulness from the great congregation.” – Psalm 40:10

One Thing I Do: Run Toward Christ

One thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead.

Philippians 3:13-14

Paul, here is talking about his own sanctification and pursuit of Christ. How do we live this Christian life? First of all, by “forgetting what lies behind.” (No, I’m not contradicting what I told you earlier.) Paul is talking about forgetting your “spiritual resume.” When compared to the righteousness of Christ, your accomplishments mean nothing. Certainly, we can all be tempted to look back at recent months or years when we vigorously served the Lord and shared the gospel, and use it to excuse our spiritual apathy of today. Perhaps we were more faithful back then than we are now. Do not rely on that. Don’t look back. Live your life fully in obedience to the Lord today.

Sometimes, we continue to look back at sin that we have already confessed and been forgiven for. Don’t look back. Remember God’s promises. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). To say that you don’t feel forgiven is to deny the sufficient work of Christ on the cross. Are you saying His death and resurrection weren’t enough to pay for your sin? Are you saying that He needs to do more to atone for your sin? How foolish! Our great God promises to remove our transgressions as far as the east is from the west. Praise the Lord, His mercy is more. “Lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus…” (Hebrews 12:1-2)

Jerry Bridges summarizes it well. “If we want to live less stressful lives, we must learn to live with a single agenda: God’s agenda…We tend to live under two agendas, ours and God’s, and the tension between them sets up stress.”