Note: This article is adapted from a lesson I taught at The Rock young adult ministry at New Covenant Bible Church in February of 2021. You can listen to the lesson here.
Disclaimer: All content on this website is for informational and educational purposes only and does not constitute or replace medical advice. Consult a professional in your area of need before making decisions about your mental health.
Anxiety comes in all shapes and sizes. Some of our concerns are attached to legitimate threats; others are demons of our imagination. I appreciate Winston Churchill’s words: “When I look back on all these worries, I remember the story of the old man who said on his deathbed that he had had a lot of trouble in his life, most of which had never happened.”
Fortunately, God cares about all of our anxieties (1 Peter 5:7)—regardless of the source—and he beckons us to come to him in our time of need (Hebrews 4:16). Beyond this, God also intends to use us despite our worries (2 Corinthians 1:3-5). You don’t need to be strong or have it all together in order to be used by God or to glorify him. In fact, God specializes in working in and through weak people. In the words of John Piper, “God loves to be at a disadvantage just before he wins.”
Far from benching you in your weakness, God intends to beautify you, reveal himself to you, bear fruit through you, and showcase his power through your weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9). So, how can we glorify God in our worry and anxiety? Consider three steps as a starting point.
#1: Pray your feelings.
Key verse: “Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise” (James 5:13).
Perhaps the most comforting aspect of James 5:13 is what it does not say. Notice that it does not say, “Is anyone among you suffering? Celebrate anyway! Is anyone among you worrying? Just pretend like you’re happy!” Instead, this verse acknowledges that worshiping God will look different on different days of our lives, as we go through different emotions.
God knows and honors the fact that we’re emotional creatures (Psalm 103:13-14), meaning he doesn’t demand (or expect) that our worship always look gleeful. This is great news. Can you imagine if God only accepted our worship when we were happy? God not only allows us to be real with our emotions—he encourages us to! So, when we feel cheerful, God says, “Sing! Enjoy your happiness! Worship me in your happiness.” When we’re suffering or sad, God says, “Come to me! Pray! Let me help carry your burdens. Worship me in your sadness.”
God is not afraid or ashamed of your emotions. He does not say, “First get rid of your worry, then come to me.” He says, “Come to me with your worry” (Matthew 11:28-30). God doesn’t ask you to be polished, only to be honest. He wants to meet you where you are and to help you walk through it (Psalm 23:4). So, in the words of the psalmist, “Pour out your heart before him! God is a refuge for us!” (Psalm 62:8).
#2: Inform your thoughts.
Key verse: “Take every thought captive to obey Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5).
A few years ago, I heard a talk on the subject of sin. The speaker didn’t hold any punches. He said, “If you’re struggling with sin, just stop it! If you’re struggling with lust and pornography, just stop it! If you’re struggling with fear and anxiety, just stop it!” Then, at the end of his talk, he literally had everyone say it together: “When we are struggling with sin, what do we do? Just stop it!”
I cringed when I heard this—not because there is no truth in this approach, but because the Bible is not that simplistic! When we are worried and anxious, God does not say, “My child, Just stop it.” But he does say, “Take your thoughts captive.”
What exactly does it mean to take our thoughts captive? Consider the opposite of this statement—to be taken captive by our thoughts. This is when we allow our thoughts (and feelings) to control us or to be the ultimate authority on who God is, who we are, or the way the world is. Whenever we do this, we are extremely vulnerable to being deceived by the lies of worry.
It has been said that there are two primary lies at the root of worry: (1) God is not in control; (2) God is not good. Whenever we are taken captive by our thoughts, these lies are free to fester and grow. How can we uproot these toxic, deceitful narratives? We must inform our thoughts and feelings with God’s promises.
God’s Daily Mercies
There are many wonderful promises to cling to in our worry and anxiety (I provide 15 here), but one of the most important promises to dwell on is the promise of God’s daily mercies. Much of our worrying in life comes when we try to seize control of something today (or figure something out today) that will happen in the future. Yet time and time again throughout Scripture, God welcomes us to simply focus on what he’s put before us today and rest assured that he will take care of us tomorrow (cf. Exodus 16; Lamentations 3:23; Matthew 6:11; 6:34).
Corrie ten Boom gives a powerful illustration of this concept in her book The Hiding Place. When Corrie was six years old, she struggled with the idea that her dad could die at some point in her life. So one day, when he came home from work, she burst into tears and pleaded with him to assure her that he wouldn’t die. Here is the excerpt (lightly edited):
“I need you,” Corrie sobbed. “You can’t die. You can’t.”
Her father sat down beside her and said gently, “Corrie, when you and I go to Amsterdam, when do I give you your train ticket?”
“Well,” she said, “just before we get on the train.”
“Exactly,” he said. “And our wise Father in heaven knows when we are going to need things, too. Don’t run out ahead of him, Corrie. When the time comes that you need strength, you will look into your heart and find what you need just in time.”
God does not promise to give us today what we need for tomorrow—but he does promise to give us today what we need for today, and to give us tomorrow what we need for tomorrow. And when we rest in this promise—when we depend on God today and trust him to provide tomorrow—we combat the lies of worry and we glorify him.
#3: Remember your Savior.
“Cast all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7).
“For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23).
In all of our worries, we must remember (at least) two things. First, we have a Savior who cares deeply about all of our concerns (big or small), because he cares deeply about us (1 Peter 5:7). Second, as sinners, our most foundational need is actually not to get rid of our present worry, but to be made right with God—to have our sins paid for, our hearts changed, peace with God restored, and eternal life secured through Christ.
When anxiety hits, we don’t only need someone who can sympathize with us—we need someone who can actually save us! And the good news is that in the person of Christ, we have both. Jesus is not only a perfect sympathizer, he is also a glorious Savior who is coming back to make things right. As Jesus himself promised: “You have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you” (John 16:22; cf. Isaiah 25:8; Revelation 21:4).
Let’s rest today knowing that we have a Savior who both cares and saves, that he’s not finished yet, and that the best is still yet to come.
Download “15 Promises God Makes to His Children” here.
Read “An Answer to Prayer Even Better Than Clarity” here.
Read “Christian, You Are Fully Known and Fully Loved” here.
Questions or comments? I’d love to hear from you! Leave a reply in the box below.