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“There are times in our lives when our peace is based simply on our own ignorance. But when we are awakened to the realities of life, true inner peace is impossible unless it is received from Jesus.” – Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest (1935).
I love this quote, because I believe it captures so well the true condition we are in, while living our earthly lives. I’ve written it down and carried it with me in working with clients since first starting out as a therapist a decade ago.
Anxiety is real and common.
We have all experienced forms of anxiety; some more than others. For some people it’s a nuisance, for others it causes distress, while for others it can be debilitating.
But what does the Bible have to say about anxiety? Let’s look at the Psalms. Psalm 94:19 (ESV):
“When the cares of my heart are many, your consolations cheer my soul.”
In this translation, the word “cares” is used, however in other translations, the word is “anxiety” or “anxious thoughts.” The Psalmist is describing that he experiences times where he has many anxious thoughts.
Do you relate? I believe that we all can relate to times when our cares, anxieties, worries are many.
The verse goes onto describe that God’s “consolations cheer my soul”. What does this mean? Consolation means comfort after a loss or disappointment and in some other translations, the word “cheer” is instead, “delight”.
I like what Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers (1897) explains: “Delight.—Literally, stroke, and so soothe. The Hebrew word is used in Isaiah 66:11 of a mother quieting her child with the breast, and in Jeremiah 16:7 of the cup of consolation given to mourners at funerals.”
What a beautiful picture this is of God’s comfort for us during times of anxiety. God comforts and soothes us. I wonder how many of us pray for God to comfort and soothe us when we are anxious? I’m not even sure that I had thought of needing comfort and soothing while feeling anxious – I think I’ve mostly prayed that it would just go away. I’m sure you relate.
But maybe, God’s not going to take the anxiety away. Maybe, our experience of anxiety, and reaching out to God for help, gives Him the opportunity to comfort and soothe us, as a good mother would her child who is upset.
God desires intimacy and closeness with us. Why wouldn’t He use the experience of anxiety to draw us close to Him?
Let’s now look at Psalm 112:7 (ESV):
“He is not afraid of bad news; his heart is firm, trusting in the LORD.”
How many of us experience anxiety as the fear of “bad news” coming our way – whether real or imagined? The reality is, we will have both. Bad news will come our way eventually; there will be emergency situations we weren’t necessarily expecting. There will be loss of things, positions, health, and of important people in our lives… on this earth.
But there will also be the imaginings of bad news; things that aren’t at all real that come to our minds. And in this verse, the “bad news” that is described here includes both the real and the imagined.
The Psalmist goes on to describe that his heart is firm – immovable – because he is trusting in the Lord and in His love and grace “which is sufficient for him even in the worst of times” (Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible, 1748-63).
When we call to mind God’s love for us, it strengthens us. So, what are our worries when compared to the love of God?
And here’s the trick or lie of anxiety – it has a big bark with no bite – the big bark is because it involves your mind and physical sensations in your body; nervousness, digestive upset, panic, and more. Because we can feel it so strongly – we think – it must be real! But much of anxiety is not. It’s really a lot of “what ifs.”
Think about the movie version of the Wizard of Oz. Everyone in the land of Oz feared the great and powerful wizard. Dorothy and her friends endured so much to get to the wizard so that they could beg him to give them what they needed.
They finally arrived and fearfully approach – the loud voice, the smoke, the fire, the video of the strange looking man – he was as they imagined him to be – scary! But then something happens, and the giant “wizard” breaks down. Come to find out, it’s just an old man hiding behind the curtain, trying desperately to get his machine working again. This, the scared old man, is all that much of anxiety is. Impotent, with no ability to actually help us. All bark, no bite.
But our God on the other hand, is very real. And He is so much greater than any anxiety we could ever have. Remembering how big our God is in comparison to how small and powerless our imagination is helps put things in their proper perspective, bringing calm to the storm.
An important note: If your experience of anxiety feels out of control or is disrupting your ability to function in your daily life, you probably need professional help. It will be okay and we’ll walk you through it. That’s what therapists are here for! Feel free to reach out to me and if I can’t help you, I would be glad to help you get to someone who can.