Anxiety is overwhelming. It can affect our bodies. It wreaks havoc on our emotions. And it consumes our thoughts. They race like a runaway train or get caught in a vicious cycle of spinning round-and-round with “what if…”, “if only…”, or many other possibilities. Anxiety awakens us in the dark hours of the night. It can rob us of a day’s joy and suck the life right out of us.
As a Christian, what hope do we have or where do we turn? What anchors us when it feels like anxiety is sweeping us along and taking us somewhere we don’t want to go? There’s no simple, slap on a band-aid, quick-fix solution. It depends on the struggles, circumstances, and concerns of each individual person, and a host of factors. While this is not laid out as “the answer”, here are three truths I turn to and find hope in when anxiety strikes.
God is in control.
God has my good in mind.
1) God Cares
The tempting lie(s): God doesn’t know what I’m going through or doesn’t care about me.
The truth: God is aware of our circumstances and He cares for us more than we know. Because He cares for us, He will take care of us.
The most important thing to know is God cares. We’re tempted to believe if God knows what I’m going through and hasn’t stopped it, He doesn’t love me. Even though our thoughts and emotions might feel true, they often are not reliable (especially for the anxious person), and they are never authoritative. We need Scripture’s objectivity to massage truth into our wishy-washy feelings.
The truth is God is fully aware of our circumstances. He knows what we’re walking through and He cares. 1 Peter 5:7 tells us the reason we can cast our cares on God is because He cares about us.
In Matthew 6, Jesus says consider the ravens and the lilies to see how God provides for us (and how little worry can accomplish). He roots that truth in this thought: “are you not of more value than they?” If God gives attention to feeding ravens and clothing lilies, and you are His beloved children of even greater value to Him, then you better believe He cares about what you’re going through. He is the God who delights in you with gladness, calms you with His love, and sings over you with joy (Zeph. 3:17).
God’s love is not up-and-down or hot-and-cold. His love and concern for us are not true of Him one day but not the next. God’s love is steadfast, unchanging, unswerving, immovable, and unending. “Give thanks to the God of heaven, for his steadfast love endures forever” (Ps. 136:26; see also Jer. 31:3; Ps. 86:15; 136).
Anxiety tells us God is unconcerned with us, but the Bible says God knows and He’s filled with compassion. Anxiety tells us we are alone. God tells us He is with us. He’s present (whether we feel His presence or not). He will not reject us, leave us, abandon us, or give up on us. Whatever we walk through, He walks through with us. “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you,I will uphold you with my righteous right hand” (Is. 41:10; see also Deut. 31:6-8; Ps. 94:14; John 6:37).
Because God cares for us, He will be with us. No exceptions. He’s not only with us, but He leads us, loves us, carries us, and hold us up so we will not fall, stray too far, or be overcome. Because He cares for us, He will take care of us.
2) God is in Control
The tempting lie(s): God can’t be ruling over this situation or in control of it.
The truth: God is still sovereign and in control. We are not God, and can never control things like we might desire. Because God controls all things, He controls even hard things (and I will trust Him).
Anxiety comes from circumstances feeling out of control. Things are falling apart—in us or around us—and it doesn’t seem like they’re getting better. We clutch and grasp for control because it doesn’t seem like God’s ruling over this. If God doesn’t quickly fix or solve the problem, we jump right in.
Anxiety gives us the opportunity to choose one of two responses to God. Either (1) we’ll believe God isn’t in control—or we don’t like the way He’s controlling things—so we take over, or (2) we’ll believe God is in control and we’ll humbly surrender our desires to seize control and trust Him.
The Bible reminds us outward appearances—the way things seem—are not always in accord with reality. Despite the way circumstances appear to us, God is God, meaning He rules over all things. He’s in control. He never takes time off or falls asleep. “Behold, he who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep” (Ps. 121:4). He never gets caught off guard, and no situation or person thwarts His good plans and purposes.
One verse I go to for this jolt to the memory is Colossians 1:16-17. This text on the supremacy and authority of Jesus over all things assures us he holds together what appears to be falling apart. “For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. 17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together” (Col. 1:16-17). Jesus not only brought order out of chaos at Creation but He holds all things together right now.
We can rest because he reigns. We can give up trying to seize control because God is already ruling over and sovereignly working in all things.
3) God Has Your Good in Mind
The tempting lie: God is against me, or this can’t be part of God’s good plan for me.
The truth: My wise and loving God always has my good in mind. Because God is working this out for my good, I can endure with trust and thanksgiving even while I lament what is hard.
Whatever trial or temptation has led us down the path of worry, it means we’re walking through a hard, unwanted experience. Something is causing confusion, pain, frustration, and fear. Our mind might wonder, how can this be God’s will? Is God good when things seem bad?
When we go there, we need the Scripture to speak into our situation. “Instead of interpreting God’s character in light of our circumstances, we must do the opposite and interpret our circumstances in light of God’s character.” We’ve already seen that God cares and God is in control, but we also need to know from Scripture God is and will work this out for my good.
Christians often turn to Romans 8:28-29, and for good reason. I hope familiarity with this promise doesn’t cause it to lose its luster. When things are hard, there is hope in knowing this is not pointless. There is encouragement in the assurance God will use it for our good and His glory. “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose” (Rom. 8:28).
If that’s true, it gives us perspective in pain. God is not against me but He promises to work this for good. As He tells Israel at the end of their days in the wilderness, all this was “to do you good in the end” (Deut. 8:16). In His care for us and control over our lives, God is bringing to pass His loving plan and good purposes for us (Jer. 29:11). Because we’re always near to His heart, He always has our best in mind.
We might even have unfulfilled desires causing us to feel like God is being unfair or holding something back. But that is always a lie and a misreading of God. As a loving and wise Father, He always knows best and gives what’s best (Luke 11:11-13; Ps. 16:11). He knows what we need, when we need it, and how to deliver it. He is always and only kind, loving, gracious, and generous. When the Bible tells us “no good thing does withhold” (Ps. 84:11), that means there is a good and loving reason for why our desires or hopes are not yet being fulfilled in the way we’ve asked. God is good. God is good to us. And God has our good in mind in whatever situation is stirring up our anxiety.
There will be other questions and fears causing our anxiety, and thankfully, the Bible gives us even more promises and comfort than I’ve hinted at. But I hope these three truths about God can encourage us when fear is strong and our faith feels weak. God knows and cares. God is in control. And God has your good in mind. He can be trusted in everything and with everything.
Erik Raymond, Chasing Contentment(Wheaton: Crossway, 2017), 127.