Anxiety Is a Spiritual Issue
May 26, 2015
Rachael is working toward her MFA at Chatham University in Pittsburgh. She loves few things more than travel, interior design, running, literature and a good cup of tea. She blogs at ... Read More
One of the easiest ways to disable a person, I think, is to make them anxious.
I am not talking about an anxiety disorder, a diagnosable mental disorder that can be treated by doctors, therapy or medication. (To learn about about anxiety disorders and how to receive help, you can visit NIMH.NIH.gov.) I am talking about a general anxiousness, worrying, asking what ifs that are a part of everyday life. I am talking about the discomfort caused by the mind racing faster than mouth or logic, worrying about tomorrow, worrying about all that we don’t know or about what could happen.
The Bible is far from silent on the topic of anxiety. It says so much about worry, the faithfulness of God, and how we are to respond to it. Here are a few ways the Bible addresses anxiety.
We Are Cared For
Often in the Church, worry is looked upon as a sin. Often, people don’t like to talk about it because it’s almost taboo; those who do bring it up are frequently offered quick solutions of “God is good” or “Have more faith.”
The Bible though, is gentle toward those who worry. In 1 Peter 5:7, the Bible tells us to “cast all your anxieties on Him because He cares for you” (emphasis mine). In Matthew 11:28, Jesus, with arms wide open, calls for the weary and heavy laden to come to Him, and He will give them rest.
Sheldon Vanauken, the author of A Severe Mercy, wrote that “to believe with certainty, one has to begin by doubting.” In a world where good and evil, joy and suffering exist so painfully close to each other, it’s hard to get very far believing in a Sovereign God without asking difficult questions. Very often, we ask those questions in the midst of pain, grief or anxiety.
How assuring to know we don’t have a God who stares at us from a distance, eyebrows raised and arms crossed, waiting for us to finally figure this all out, but, rather “heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds” (Psalm 147:3). I love the imagery of Psalm 56:8: “You keep track of all my sorrows, you have collected all my tears on your bottle, you have recorded each one in your book.”
I think that God is far more gracious, more gentle and tenderhearted toward our anxious hearts than we understand. Memorizing Scripture gives us a small window into that love, which is a vast and endless sea.
In A Circle of Quiet, author Madeline L’Engle said that we are all afraid of the dark. If worry, after all, comes from a fear of not being in control, then isn’t sleep and loss of consciousness the ultimate act of surrender? Even in darkness though, there is always, always, light. With the blackest of nights come the best view of the stars.
Maybe, even though God made the night and knows there is nothing in it to fear, He gave us stars to light it because He knows we might be afraid anyway.
God Is Always Faithful
If God is sovereign over us, then He also has authority over us, which means then that He is responsible for taking care of us. The Bible says God is faithful, which, if He is, then He is faithful again and again, because the definition of faithfulness is to remain loyal and steadfast.
“The Lord’s loving kindnesses indeed never cease, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; Great is your Faithfulness” (Lamentations 3:23).
When I am worried or anxious about something, I often write it down on a piece of paper. Then, below that, I write down every way God has been faithful to me in the last six months. By the time I finish that list, the thing I worried about suddenly seems very small. If God has been faithful to me in every other way, surely He will be again.
God is far more gracious, more gentle and tenderhearted toward our anxious hearts than we understand.
Focusing on the faithfulness of God, then, rather than our worry, is an antidote to anxiety. When we choose to “be joyful always, give thanks in all things, and pray continually” (1 Thessalonians 5:17), we not only complete God’s will for us, but we worry less.
We Are Not Alone
Something that really strikes me about the Lord’s Prayer is that it begins with the words “Our Father.” If there were any two words that could soothe anxiety more, I haven’t met them. First, because they mean we have a Father to turn to: a God, immeasurably big and gentle, whose graciousness fills all the areas in which we are weak. Second, that He is ours. We are many and He is ours.
There are so many things in this life that scare me because I think I am meant to do them alone. This prayer reminds me, more than anything, that we are in this together. He is our Father. You are my sisters, my brothers.
To share in one another’s joy and sorrows is more than to be compassionate. It is to be ourselves, in our truest form. We are communal beings, meant for constant and continual fellowship. When we really care for each other and put on one another’s burdens, maybe we are not simply being nice. Maybe we are simply taking hold of what we all were created for. We soothe anxiety when we act as one, united in the body of Christ.