Everyone has experienced anxiety. Many experience chronic anxiety and nearly 20% of Americans have been diagnosed with anxiety disorders. If God created us and most of his creation struggles with it, surely he gave us some clues as to how to cope with it. So, what does the Bible say about anxiety?
There is a quick and to-the-point verse that could be oversimplified. 1 Peter 5:7 tells us:
“Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.”
Now that is memorable, and a verse that has brought a lot of people a tremendous amount of encouragement. However, the danger is that someone might read it and treat it like a magic bullet. You could get the impression that you just need to “pray the anxiety away.” Prayer, for sure, is part of the equation, but God’s answer to anxiety, and this verse, goes a lot deeper than that.
God doesn’t want us to say a simple prayer once a day and anxiety will simply disappear. He wants something more for us. His solution goes much deeper into our soul than a routine prayer.
Where does anxiety come from
First, we have to understand the source of our anxiety. We all have expectations. We have things that we want and think we need. Anxiety sets in when we imagine not having those things. Here are just a few examples.
- We want to provide for ourselves and those we love. You may feel the weight of this responsibility and control and anxiety settles in when you try to ensure that provision happens.
- You may fear losing people you love who are close to you. It’s hard to imagine a world without them in it. This causes anxiety because ultimately we know the inevitable reality that we will lose people.
- Maybe you have a deep desire to be thought of by people in a certain way. You try to please people, explain your actions, and gain approval. What happens when people are difficult to please? You may not be able to live up to your own expectations, much less those of others.
The list goes on, but I think this gets us all on the same page. Anxiety comes from not getting what we want or what we think we need. Often, we imagine scenarios that haven’t even happened. We live in a world of “what ifs,” which is really an alternate reality that does not even exist.
So, let me ask you a question: Who do you trust?
This gets to the core of the issue, so please don’t miss it:
- We believe that we know best.
- We believe in ourselves or (even worse), others, to make it a reality.
This is where God wants to intervene. In order for us to cope with our anxiety, we have to allow God to take over in both of these areas. Notice, I didn’t say “help out” in these two areas. No, he has to take over.
See, what I mean? It’s a lot deeper than just a quick “prayer away” and it’s not something someone does over a weekend. This is not a short trip to Grandma’s house. No, this is an epic journey you go on for the rest of your life.
What does God say about anxiety
Ultimately, God’s desire is that we would so deeply trust him with our lives that:
- We believe that HE knows what is best.
- We believe that he will make it happen in His timing.
For some of us, the first one is the hardest, and for good reason. God allows all kinds of things to happen that we don’t like or understand. It becomes hard to imagine that God would not intercede when we are convinced he should.
However, God makes his case for being the better option. Here is his simple resume:
- He created and designed everything that exists.
- He knows the past, present, and future.
- He knows the innermost thoughts of every man, woman, and child who has ever existed.
- He is motivated by love, and only love. In fact, he is love. (See 1 John 4:8)
Let’s compare that to our resume:
- After years of research and study of human behavior, we aren’t really any better than we have ever been.
- We are often confident we know what is best, only to have remorse later.
- We make wild assumptions about what other people are motivated by and are terrible at getting along.
- We are selfish and often have tunnel vision.
On paper, there really is no comparison. And yet we find ourselves believing that our understanding is sufficient and our ways are better. To this, God reveals his nature in scripture so that we can learn to trust in him.
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord.
“As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.”
Coping with anxiety begins with genuinely believing in the simple basics: that God is God. That he knows what he is doing and what he wills is far better than what we would will, want, or desire. Again this isn’t a simple prayer. It’s a belief that is formed as we trust in him over and over again in good seasons and bad. It’s faith that puts God on his throne in our hearts.
God is in control
Once we begin to believe he knows what he is doing, now we have to believe that he is the one who provides and cares for us. Anxiety also stems from us believing that the world is still on our shoulders. Again, scripture reminds us that God wants to take over in this role.
“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 than food, and the body more than clothes? 26 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? 27 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?” Matthew 6|25-27
So God knows best, and he is the one who takes care of us. You might ask, well, what exactly is our role? Here is what is so beautiful. He does ask us to participate in his cosmic plan, but our role is so simple. He simply asks us to trust in him. All of the cares and worries of this life are in his hands, all we have to do is believe in him. So back to the original verse we started with, but hopefully, now there is a little more depth to it when we read it.
“Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for us.” 1 Peter 5|7
The more I have grown in my faith the less anxiety I have.
Watch messages from our recent series: Above Anxiety
Additional resources for chronic anxiety:
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