Waking Up Anxious: 4 Ways To Restore Inner Peace In An Anxious World

by Martin Brooks

How can I be a peacemaker when I wake up so anxious each morning? Do you ever do this? I can go right to sleep at night, my head hits the pillow and I’m out, but about 4:30 something wakes me up. Based on the fruit of those early morning hours, I feel pretty sure it’s not the Spirit of God waking me up. My to-do list bludgeons me, telling me I’m lazy and should get up. There’s a passage in Proverbs (I think) about the sluggard flopping over in his bed like a door on hinges. Why do my thoughts in the early hours use scripture to beat me up? Unanswered emails. Unkept commitments. Writing I need to do. Bills I need to pay. Imaginary conversations with people I worry are disappointed with me. On and on it goes. Anxiety builds.  

“What time is it?” I ask as I turn to look at the clock. “How long have I been sleeping?” I calculate only five and a half hours. “I need to silence these voices. Think nothing,” I tell myself. Then like a mantra I repeat in my mind, “Think Nothing, Think Nothing, Think Nothing, Think Nothing…” For me, it brings temporary relief. Maybe my simple mind can’t think of two things at once so the other voices are crowded out and I drift back to sleep. It seldom lasts. Some fun and unexplainable dreams occur in these early morning hours, but the anxious thoughts also return. “I should get up.” The alarm begins to play that soft wake-up music and I am ready to escape the bed. It’s interesting how I use sleep to escape at night, falling exhausted into my soft pillow, but it only lasts so long and then I must escape the sleep. The beat goes on and on.

God’s wisdom is filled with peace – James 3:17

I was helped this morning by reading Rick Love’s book, Peace Catalysts.  He shares four biblically-based disciplines he uses to restore peace in his heart. He calls them his “four cornerstones of peacemaking.” 

  1. If we rest in God’s love, we will live in peace.
    Jude 1:21 – “Keep yourself in God’s love.” Rick reminds us that “resting in God’s love is the opposite of performing for God’s approval.” The hamster wheel of working for God’s smile (and people’s approval) never stops spinning. Faster and faster the wheel whirls until we are exhausted. Rest comes when we reorient our gaze to the One who is love. He loves you. Rest. Be at peace.
  2. If we walk by faith, we will live in peace.
    Phil 4:6-7 – “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God and the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” When we feel anxious, we are commanded to stop it. God knows its not good for us and tells us to present these anxieties to Him and He will transform our thinking and give us His peace. (Rick says it better. You should read the book.)
  3. If we walk in wisdom, we will live in peace.
    Proverbs 3:7 says, “All of her (Wisdom’s) paths are peace.” “But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness.” James 3:17-18. God’s wisdom is filled with peace. If we are not experiencing peace, we may have drifted off God’s path and may need to reorient ourselves, because God’s path leads to peace.
  4. If we rid ourselves of unnecessary clutter and confusion, we will live in peace.
    1 Cor 14:33 – “God is not a God of disorder but of peace.” I am feeling this one right now. It seems so many things are competing for my attention. Rick says, “When our lives get chaotic or out of control, anxiety gets the upper hand.” That may be why I wake up anxious so many mornings.

Rick then talks about different practices for developing interpersonal peace, but it all starts with that internal peace that comes from walking with God and discerning His leading. “Martha, Martha, you are anxious about many things, but only one thing is really needed.”  Mary chose what is better.  It’s a choice that I want to make too. 

I’m going to add Rick’s list of four disciplines to my “cheat sheet” beside my bed. On a shelf I see first thing in the morning, I have printed out Matthew 6:33 where Jesus says to “Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and He will give you everything you need.”  Meditating on this verse helps me release my anxiety about finances and health. Jesus encourages us to consider the birds and the flowers, so I take a walk in my yard, slow my pace, breathe deeply, and look. It helps to me prioritize my to-do list, and the knot in my stomach releases its grip.  

Peace Catalysts: Resolving Conflict in our Families, Organizations and Communities is foundational to the ethos of our organization. It was written at a time when the organization was young and Rick was articulating the biblical principles of peacemaking. These are stressful times in which we live, when anxieties can run high. If you haven’t read the book, you really should.

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