Dr. Kevin Klar
Anxiety is not new to the mental health field. It is a mental health condition that has been around since man was exiled from the garden. Since there are many stories of people and anxiety in the Bible, we can be comforted that God knew we would face this mental challenge. We can also be reassured that he gave us a way to battle the struggle with anxiety.Anxiety is a common problem that people have contended with throughout history. Simply defined, it is fear or worry. Several times in God’s word the Lord calms his people with “do not fear” and “do not be anxious.”
Anxiety is simply a way that the adversary places lies, fear, and worries into our thought pathways. Those who suffered anxiety in the Bible were able to confront their struggle as they learned to apply the positive thought process of God’s word in a way that changed their thinking patterns.
Biblically speaking, anxiety is an issue of fearing or giving way to some temporal thought process that is unfounded by truth. The phrase “fear not” is mentioned 365 times in the Bible. That is one repetition for each day in a year!
If God took the time to tell us to fear not, then we can rest assured that He knew we would deal with anxiety. Anxiety in the Bible is real and relevant to us learning how to change the way we think so we cast down those untruthful thoughts.
Christians and anxiety.
There is not one person who is immune to the possibility of facing anxiety. It may not be as intense for some people as it is for others. For some, it may simply be an anxious moment right before a doctor’s appointment while others may battle fearful thoughts constantly. Either way, it is anxiety, and it is real.
The good news is that we do not have to remain in the mindset of the adversary’s fear tactic. We can choose to identify the fear and change the way we process our thoughts about that fear. The other good news is that we are not perfect, and God knows this. He knows that we will face anxiety at some point. That is why He addresses it so many times in the Bible.
Unfortunately, there are people who question the faith of someone that suffers from anxiety, as if they cannot be a mature Christian. This is simply not a true picture of what anxiety looks like in the Bible. We are not perfect people. We can only do better when we know better. God understands this and has provided, in the Bible, the tools for coping with anxiety.
Biblical examples of those who suffered with anxiety.
Starting with the Old Testament, we can find examples throughout the Bible of individuals who struggled with anxiety. Many of them had a prominent role in the genealogy of Jesus.
Naomi in the book of Ruth.
In the book of Ruth chapter 1, we read of Naomi and her daughters-in-law. Naomi was faced with the loss of her husband, her two sons, and her home. Laden with grief, she expressed her anxiety about her losses and their implications for her future.
But Naomi said, “Return, my daughters. Why should you go with me? Do I still have sons in my womb, that they may be your husbands? Return, my daughters! Go, for I am too old to have a husband. If I said I have hope, if I were even to have a husband tonight and also give birth to sons, would you therefore wait until they were grown? Would you therefore refrain from marrying? No, my daughters; for it is much more bitter for me than for you, because the hand of the LORD has come out against me.” – Ruth 1:11-13, NASB
King David in the book of 2 Samuel.
When David’s son, Absalom had died, David mourned him even though they were estranged. Grief is connected to anxiety, filled with regret, and wishes for a different outcome or situation.
Then the king trembled and went up to the chamber over the gate and wept. And this is what he said as he walked: “My son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom! If only I had died instead of you, Absalom, my son, my son!” – 2 Samuel 18:33, NASB
Elijah in the book of 1 Kings.
Elijah ran for his life out of fear of Jezebel, who he believed would kill him. This bout with anxiety also indicates an episode of depression and a crushed self-worth.
And he was afraid and got up and ran for his life and came to Beersheba, which belongs to Judah; and he left his servant there. But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness and came and sat down under a broom tree; and he asked for himself to die, and said, “Enough! Now, LORD, take my life, for I am no better than my fathers.” – 1 Kings 19:3-4, NASB
Elisha’s servant in the book of 2 Kings.
The king of Aram sent an army to destroy Elisha. When Elisha’s servant saw the army, he became anxious and expressed a desperate sense of bewilderment. He felt hopeless.
Now when the attendant of the man of God had risen early and gone out, behold, an army with horses and chariots was circling the city. And his servant said to him, “This is hopeless, my master! What are we to do?” – 2 Kings 6:15, NASB
Nehemiah from the book of Nehemiah.
When he was in the presence of King Artaxerxes, Nehemiah was overcome with fear and anxiety. The king even notices and recognizes it as ‘sadness of heart.’
So, the king said to me, “Why is your face sad, though you are not ill? This is nothing but sadness of heart.” Then I was very much afraid. – Nehemiah 2:2, NASB
Peter in the book of Matthew.
Three times Peter had denied knowing Christ by the time the rooster crowed because he was fearful. Afterward Peter suffered anxiety, regret, and sadness.
And Peter remembered the statement that Jesus had made: “Before a rooster crows, you will deny Me three times.” And he went out and wept bitterly. – Matthew 6:75, NASB
Mary and Joseph in the book of Luke.
After returning from the Feast of Passover, Mary and Joseph could not find Jesus as they returned to Nazareth and were anxiously looking for Him.
When Joseph and Mary saw Him, they were bewildered; and His mother said to Him, “Son, why have You treated us this way? Behold, your father and I have been anxiously looking for You!” – Luke 2:48, NASB
Martha in the book of Luke.
When Jesus dined in the home of Martha and Mary, Martha became consumed by comparison and jealousy, sighting the unfairness of her situation. Jesus names it as worry and distraction.
But Martha was distracted with all her preparations; and she came up to Him and said, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to do the serving by myself? Then tell her to help me.” But the Lord answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things. – Luke 10: 40-41, NASB
Facing anxiety biblically.
When worry or fear enters our thought processes, God wants us to learn how to transform our thinking. To change the thought process, we must first acknowledge that it is a negative thought that does not need to take residence in our minds. We are taking our thoughts captive, as Jesus instructs. Here are some simple steps to take to change the thoughts of fear or worry:
- Name and identify the feelings of anxiety.
- Counter the negative thoughts by replacing them with the promises and truths of God from the Bible.
- Speak about the goodness of God.
- Learn to pray the Word of God over yourself against fear.
- Remember it is a daily decision to transform your thoughts.
Anxiety is real. Examples of anxiety in the Bible reassure us that God knew this would be part of our lives as humans in a broken world. We are all imperfect and susceptible to the struggle of anxiety. To tackle this difficulty, we have to learn how to change the way we think and remove the negative thoughts that cause us to become worried or fearful.
If you or a loved one feel as though anxiety is overwhelming you, know that help is available. Reach out to a local Christian counselor. They can walk with you in recreating your thought patterns by using scripture to reflect a positive thought process.
“Stress”, Courtesy of Getty Images, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Overwhelmed”, Courtesy of Nik Shuliahin, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Watching the Fog”, Courtesy of Mitchell Hartley, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Rainbow”, Courtesy of Mateus Campos Filipe, Unsplash.com, CC0 License
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