Sometimes I worry. I even fret. Yep, sometimes I have even sunk into lengthy periods of anxiety. It happens. But I know fear is not what God intends for me.
In fact, the Bible contains approximately 365 exhortations that say something like, “Fear not!” or “Do not be anxious,” or “Do not worry about…” Not coincidentally, that’s a warning a day.
God’s attention to our fears and loving encouragements not to entertain them tells me that He knows we are prone to anxiety. I think maybe that’s because we were created to live in close and intimate fellowship with Him, the One who is our Rock and shelter and refuge and strength. We were created to walk with Him, hearing His voice and feeling His presence. But, because we live in a broken world, we sometimes (maybe often?) feel distant from Him. Even those of us who have the Holy Spirit living within us do not always feel His presence. And so we occasionally experience panic, fear and anxiety.
Do you sometimes fear? Or maybe you’re even one of the millions of women who live with chronic anxiety. I learned this past summer that over 4 million women suffer from generalized anxiety disorder in the United States. And from compassionate conversations with women around the country, I know that Christian women are not immune to the often debilitating symptoms of this common condition.
Look. These statistics are not meant to scold you or me. As I mentioned above, God obviously knows that we are bent toward anxiety. He knows much of life scares the peedoodle out of us!
- We see startling images of real violence and destruction on television.
- We hear of people just like us being struck with deadly illnesses.
- We receive unsettling and inconclusive medical reports from routine blood tests, mammograms or pap smears.
- We hear news reports of terrorist activity in public places where people like us gather.
- We send our children to schools where we have little control to protect them.
- We drive on streets with people who are drunk, angry or texting.
- We spend hundreds of thousands of our hard-earned dollars on houses that may be worth half their value with an economic downturn.
- We entrust our lives to spouses we love and friends we cherish, but then hear stories of betrayal.
- We send our loved ones off to foreign soil to fight the unpredictable war against terrorism.
- We feel the weight of responsibility on our shoulders, but then realize we really can’t control anything.
Well, if you weren’t anxious before you probably are now! Ha! Seriously, life is scary. And I think the common denominator in the list above and anything else that might make you shake in your sandals is simply this: the unknown. We can’t possibly predict the future, control other people’s hearts or minds or actions, know what’s going on inside our bodies, or see what danger lies around the bend. We just can’t see or know everything.
But God can.
In 2 Kings 6:8-19 there’s a wonderful account of fear and anxiety banished. The prophet Elisha’s servant awakened early one morning to discover enemy soldiers circling Elisha’s camp with mighty horses and chariots. Afraid for his life, he awakened Elisha and said, “Alas, my master! What shall we do?” Here’s Elisha’s beautiful and faith-filled response:
Do not fear, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” (2 Kings 6:16)
The beauty of that statement is that, to the human eye, there was no one else with Elisha and his servant. They appeared to be alone, vulnerable, defenseless. But Elisha knew things are not ever as they appear to the human eye. Ever.
Then Elisha prayed and said, “O Lord, I pray, open his eyes that he may see.” And the Lord opened the servant’s eyes, and he saw; and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha. (2 Kings 6:17)
The king of Aram had sent an army to siege Elisha, but God had provided a more formidable army to protect him. They didn’t just have chariots; they had chariots of fire! This was a heavenly army, one sent to fight for God’s servant and to do God’s bidding.
When God opened the servant’s eyes so he could see that which had not previously been apparent, the servant’s anxiety was surely replaced, not just with peace, but with confidence. Now he could stand against the enemy rather than run from it.
When God opens our eyes to that which we cannot see, we are able to fight our enemy–Satan–with confidence and courage.
How can you have your eyes opened? In a particular situation in which you are experiencing debilitating fears, what can you do to see things more clearly?
- Confess your anxiety to God. Because God told us repeatedly in His Word not to fear, when we choose instead to dwell on our fears we are, in fact, choosing disbelief. We’re living in sin. (John 14:1)
- Pray for God to open your eyes. (2 Kings 6:17) Humbly ask Him to give you His perspective.
- Prayerfully investigate Satan’s strategical use of anxiety in your life. Ask God, “What is the enemy keeping me from or robbing from me by tying me up with anxiety?” (2 Kings 6:15) When He shows you, get mad about it!
- Build an artillery of scriptures to battle with through prayer, meditation and memorization. Verses to consider include Psalm 56:3-4; 2 Timothy 1:7; John 14:27; Jeremiah 29:11; John 10:27-29; and Hebrews 10:19-20,23.
- Ask God to open your eyes to who He is. Meet Him daily in the pages of His Word and keep a running list of His character traits, names and ways. Daniel 11:32b says, “…but the people who know their God will display strength and take action.”
- If you are on medication for anxiety…fine. But get biblical counseling, too. Eleven percent of American women take medication for anxiety, and anxiety is the reason for one in every five doctor’s visits to a primary care physician. Look, I visited my own doctor for anxiety a few years ago. But thankfully he would only prescribe me a week’s worth of medication and insisted I see a counselor. I’m not against medication for anxiety, but I believe our good God does not mean for us to settle for medicating our fears. He means for us to get to the bottom of them and get on top of them. Biblical counseling coupled with your full cooperation can help you do that.
- Adjust other physical factors in your life as needed: diet, exercise, rest, limited social media use, interaction with positive people.
If you’ve been hurt and you’re reading this post hoping for some encouragement, I do so hope you’ve found some…even in these stern words of hard truth. I concede that general anxiety disorder is a real condition with medical and physical roots. However, I don’t want you to settle; I want God’s best for you. I want you to see Him do the unimaginable in your life. And I truly believe that if He tells us to “fear not,” then He can make a way for us to live in confidence and victory. I encourage you to pray about this and ask Him to open your eyes to the truth. That’s where the healing begins.
This devotional is part of a series called Healing Words. If you’d like to read other words that bring healing to your wounded heart, click on the image below.
If your heart has been wounded and you are struggling to find healing, I’d like to suggest you try my Bible study, Joseph – Keeping a Soft Heart in a Hard Place. You’ll find more information here.