Finding Strength and Comfort in Bible Verses About Anxiety
It was yet another sleepless night for me. Tossing, turning, mind-racing, heart-pounding nights were becoming the norm. My anxiety was most prevalent at night. This caused a season marked by stress and tiredness.
Though it no longer looks that troublesome, anxiety is an ongoing battle for me. And the more people I meet and speak with, the more I am convinced that I am not alone. From weathered adults with incredibly painful circumstances to children struggling with completing homework, anxiety is a form of suffering common to many, in varying degrees.
God, knowing how anxiety would overwhelm mankind, provided practical instruction and encouragement for the battle in the Scriptures. His Words contains Bible verses about anxiety that strengthen us to persevere in this very real, very personal struggle.
I have found particular strength and comfort in Paul’s letter to the church in Philippi.
“Rejoice in the Lord always; again, I will say, Rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:4-7 ESV
Let’s take a closer look at the guidelines and promises God has given to accessing His perfect peace. In this letter, Paul begins the exhortation with a simple, yet challenging command:
“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice.”
Easier said than done, right? While this command might sound absurd, in our very real battle with fear it gives clearer direction than we might at first notice. Paul isn’t repeating some shallow cliché to “Think happy thoughts!” or “Be positive!” amidst our anxious thoughts. Paul is actually beginning to direct our thoughts. He says “Rejoice in the Lord.” Essentially, he is calling us to remember the Gospel: how through His death and resurrection Christ redeemed us to new life. Fighting for joy in moments of anxiety means intentionally directing our minds to meditate on the Gospel.
“Let your reasonableness be known to everyone.”
At first glance, this sentence might seem irrelevant to our goal. What does reasonableness have to do with anxiety? Reasonableness has to do with our relationships. Instead of creating unhealthy conflict through stubbornness, Paul is telling us that we should be known for reasonableness! In doing so, we ultimately fulfill the command to love our neighbor. Paul is calling us to pursue love and contentment, even in stressful circumstances.
“The Lord is at hand;”
This easily-overlooked declarative is the one we should cling to. The Lord is near! He is close, He is ever present, He is aware, He cares deeply, and He is available to us! This encouragement Paul provides is exactly what fuels the call to action in these next Bible verses about anxiety:
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.”
Pray! God is near, He cares for you, and He is eager to come to your aid. Pray. Bring everything before Him. Trust him with your worries, your fears, and your doubts. Pray constantly, performing this most intimate form of worship, and you will practice continually sustaining your trust in Him.
It is important to note that prayer should not be simply worrying at God. Too often I have found myself praying, expressing my fears to God, and yet working myself into an anxious state all over again. According to Paul, the key is thanksgiving. Paul doesn’t mean this in a flippant way. He understood better than most the suffering that comes from living in an utterly broken world. While it might feel impossible to thank God for our circumstances, we can confidently thank God for His character. As you pour out your worries and make your requests, remember you can thank Him for being a God who hears and loves His people perfectly. In her book “Overcoming Fear, Worry, and Anxiety”, Elyse Fitzpatrick writes on this passage, “When God commands you not to worry He isn’t telling you to pretend you don’t have any problems. No, He’s telling you to focus all your energies on thankful prayer” (118).
“And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
Is this not the spiritual stability we all long for? God is promising to guard our hearts and minds with peace. As we pray, as we pursue love, as we fight for joy, as we sustain trust and express thanksgiving, our hearts and minds experience the peace we so desperately need, a peace that surpasses understanding. It doesn’t make sense for a man who just lost his job to walk in peace. It doesn’t make sense for a mother of an ill child to be marked by peace. It doesn’t even make sense for a student taking exams to be living in peace. Yet, God promises just that – His perfect peace that is beyond what we know or understand.
Paul finishes his exhortation with final words of instruction and encouragement:
“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me – practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.” Philippians 4:8-9 ESV
Paul realizes that the overwhelming struggle with anxiety is not something we can solve with a quick fix. Thus, his final instructions are to train our minds to think on what is right, and to practice. Practice, remembering the promise: the God of peace will be with us.