Anxiety is close to home for me. In fact, it’s right under my roof. Though I’m not typically an anxious person, I’ve had my own dark season of anxiety. And my husband has struggled with it on a sometimes daily basis—even to the point where it has affected our home and marriage. Like his dad, my firstborn son struggles with anxiety. I began to notice strange behavior from him even as a toddler and preschooler. My son’s anxiety affected me. It limited me. At the time, I didn’t realize that not all moms have to work through these types of behaviors with their children. Though I’ve seen tremendous growth in him for the past eight months, anxiety can still lurk on the edges of his life.
There are many ways to handle anxiety. Different methods work for different people. Some need medication, some find counseling or therapy helpful, and some get help through other types of managing techniques. While all of these options are helpful, and necessary for some people, there is a spiritual foundation that must be in place (even while seeking professional help). The anxious heart and mind must be anchored in the rock of God’s Word. No matter what our circumstances, the Bible offers hope for us in our anxiety.
Where are you looking?
Recently, as I was reading to my children from one of our storybook Bibles, I was hit afresh by the account of Jesus walking on water (Matthew 14:22-32). I read aloud about Peter beginning to sink into the water and Jesus taking his hand and lifting him up. I was reminded that Jesus won’t let my son sink. Jesus can take care of my boy in the midst of his anxious feelings. He will be with him and he will lift him up to help him. As I explained to my son, Jesus never denies the fact that the storm is terrifying and dangerous, just as we don’t need to deny the reality of living in a broken and scary world. Peter’s fear of the storm is understandable, but his eyes should never have rested on the storm. Even though Jesus was right in front of him, Peter took his eyes away from Jesus and fixed them on the storm. Jesus calls Peter’s faith “little” (verse 31), because Peter believed the danger of the storm was stronger than the power of Jesus.
Like Peter, where we place our focus matters. It’s easy for us to fixate on what’s going wrong around us. We can become overly concerned with security and safety. We don’t need to deny that things go wrong or the fact that our security and safety are important. But when comfort, safety—even our wellbeing—cost us peace of mind, that’s a good sign that we have lost focus on Jesus’s presence with us. Scripture teaches us to choose to rest in the promises of God and ask the Holy Spirit to help us in our weakness. When we do, we are fixing our eyes on Jesus, no matter how terrible the storm.
Jesus’s words for your anxiety
One way we can fix our eyes on Jesus is by remembering what he says in Scripture and applying it to everyday life. This might look like the time I was reading a book about bears to my two boys. As we came to the section about polar bears, we learned that they have black skin under their white fur. The black skin is meant to give the bears optimal warmth in their frigid environment by attracting the rays of the sun. Their white fur is meant as camouflage in the snowy Arctic. As I read this to my boys, I pointed out that God was the designer behind that. I told them that God cared for the polar bears and provided them with exactly what they needed for their lives. If he did that for the polar bears, he would do that for them. They are more important to God than polar bears. My inspiration for this application came from Jesus himself. In Matthew 6:25-34, Jesus addresses anxiety. He introduces us to the sparrow, for which he provides food, and speaks of the lilies of the field, in which he clothes himself. He tells us that if they are provided for, then how much more will our heavenly Father provide for all our needs? Then Jesus concludes this section with this: “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble” (verse 34).
It’s not enough to fix our eyes on Jesus simply by recalling what he has said. We must take Jesus at his Word, as well. In the above passage, Jesus is telling us to take one day at a time. We ask for our daily bread, not a lifetime supply. This level of trust can seem unattainable. But the secret to daily dependence on Jesus is exactly that: depending on him. We can enjoy gradual freedom from anxiety because of the nature of the person who promises it. God hasn’t given us the grace for tomorrow or next year, because it hasn’t happened yet! But he has promised to give us grace for today, if we ask him. He will supply us with what we truly need when we need it. And as we learn the character of God, we know that we can trust him to do exactly what he has promised (and more). Just like he did for Peter, and the polar bear, and the sparrow, and the lilies. All we have to do is remember what Jesus has told us and then ask the Holy Spirit to allow us to believe and trust him.
A Savior who understands anxiety
Jesus is our own model and comforter when walking through anxiety. He had his own moment of anxiety when he sweat blood and tears in the Garden of Gethsemane. We can take comfort in the Scripture, amid anxiety, when we see that our own Savior can sympathize with our weaknesses. He had to have been anxious and in great turmoil on the night before he died, knowing what was ahead for him. But what do we see Jesus do in his most anxiety ridden moment? He prayed.
Later, Jesus’s apostle Paul wrote to a group of Christians: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, 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).
Being fully human, Jesus had to have felt fear. But he did what David said of himself in Psalm 56:3: “When I am afraid, I put my trust in [God].”
Amid fear and anxiety, Jesus pushed forward in faith through his fervent prayers and willingness to surrender to the Father. And he pushed forward, despite his feelings, for us. This is the God-man who raised Peter out of the waves. And by his death he raises us from death to life. He battled through anxiety, so he could feel our pain and help us. We just have to take his hand. We can choose to fix our eyes on him by remembering what he told us in Scripture and asking the Holy Spirit to help us in our weakness. That’s all the faith we need.
Want to learn more about how Scripture speaks to anxiety? Check out this reading plan on the Bible App.
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