Anxiety pushes us into worry. We worry about those we love, situations in our lives, and things that have not even happened yet (and probably never will). We second-guess decisions, replaying scenarios in our minds, looking for flaws in everything. We can feel alone. But we are not. One of the best examples we have of someone boldly facing their anxiety is found in Scripture.
Anxiety in the Bible.
Though there are several people with anxiety in the Bible, we often don’t think of King David having anxiety. Too often we turn those in the Bible into superheroes, forgetting they were just people. Moses stuttered. Sarai took things into her own hands. Peter was impetuous. Rachel got jealous. One could argue Saul was driven mad.
If we read the words of King David, we find a man who cried out to God from the depth of his emotions. What can we learn from this man after God’s own heart? Here are three examples of verses about anxiety found in the Psalms that show us a way of facing it head-on.
Look to the past.
I cried out to God for help; I cried out to God to hear me. When I was in distress, I sought the Lord; at night I stretched out untiring hands, and I would not be comforted. – Psalm 77:1-2, NIV
Life with anxiety can be a sort of paradox. We cry out for help and yet refuse to be comforted. We cannot stomach being told it will be okay. We recognize things are not as they should be and we want more than pat answers.
When anxiety seizes the day, it can cultivate pain, heartache, and worry that leave us in agony. We find ourselves asking for relief, to stop the spiral in our heads, the voices that say we are not enough. Our anxiety can be tied to something tangible, a person, or a situation. Or it can be our emotions, our fears, or our unknowns.Anxiety takes over. Our hearts race, our palms sweat, and we feel like the world is closing in. Often people don’t know what to say. Those who love us want to help and yet can feel powerless. “It’s going to be all right,” is all they can say, and yet it is not what we need to hear.
We want what is real. David did not allow pat answers. He did not permit platitudes that did not address what was going on in his heart.
Instead, David looked to the past. Psalm 77 tells us David looked to what God had done before. He recalled times he had been lost in his anxiety and God showed up. He remembered times he prevailed, that he got through the dark nights.
If we can remember when we’ve persevered before, it helps us to do so again. Remember a situation you were anxious about that worked out well.
- What did you feel after?
- How were the fears beforehand different than what actually happened?
- What can that experience help you see now?
- How can you use this tangible good outcome to combat some of the fears anxiety cultivates about this upcoming experience?
Even if things did not come out perfectly, identify times things went better than you thought they would.
Get close to God.
David remembered when God had come through for him before. He remembered times God was with him and that enabled him to face his present anxiety with more clarity. Remembering is good, but sometimes we need to sit in the shade of God’s comfort and let Him meet us there.
When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought me joy. – Psalm 94:19, NIV
Consolation means solace, relief, joy, help, compassion, or aid. “When my anxiety is great…Your presence is my joy.” (Psalm 94:19, NIV) It is the rock we cling to. The star we keep our eyes on. The still small voice that tells us we are okay and can get through this.One way to get with God is to write down verses that bring us back to God’s truth. Do a Google search on ‘Bible verses about anxiety’ or open your Bible and ask God to lead you. Write them down now.
The next time you are anxious, breathe deep. Close your eyes. Pull up verses that help calm you. Let the Word of God overcome your fears. Often our anxiety is rooted in fear. If we can replace the lie with the truth, it makes it easier to see the way forward.
Try a breath prayer. Breathe in for four beats: Your consolation. Breathe out for five beats: Brings me joy. Substitute joy for what you need: peace, rest, calm, hope. God is with us and promises to provide what we need.
King David repeatedly writes that God is what calms him. We often say he was a man after God’s own heart and this is how it plays out. When David’s anxiety threatened to undo him, David turned to the One who was able to meet him in his soul and provide comfort.
We can give in to our anxiety, or we can lean into God and let His Word be our comfort.
Rest in His strength.
Anxiety affects us physically. We get tired or feel weak. Our heart races and our hands tremble. Sometimes we feel nauseous. We might feel short of breath or like the room is compressing.
It affects our physical health, mental well-being, our work, relationships, and ability to show up in the world. Anxiety is very real and yet goes unseen. No one around us knows what is going on. The world around us can feel different from what others see. We are there and yet are lost in a raging sea of our thoughts.
We often fear being judged. We become overly self-conscious. Anxiety makes us feel like we are doomed to mess up. We fall short. We fear being exposed. David knew what it was to have people gossip about him. People spread mistruths and David reacted to that.
Listen to my prayer, O God, do not ignore my plea; hear me and answer me. My thoughts trouble me and I am distraught because of what my enemy is saying, because of the threats of the wicked; for they bring down suffering on me and assail me in their anger. – Psalm 55:1-3, NIV
David is on the run for his life and his enemies are spreading lies. He hears the whispers and fears for his life. One psalm equates those who want to hurt him to a pack of dogs on the prowl.
For anyone who has been bullied or felt unduly picked on, it feels like the world is caving in. Anxiety only magnifies these emotions. The mention of a name is enough to send us into a spiral.
David could have let his anxiety over the people trying to ruin his name overwhelm him. He could have given up, and let what could happen leave him immobile. Instead, he turned to God, the one who is bigger and more powerful than any enemy.
At the end of Psalm 55, after David has laid out his case against those pressing in, he turns his gaze to the Lord.
Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous be shaken. – Psalm 55:22, NIV
Christian counseling for anxiety.
If you need help with your anxiety, please call us. We are here to help. The counselors at our office can help you develop a plan to manage your anxiety. Feel free to contact me or one of the other therapists in the online counselor directory.
Anxiety is very real and can leave us feeling immobile. But we can be ready and turn to the Word of God to help us beat back the lies. Whether it’s remembering when God has been there before, turning our breath into prayer to bring us closer to Him, or bringing our anxieties to the One who loves us most. We have a loving Father in our corner who is waiting to help us.
“Feeling Down”, Courtesy of Molnar Balint, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Enjoying the View”, Courtesy of Elijah Hiett, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Freedom”, Courtesy of Fuu J, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Worry Less”, Courtesy of Kelly Sikkema, Unsplash.com, CC0 License
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