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A Deeper Look at Bible Verses about Anxiety

 
Linda Allcock | July 29th 2021

With tumbling locks of blonde hair, piercing blue eyes and a wide smile, my friend was the picture of health. I say “picture of health” because, just like a picture, there was something hidden underneath that you couldn’t see. She had a fear of dogs, to the point that she could barely leave the house. As a Christian she knew all the right Bible verses about anxiety, but as she read “Do not worry” (Matthew 6v25) all she could hear was “real Christians don’t worry”. So, on top of the fear, she had additional layers of guilt that she was a “rubbish” Christian.

That Bible verse about Worry

I still remember the relief that flooded my friend’s heart and mind as we looked at those words “Do not worry” in their original context, Matthew 6v25-34, because then we see the all-important why. Why we do not need to worry.

Taking this verse out of context we miss the repeated relational emphasis of the following verse where Jesus argues that “your heavenly Father feeds [the birds]. Are you not much more valuable than they?” We miss the argument of the section which drives to the conclusion – verse 32 - do not worry because your heavenly Father knows that you need [these things].”

My friend wasn’t being a “rubbish Christian” when she was worrying. Rather she had lost sight of her status as a valuable child of her heavenly Father.

Meditating on God’s word is a powerful and biblical way to fill our minds with truth to chase away anxious thoughts. Picking just a few words is ideal when our concentration is hampered by anxiety. But we need to pick wisely! Let’s consider how we could fight anxiety by meditating on those four simple words: “Your heavenly Father knows”.

"The reason we do not need to be anxious is right there at the start – the Lord is near. Like a parent holding their child after he wakes from a nightmare, the Lord is with us."

Your heavenly Father knows: you are not excluded because you worry. He came for those who are poor in spirit, who know their need. If you have come to him for forgiveness, he is your Father.

Your heavenly Father knows: the one seated in the place of all power is able and willing to help.  

Your heavenly Father knows: you are his valuable child, and children are supposed to feel powerless! Times of worry can even benefit us if they make us feel our powerlessness and so depend on our Father as we were created to.

Your heavenly Father knows: he knows what we need, and trusting that frees us to pursue his kingdom rather than be paralysed with anxiety. 

“Do not worry” is not a command to beat ourselves up with, but a privilege that is ours already, because we are children of our heavenly Father, who knows all that we need. 

That Bible Verse about Anxiety

Here’s another example of a famous “Do not be anxious” verse. How easy it is to copy, paste and send that to a friend. Smiley emoji. Three kisses. Consider how much we lose when we don’t read it in context:

The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4v5-7.

The reason we do not need to be anxious is right there at the start – the Lord is near. Like a parent holding their child after he wakes from a nightmare, the Lord is with us. This is re-iterated in verse 9 as the section concludes: “And the God of peace will be with you”. We fight anxiety by remembering that God is near and speaking out our anxieties to him. As we do, he promises to guard our hearts and minds with his peace.

The context of the book of Philippians gives us even more comfort as we see in chapter 3 what it means to be at peace with the God of peace. We are no longer lost, guilty, or having to earn righteousness through our own efforts. We are found, known, loved, and safe in the One who has taken all our sin on the cross and given us his perfect righteousness (Philippians 3v3-10).

“Don't be anxious” is not a command we need to try harder to keep, but a privilege that is ours already, because of who we are in Christ.

A better Bible verse for anxiety, would be to focus on those four simple words in verse 5: “the Lord is near”.

The Lord is near: the Lord reminds us that he is in control of everything that is terrifying us.

The Lord is near: he is near, not was or might be if we weren’t such “rubbish” Christians.

The Lord is near: he is right here with us, so we can bring him our fears and trust that his peace that passes understanding will guard our hearts and minds.

Deeper Still

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Finding clear minds and full hearts through biblical meditation.

Anxiety is an Invisible Problem

Perhaps you are a “picture of health” outwardly, but you know that underneath you are crumbling inside. Here’s one last verse,

"Some men brought to [Jesus] a paralyzed man, lying on a mat. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the man, “Take heart, son; your sins are forgiven.” Matthew 9v2

"That doesn't even mention anxiety?!" I hear you object. Herein lies the problem. It's easy to see why this man needed help. You wouldn't expect him to be able to pull himself together and get himself to Jesus. Obviously he can't. Anxiety is an invisible problem, no different to having a problem with your legs. My friend, paralysed by anxiety, needed to be carried, reminded that her heavenly Father knows, that he is near. She also needed the help of a medical professional!

Anxiety is not our only invisible problem. The reason Jesus responds by forgiving the man’s sin, is that this man's paralysis was not his biggest problem. The invisible problem of sin was. Jesus came to save us from the greatest of danger – the sin and death that separates us from God. As we come to him, all our other fears are put into perspective as he conquers the greatest of all fears, death itself, and wins for us eternal life.

Fight anxiety with the truth about who you are. In Christ you are safe. In the safest place. Eternally safe.

Linda Allcock

Linda Allcock works alongside her husband Jonty in The Globe Church, central London, lectures on the women’s ministry course at London Seminary, and is author of Head Heart Hands Bible reading notes. Her life is a crazy, fun mix of boys (she has three sons plus Jonty!), Bible teaching, writing and feeding people.

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