Through my books and Worldview Weekend programs, I often present information that could cause people to worry about disturbing realities growing in the world around us. My intent, though, certainly is not to introduce anxiety into the lives of my readers and listeners. Jesus Himself points out that in the world we will have troubles (John 16:33). Yet as Christians, we are not supposed to have anxiety over the difficulties we see around us or even about those things that press upon us personally.
Perhaps you don’t struggle with anxiety, but you may know a fellow believer who does. Whether you or someone else, though, Scripture has an amazing capacity to put our minds at ease if we understand the truth about how God wants us to handle our anxieties. As I’ve researched this issue in Scripture, I’ve distilled the biblical teaching about worry into 18 key points from the Bible as to how Christians should deal with fear, anxiety, and worry.
1. Anxiety causes depression.
Have you ever noticed how many television commercials you see these days for people dealing with depression? Whether from counseling services or medications, we’re bombarded with “professional solutions” to the problem of depression. Another measure of how widespread the problem of depression has become is the internet. Try a web search on “depression” or “anxiety,” and you’ll find millions of pages of results.
The Bible tells us that anxiety causes depression. Proverbs 12:25 is straightforward in its assessment: “Anxiety in the heart of a man causes depression.” So, one reason so many people suffer with depression is that they allow anxiety to overtake them.
It is easy to understand why an unbeliever might become anxious. Unbelievers don’t have access to the peace that surpasses all understanding (Philippians 4:7). Without a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, they have no guarantee of eternal life, the reality of the Holy Spirit helping them, or understanding of the Word of God to help gain peace and calmness. To help a non-believer cope with depression can be an opportunity to share the Gospel.
It’s different, though, with believers. Sometimes we struggle with anxiety as well, but Scripture offers us an opportunity to be free of it if we simply accept what is set before us. If you’re a believer struggling with depression, you might ask yourself, “Am I struggling with depression because I have anxiety?” That’s the biblical diagnosis for someone who is depressed, and releasing the anxiety is a potential solution.
2. Worry brings anxiety.
You may see a connection with point #1. If anxiety is the source of depression, then it’s helpful to know where the anxiety comes from. As you worry, that brings anxiety. Jesus addresses this head-on with His disciples in Luke 12:22-31 where He explains to them all the reasons they do not need to be anxious:
[quote] He [Jesus] said to His disciples, “Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; nor about the body, what you will put on. Life is more than food, and the body is more than clothing. Consider the ravens, for they neither sow nor reap, which have neither storehouse nor barn; and God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds? And which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature? If you then, are not able to do the least, why are you anxious for the rest? Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; and yet I say to you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. If then God so clothes the grass, which today is in the field and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will He clothe you, O you of little faith?
“And do not seek what you should eat or what you should drink, nor have an anxious mind. For all these things the nations of the world seek after, and your Father knows that you need these things. But seek the kingdom of God, and all these things shall be added unto you.” [end quote]
Jesus makes a number of fascinating statements in this passage. In asking if a person can add a cubit to his stature, He appears to be posing a question about whether or not worrying can add to a person’s height. The context, though, tells us that He is actually asking if a person can add one day to his or her life through worry. It’s rhetorical, of course, because the obvious answer is that we cannot add more days to our lives by worrying.
Jesus also reveals in these verses that worrying is a sin. I’ll examine that claim in more depth later in this chapter, but first it’s important to get a handle on the truth that if we can stop ourselves from worrying, we can reduce the anxiety we might have. The solution Jesus points to is to “seek the kingdom of God.” The implication of the original language here is that we’re told to “seek heaven.” It means that if we pursue what is really important—not the temporal things of this life—we will have a perspective that brings us peace.
3. Wrong priorities bring despair.
The point Jesus makes after the teaching on worry that we looked at in point #2 is revealed in Luke 12:34: “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” A lot of people set their hearts on pursuing the things of this world. And some actually obtain them, thinking it will be the sweetest life possible. After working hard—perhaps for many years—to obtain them, they discover that worldly things don’t bring the joy they thought they would.
If you pour your life into securing material things as the center of your life, you’re going to be very disappointed. Even Christians can fall into this trap. I know some who are not happy people because they have allowed wrong priorities into their lives. Sometimes Christians wrongly focus their time and attention on things that are temporal, not eternal.
I have experienced an affirmation of this biblical truth of the reward of having your heart set on the right priorities. As I concentrate more on eternal things—the work of the Lord, ministry, studying the Bible, my relationships with family and friends, working to fulfill the Great Commission—I receive great satisfaction and contentment. As 1 Timothy 6:6 says, “[G]odliness with contentment is great gain.”
4. Peace is lost through a quarrelsome home.
If you struggle with not having much inner peace, it may be because of what’s going on in your home. Nothing is worse than friction in a marriage. Not getting along with your spouse is a sure peace thief.
For over 25 years, I have been blessed with a wonderful marriage. I regard my wife as “beyond me” in many ways, but we are also excellent complements to one another. As with even the best of marriages, though, we have had quarrels that made life difficult for a time. And I’ve come to see that the very worst times in life are when you’re not getting along with your spouse. During the times my wife and I have quarreled or gone to bed upset with each other, it’s miserable. I can hardly imagine living that way day in and day out. It would certainly destroy any hope of real peace in your heart or home.
The Bible speaks specifically to this domestic issue. Proverbs 17:1 says, “Better is a dry morsel with quietness than a house full of feasting with strife.” And Proverbs 15:17 is similar: “Better is a dinner of herbs where love is than a fatted calf with hatred.”
Children sometimes present another sort of problem at home. You may have a really good marriage but struggle with a quarrelsome or contentious teenager. So, as believers, we have to understand the biblical principles for marriage, for raising our children, and for dealing with anger to help us get under control the quarreling that might remove peace from our homes. Getting this fixed may be a necessary first step for peace in your life.
5. God gives peace to those who seek Him.
Another reason believers sometimes lack peace is that they are not truly seeking the Lord. And how do we seek the Lord? Through the study of His Word and through prayer. Study of Scripture reveals the character and nature of God because the Bible reflects His character and nature. The Bible promises that God gives peace to those who seek Him. As Psalm 34:4 says, “I sought the Lord, and He heard me, and He delivered me from all my fears.” If we seek Him, we will find peace.
6. God gives peace to those who obey Him.
To experience peace as a result of seeking God presumes that you will obey Him as you go. Sometimes, though, Christians live in disobedience. If so, the lack of peace is due at least in part to God’s chastisement. He will not give you peace if you do not obey. Disobedience grows out of not living in accordance with God’s Word. Rather than happiness, He brings trials and tribulations into your life to get your attention.
Just as disobedience results in a lack of peace, obedience results in peace. According to Philippians 4:9, “The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you” (emphasis mine). If we follow biblical teachings, we will have peace. Galatians 5:22-23 is similar: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.”
Peace is one of the fruits of the Spirit that grows in us when we walk in accordance with God’s will. Even in the midst of what the world would say are turmoil, trials, and heartache, God can bring a peace that surpasses understanding.
Psalm 119:165 says, “Great peace have those who love Your law.” The law of God is His Word. So: Love God’s Word and receive peace.
7. God gives peace to those who are corrected by Him.
God chastises believers who are not obedient, but the end result is renewed peace. If God brings discipline into your life, your reaction should be, “Hey, wait a minute, the Lord is trying to get my attention here; He’s punishing me; I’m suffering consequences for not being obedient to Him.” Then you learn the lessons God has for you so He can restore peace to you.
This sort of correction may not be enjoyable at the time, but it is a blessing. Hebrews 12:11 points out that “no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.” No one likes to be chastened by the Lord, but after we have repented, it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained.
Job 5:17 goes even further. This scripture says that “happy is the man whom God corrects; therefore, do not despise the chastening of the Almighty” (emphasis mine).
So, if you are living in disobedience and are not at peace, be thankful. God chastens you because He loves you. Once you submit to His discipline and repent, He will restore peace to you.
8. Believers can feel despair.
While each of us should continually examine our lives to make sure we’re in the faith, feeling despair, anxiety, or worry doesn’t necessarily mean a person is not a believer. It’s certainly prudent to make sure the despair isn’t a sign that you have been living a lie or are a false convert. But true believers, at times, do fall into despair. Even biblical models such as Job and David experienced severely negative emotions at times:
9. Believers need not feel despair.
While believers do, at times, feel despair, they don’t have to. Second Corinthians 4:7-9 gives us a good reason not to succumb to fear:
[quote] But we have this treasure in earthen vessels that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us. We are hard-pressed on every side, yet we are perplexed, but [we’re] not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed. [end quote]
We are like “earthen vessels”—clay pots. If you’ve ever dropped one, you know the result. They shatter, and pieces fly everywhere. Why? Because they’re so extremely fragile.
In some ways, it’s not very encouraging that Paul compares us to such containers, but that is our reality. In us, though, is an inestimably valuable treasure—the power of Jesus Christ. We may be fragile in our own strength, but not in His. And that’s why we don’t have to feel despair. We can rely on the promise in 1 Peter 5:7, that we can cast “all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.” Yes, we can feel despair, but we don’t have to.
10. A spirit of fear does not come from God.
If we feel fear, it is not from God. As 2 Timothy 1:7 assures us, “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” Love and a sound mind are blessings from God—sources of peace, not fear.
11. God is aware of our despair and anxiety, and He offers a solution.
Philippians 4:6-7 promises that we can “be anxious for nothing, 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 minds through Christ Jesus.” When we’re anxious, we can go to God in thankful prayer, tell Him about our needs, and rest in His peace.
12. Our hope is in God.
As Psalm 42:5 says, there is no good reason for losing hope: “Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him for the help of His countenance.” Psalm 27:1 is similarly definitive: “The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?” And so is Psalm 64:10: “The righteous shall be glad in the Lord, and trust in Him. And all the upright in heart shall glory.”
13. God takes care of the righteous.
Although we’ll never be completely holy in this life, we are meant to pursue righteousness and holiness. As we do, God takes care of us. Job 36:7 promises that “He does not withdraw His eyes from the righteous.” Righteous living means we walk in accord with God’s statutes and principles, seeking to live in line with His character and nature. As we pursue righteousness, Psalm 37:25 also gives us reason not to fret: “I have been young, and now am old; and I have not seen the righteous forsaken.”
14. Anxiety calls into question God’s power.
Many things we see on the nightly news, read in the daily newspaper, or view online could bring fear, anxiety, and worry, but the Lord is loving and kind. Jesus knew we would encounter troubling times, and so He told us about it ahead of time (Mark 13:23), so we would know He is in control.
We need to understand how serious it is when believers let fear, anxiety, and worry rule our lives. Anxiety calls into question God’s power. This is why worry, anxiety, and fear ultimately are sins because it means we’re not trusting the Lord. We wonder, Is God really capable of solving this problem I might have? Will He really sustain me? Is God’s grace sufficient for me? The Bible says ”yes” to all three questions. Galatians 2:20 explains why we can have confidence in our place with God:
[quote] I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.
So, God is all powerful; He’s the One at work in us, so we need not fear. [end quote]
15. Anxiety calls into question God’s provision.
God has already made the ultimate provision for us—our salvation—so all else is of little consequence by comparison. As 2 Corinthians 5:21 says, “For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” If God can and will provide that for us, He can and will provide whatever else we truly need.
When we grow anxious, we call into question this willingness of God to provide for us. We’re saying to Him, “I’m not really sure You can provide for me.” Yet, He has already provided for us the greatest thing that could ever be provided. He has made the greatest sacrifice possible in His only begotten Son.
16. Anxiety calls into question God’s priority.
Our anxiety indicates that we do not fully grasp how immensely God cares for us. Luke 12:24-28 points this out:
[quote] Consider the ravens, for they neither sow nor reap, which have neither storehouse nor barn; and God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds? And which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature? If you then are not able to do the least, why are you anxious for the rest? Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; and yet I say to you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. [end quote]
This scripture proclaims that God actually cares for the ravens—mere birds—so, of course He will care for you. After all, He laid down His life (the provision) for us.
17. Anxiety calls into question God’s providence.
Anxiety in us is as if we don’t think God has the power to do what He aims to do. We simply need to relax in the truth of Proverbs 3:5-6: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.” His direction is the divine providence we need. He will not lead us into anything that is ultimately bad for us.
18. Anxiety calls into question God’s sovereignty.
When we let fear, anxiety, or worry rule our lives, we’re doubting God’s absolute authority. He has complete authority in this world to do whatever He intends, and since He intends our good, we don’t have to be anxious over anything that comes our way. This is how utterly sovereign He is:
He can and will take care of us.
The bottom line here is that when we allow fear, anxiety, or worry to rule our lives, we’re sinning. Our worry is an insult to God because we’re calling into question His power, provision, priority, providence, and His sovereignty.
Yes, we live in a fallen world in which evil things happen. Yet because of our trust in a mighty, sovereign, loving heavenly Father, we must control any fear, anxiety, worry, and manage the root causes. Are we disobedient due to wrong priorities, motives, or goals? Do we live in a home filled with quarreling and fighting? If so, what is the root cause of that quarreling and fighting? Is it because we have family members who are unbelievers? Or who are believers making sinful choices?
Whatever is taking away your peace, find it and take control over it with the Word of God.
Copyright 2015 ©Brannon Howse. This content is for Situation Room members and is not to be duplicated in any form or uploaded to other websites without the express written permission of Brannon Howse or his legally authorized representative.