Three Ways to Glorify God in Worry and Anxiety

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: I am not a medical doctor. All content and information on this website is for informational and educational purposes only and does not constitute or replace medical advice. Always consult a professional in the area of your particular needs and circumstances prior to making any decisions about your mental health. This article focuses on three (internal) ways we can glorify God in our worry and anxiety, but these by no means replace the benefits or necessity of seeking help from a trusted confidant or mental health professional. Beyond this, one of the primary ways God meets us, encourages us, heals us, and directs us is through the help of others (Proverbs 11:14; 13:10; 15:22; Galatians 6:2; Ephesians 4:15-16)—so it glorifies him when we seek help!

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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.

Key verses:

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.

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Blake Glosson is a student at Reformed Theological Seminary. He has been published by The Gospel Coalition and Crosswalk.com and republished and/or referred by Eternal Perspective Ministries (Randy Alcorn), Challies.com (Tim Challies), Moody Radio (Dawn and Steve Mornings—here and here), The JOY FM (The Morning Cruise with Dave, Bill, and Carmen), ChurchLeaders.com, The Aquila Report, Monergism.com, and numerous other sources. Previously, he served as the director of young adults at New Covenant Bible Church in St. Charles, Illinois.

Download “15 Precious Promises of God to Cling to Daily” 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.

An Answer to Prayer Even Better than Clarity

Recently I told a friend that I would give my whole bank account for clarity. He said, “No you wouldn’t.” I said, “Yes I would.” He said, “No you wouldn’t.” I said, “Yes… I would.” He said, “You really want clarity, huh? Okay, I will pray for that for you.”

The next morning—less than 12 hours later—I woke up and continued listening to Aimee Joseph’s Demystifying Decision-Making. She said, “We far too easily demand clarity from our Creator when, instead of clarity, he would rather cultivate faith in us.”

I suppose God answered my prayer for clarity quicker than expected—only instead of giving me clarity of direction, he gave me clarity of priority. In this moment, I believe God was graciously reminding me that trust in God is infinitely more valuable than clarity on what to do. If God chose to increase my faith rather than give me clarity in this situation, that would be a treasure of far greater worth. (Let’s hope God doesn’t come for my bank account now that he’s cleared this up for me!)

Consider three ways that trust in God is more valuable than clarity on what to do.

1. Clarity might help us now; trust will help us for a lifetime.

In one sense, the difference between clarity and trust is similar to the difference between a painkiller and true healing. We often long for the narcotic of clarity because we long for a quick fix. Clarity takes us out of the uncomfortable—out of a place of dependence—and makes us feel back in control. But is that really what we need most?

If God gave us clarity, that may (or may not) help us with a particular decision, but it would never help us again. But if he gave us trust, that would help us for a lifetime (Psalm 125:1-2).

Those who trust the Lord don’t thrive because they always have clarity, but because they deem the one who holds the future worthy of their soul’s deepest rest. The security we long for doesn’t come from knowing the future, but from knowing and trusting God.

Don’t misunderstand: clarity in itself is not a bad thing. In fact, clarity is often the satisfying fruit of faith in action. But don’t miss the goodness of the seasons of life that feel unclear. Don’t rush past them. Don’t live in the future and miss the preciousness of what God is trying to teach you right now. Remember, if you can learn to trust God in this season, it will bear sweet fruit for the rest of your life (and for all eternity).

2. Clarity allows us to move on; trust allows God to move in.

One of the hardest parts of unclear seasons is the feeling of stuckness—like we can’t move forward in any areas of life until we get this area figured out. But let two things be clear.

First, if you do nothing in this season except deepen your trust in God, this will be one of the most productive seasons of your life (James 1:2-4). The product of clarity is a decision; the product of trust is a relationship. Which is more productive in the long run? I appreciate Ann Voskamp’s observation: “Too often we want clarity and God wants us to come closer.” Is it possible that God is allowing this season of waiting in your life to deepen your communion with him?

Second, God may be slowing you down in some areas of life, but he doesn’t want you to stop moving. Don’t sit on the sideline while you wait for clarity in this area. Ironically, God usually gives us clarity not while we are sitting on our hands and fixating on a decision, but while we are being the hands of Christ and focusing on his mission.

3. Clarity gives us something to run to; trust gives us someone to run to.

One of the most precious gems in Joseph’s book is a story she tells of her son after he made a poor decision. Whether you’re feeling uncertain about the past or the future, be encouraged by this today!

My nine-year-old son stood with his bicycle at the top of the steep hill in front of our house. His gaggle of neighborhood friends stood at the base of the hill where my husband and I were doing some gardening. Suddenly my son cried out from the top of the hill, “Hey guys, watch this!” My husband and I immediately looked up in alarm, as those are dangerous words coming from a young boy. Much to our surprise, our son’s next move was not to ride down the hill on the bike but to send the bike down the hill without a rider. Our eyes moved back and forth between the bike, which was picking up speed, and the new-to-us car toward which it was headed. Sure enough, the bike slammed into the side of the car as we watched in shock and horror. My son, recognizing what he had done and not even understanding himself why he had done it, began running down the hill. I fully expected him to run to his room in embarrassment, but he did something we did not expect. He ran directly into my husband’s arms, paying my husband one of the greatest compliments of his life. In a moment when fear of shame and consequences might have made him run from his father, he chose to run to his arms. He knew his father well enough to know that there would surely be consequences, but he also knew that his father loved him far more than he was disappointed with him. (Emphasis mine)

Here we see the all-surpassing value of trust. Trust not only helps us make decisions without being paralyzed by fear, but it also gives us someone to run to even when we make poor decisions. 

Interestingly, idolizing clarity can sometimes lead us to make wrong decisions. The presence of clarity is not always a stamp of God’s approval, nor does it guarantee good outcomes. But when we trust in God, we can be confident that no matter what the outcome is, we have a loving and sovereign Father who is always with us and ready to embrace us in his loving arms (Luke 15:20).

Rest in the arms of the Father

Our future is unknown, but God’s character and promises are not. Let’s rest knowing that our God is supremely trustworthy and that he will redeem all of our decisions for his glory and our good (Romans 8:28).

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Blake Glosson is a student at Reformed Theological Seminary. He has been published by The Gospel Coalition and Crosswalk.com and republished and/or referred by Eternal Perspective Ministries (Randy Alcorn), Challies.com (Tim Challies), Moody Radio (Dawn and Steve Mornings—here and here), The JOY FM (The Morning Cruise with Dave, Bill, and Carmen), ChurchLeaders.com, The Aquila Report, Monergism.com, and numerous other sources. Previously, he served as the director of young adults at New Covenant Bible Church in St. Charles, Illinois.

Read “Which Memories Should I Dwell On?” here.

Read “Special Needs and the Goodness of Dependence” here.

Questions or comments? I’d love to hear from you! Leave a reply in the box below.