It felt appropriate after last week’s blog post and video about depression to also share God’s attitude on and response to anxiety. I’ve just recently finished the first draft of my devotional book for people struggling with anxiety that I plan on publishing this fall. That being said, I’ve been surrounded by Bible verses that are relevant for people struggling with anxiety for the past two months!
I cannot overstate the importance of studying scripture on anxiety if this is something you struggle with. I’ve spent seasons dedicating my morning devotionals to be all topically about anxiety and I’ve continued to take breaks from my other reading plans to meditate on those passages again whenever I need to. The word of God is powerful, and although reading it should not be a replacement for medication, counseling, prayer, or other tools, it has brought me so much peace and comfort.
Some people use 1 John 4:18 to place judgement on someone who struggles with anxiety.
“There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.”1 John 4:18, ESV
This verse is not about the state of an anxious person, especially since no person will be perfect, or have perfect love in this lifetime. The only human who lead a perfect life was Jesus, and He did this so that we might be righteous before God, despite anything we have done. The above verse is instead a verse referring to the confidence we can have to stand without fear of judgement when, after this lifetime, we find ourselves standing before the throne of God. (See the verse previous 1 John 4:17) He took our punishment so that we should not fear eternal punishment for our sin; because of His perfect love.
For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.2 Corinthians 5:21 ESV
If you are thinking you are a bad Christian for having anxiety, think again. We are all sinners saved by grace alone, and God can use your weaknesses for His glory! God is constantly telling us why we shouldn’t be afraid, but not condemning us for being afraid.
The Bible talks about fear a lot – why would the scripture have to say, “Do not fear”, so many times if it wasn’t a common human experience for Christian and non-Christian alike? Even Jesus’s 12 disciples were terrified at the physical tempest even though they had the son of God and miracle worker on the boat with them.
Having fear is a natural human response. It’s part of being human and even JESUS had fear. See this snippet from Luke 22:44, “And being in agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground.” Fear is not the same as anxiety though. Fear is the body’s response to imminent danger while anxiety is the body’s response to an anticipated danger. Because of the fall, our emotions become distorted. So what is God’s attitude toward anxiety and people who have anxiety? His response to our anxiety is to fill the Bible with reminders of why we don’t have to be anxious. To fill it with words of comfort and repeat what we need to remember, over and over again.
Here are some examples of God’s response to anxiety, as illustrated in scripture.
And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.Matthew 6:28-29 ESV
Before Jesus’s crucifixion his disciples are worried about what Jesus is saying will happen, no doubt confused and worried. Jesus comforts them with the following.
“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. And you know the way to where I am going.”John 14:1-4 ESV
And again when Jesus appeared to the disciples in a locked room after his resurrection, when they thought they were seeing a ghost of Jesus:
And he said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me, and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.”Luke 24:38-39 ESV
Peter, after Christ’s resurrection, encourages one of the churches with the following words.
“Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.”1 Peter 5:6-7 ESV
From these verses, we can see that the response to anxiety is Patience and truth of why you don’t need to be afraid. Jesus asks his disciples a rhetorical question about their anxiety and reassures them with the reality of their situation so that they can find courage.
If you are a person who struggles with a lot of anxiety (like myself), then know that God loves you, sees you, is with you, is all powerful, and is not mad at you for feeling anxious. Please read the truth of scripture, saturate yourself in your identity as a child of God and in the reality of who God is.
If you have a loved one who struggles with anxiety, encourage them with the truth of scripture and even the realities of the situation in front of them. Stand by them if that will not make them more anxious. Assure them the same way God assures his people. Remind them that they are loved; by God and by people around them. Remind them that they are safe, and/or get them to a spot where they feel safe. Gently remind them of the things that are most important, and of scripture.
If you struggle with anxiety, I hope that this blog post was encouraging to you! If you know someone who struggles with anxiety, I hope that learning about God’s response to anxiety can inform how you interact with someone who is anxious.
To join my email list for my next 2 books, (a devotional book for people struggling with anxiety and a comprehensive guide to mental health from a Biblical and clinical perspective) click here.