While anxiety is a normal physiological reaction to the ups and downs of life, it can become overwhelming and interfere with your daily life. This more severe form of anxiety may require a medical diagnosis and interventions such as medicine, psychotherapy, and anxiety reduction techniques.
Whether you are struggling with low-level worry or with crippling anxiety that overwhelms you, Scripture urges us not to worry and provides us with a guide to overcome worry and anxiety. It reflects on the complexities of our world and our emotions while we live in it, giving us a framework with which to make sense of what we experience.
How to Overcome Worry
What does the Bible say about worry, and how might we leverage this precious resource to aid us on our daily journey?
God is in control: Isaiah 46:10
Most of the time, our worries surround our efforts to prevent the bottom from falling out – making that next rent payment, getting that job that will enable us to sustain ourselves and our family, or receiving a positive medical diagnosis and the reassurance that we are okay after all.
When the bottom falls out of our lives, we begin to question the very foundations of our lives. We wonder whether what we believed was true and whether we can rely on the old mainstays and supports we once stood firmly upon.The prophetic book of Isaiah paints a worst-case scenario for God’s people. They were going to lose their homes and be taken to places far away due to their disobedience and lack of concern for others, including widows and orphans.
Throughout the process of exile and then when God would return them to their land and restore their fortunes, they were to remember that God was in control and knew the outcome of their present strife. There was a purpose behind God’s dealings with them, and God sought to remind them of this.
Isaiah 46:10 reads, “I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come. I say; My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please.” While we might not know the course of our lives, God does. He knows the end of things from the very beginning and knowing that God has that knowledge ought to comfort us when we wonder about our tomorrows.
God loves you: Romans 5:8
Of course, it’s one thing for God to be in control and to know how things will shake out. It’s quite another to know that the God who is in control loves me and wants me to flourish. Knowing that God is for me enables me to go a step further and trust him.
That trust is what enables a child to leap into its father’s arms from a high ledge – it might be scary, and the child doesn’t know exactly how it will turn out, but surely it’ll be okay in the end because “that’s my dad and he cares for me”. Fearful times will come, but the God who walks with us in those times loves us, and that gives us the confidence to say, “I will fear no evil” (Psalm 23).
Scripture reminds us time and again that God loves us with an everlasting love. Famous verses like John 3:16 or passages like Psalms 139 tell us of the depths of God’s knowledge and love of us. Romans 5:8 tells us, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
Instead of turning away from us at our lowest point, God leaned in and drew us into a relationship through a costly sacrifice. To be willing to die for another is surely the greatest demonstration of love.
This love is, as Romans tells us later on, something unbreakable – “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels or demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38-39).
Worry adds nothing to your life: Matthew 6:27In addition to being loved by a God who is in control and brings all things together for our good (Romans 8:28), there’s another reason why worry is futile – it adds nothing to your life. Speaking to his disciples, Jesus said this about worrying: “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?” (Matthew 6:25-27)
Instead of adding to our quality of life, worry tends to eat away at it. We stay up at night, work frantically, take time away from relationships, and rest to feed the insatiable demands of our worries.
When our bodies are stressed, they release hormones that can damage our bodies in the long run. Chronic worry and anxiety can have devasting physiological effects such as high blood pressure, fatigue, headaches, digestive disorders, and suppression of the immune system. Rather than adding to our lives, worrying takes away from it.
And once one concern is taken care of, another takes its place, leaving us trapped in an unrelenting cycle. Jesus concluded by saying, “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own” (Matthew 6:34).
Don’t be anxious; pray: Philippians 4:6-7
What then are we to do with our anxieties and thoughts about the unknown? In another letter written to a group of Christians while he was in prison, Paul urges them, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, 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 your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7).
A more constructive way to deal with our anxieties and cares is to cast them upon God. Naming our concerns helps us identify what’s bothering us and reciting what we are thankful for reminds us of the good in our lives.
This reframes our thinking about our situation, but Paul reminds his readers and us that the peace that will guard us will often transcend our grasp even while it works on our hearts and minds. Something far bigger than our comprehension is happening here, but it starts with the simple act of prayer.
There are several ways for us to overcome worry and anxiety. When worry and anxiety become ingrained behaviors and begin to affect day to day functioning, various interventions that may include medication and anxiety reduction techniques are available.
In addition, and complementing these, Scripture also has a voice and gives us wisdom on how we are to navigate this life. Instead of telling us that we are in control to still our hearts, the Bible reminds us that we aren’t in control. Life will at times seem unpredictable and things will come our way, some of it painful, but Scripture reminds us to look beyond the circumstances to the One who is in control.
Our trust and security rest not in the pleasant places we find ourselves in, but in the God who walks with us through it all. The confidence to say with David, “Though I walk in the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil” comes from an intimate relationship with and trust in the Lord who walked with him in that valley.
“Face Covering”, Courtesy of Kyle Cleveland, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Sitting by the River”, Courtesy of Evgeni Tcherkasski, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “The Dock”, Courtesy of Kay Liedl, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Pensive”, Courtesy of Jonathan Cooper, Unsplash.com, CC0 License