Battling Anxiety

The world gives countless causes for anxiety. Things happen that we have no control over. Blindsiding pain, circumstantial confusion, and disorienting uncertainty are as inevitable as the rising sun and shifting tides. The fact that we know things are going to happen in our lives that are beyond our control gives rise to anxiety even when there are no specific or presenting reasons to be anxious.

Jon Bloom once wrote that “anxiety is a species of fear… the fear of something we dread might possibly come true”. Anxiety originates in one of two places. Worry can come from real dangers. The devil is our adversary who “prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8). There are real threats all around us. The Enemy wants to destroy your marriage, deceive your children, and sabotage and defile your successes.

But for most of us, I suspect our most debilitating anxieties come not from real danger, but from the world of imagined possibilities. Anxious fear incarcerates us in a prison of “what if” scenarios, a self-conceived house of horrors. What if we don’t get that promotion? What if the news from the doctor isn’t good? What if the financial bonus doesn’t come through? It is no wonder we are so anxious… and weak in faith. How is it possible for faith to thrive in a world where the imagined dangers are as paralyzing as the real dangers?

I’m so thankful the Bible addresses real issues. The psalmist knew anxiety. He knew of the difficulty of life, that faith is lived out in real-time, and that faith is often tested by car trouble, the varying degrees of difficulty in our daily routines, and struggling to pay the bills. The psalmist knew of injustice, betrayal, and real danger.

Psalm 37 reminds us the cure for anxiety is trust in God. It’s the confidence that everything is going to be okay. The opposite of trust in God is anxiety and frustration.

Psalm 37 opens with these words:

Fret not yourself because of evil doers;

Be not envious of evil doers. 

To fret is to worry or be anxious. The psalmist is saying, “Don’t be anxious because of the trouble around you or even done to you” and “don’t envy those who aren’t walking with God but seem to have no troubles” (they do, you know. You just don’t see them.).

What the psalmist is saying is so much easier said than done, right? The command to not be anxious seems like an impossible one to obey. Let’s face it: this command is humanly impossible to obey. You can’t squash anxiety in your own strength. This is why we need to believe the gospel.

The gospel promises us that if we are in Christ, everything is going to be okay. When you place your faith in Jesus alone for salvation, your safety and security are guaranteed. We’re promised that we will never die (spiritually) if we are in Christ (John 11:25-26). We’re promised that no one or nothing can snatch us out of Jesus and the Father’s hands (John 10:28-30). We’re promised that we are free from condemnation (Romans 8:1) and free from sin (Romans 8:3-9). We are sons and daughters of God (Romans 8:12-17), and all things are being worked together for our good and God’s glory (Romans 8:28). And to top it all off, nothing can separate us from the never-ending, never-failing, always-pursuing, irrevocable love of God in Christ (Romans 8:35-39).

From that position of security, the psalmist then tells us how to battle anxiety.

Trust in the LORD, and do good;

dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness. (Ps 37:3)

We attack anxiety in four ways.

Trust God. Faith cures anxiety. Faith enables us to see things through a gospel lens as they really are, not as they appear to be. Our circumstances or situation may appear hopeless, but the gospel says you are loved, accepted, and secure in Christ. What is it that provokes anxiety in your heart? It may be something big or something small. But whatever it is, remember that your God is trustworthy and good. Whatever situation you find yourself in, God can be trusted with it.

Do good. Faith is always active. Charles Spurgeon writes, “There is a joy in holy activity which drives away the rust of discontent.” For many of us, the most helpful thing we can do to eradicate anxiety is to actively serve others for the sake of their good and joy in the gospel.

Root yourself in your community. The “land” God has called you to “dwell in” is the local church to which you belong. For most readers of this blog, that’s Community Bible. Plant yourself deeply within this community. Don’t isolate yourself in your anxieties, but rather, share your worries with God and others through prayer and gospel partnership. We don’t escape the misery of our anxieties by solitude. We bring them to God for redemption through prayer and gospel friendship and encouragement.

Feast on truth. The translation “befriend faithfulness” is better translated “be fed on faithfulness”. At its root, anxiety is about fear. Fear of loss. Fear of pain. Fear of separation. Fear of rejection. Yet, God in His Word promises us that followers of Christ have nothing to fear. Every promise of God is “yes” and “amen” in Christ Jesus (2 Corinthians 1:20). We will overcome the worst that the world can throw at us because Jesus has overcome the world (John 16:33). God will meet every need of ours as we seek first the kingdom and His righteousness (Matthew 6:33-34).

Don’t be anxious about that which you cannot control. Don’t worry about what “might” happen. Keep your eyes fixed fiercely on Jesus who sustains the entire universe by His word of power (Hebrews 1:3). Expend your energy by doing good to others rather than fretting about what you cannot control. Plant your life deeply into relationships at Community Bible. And finally, when you feel anxious, feast on truth as revealed in God’s Word. Believe all the promises of God given to us in Christ Jesus. You are safe. You are loved. And God is for you, not against you.