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4 Biblical Strategies for Overcoming Anxiety
Focusing on God
Anxiety. Worry. Fear. Between discussions with friends and reading honest posts on social media, I’ve come to realize that anxiety is a major issue for many people. Anxiety often hounds us when we realize that we are in a situation we cannot control. Personally, I have struggled with performance anxiety and social anxiety. In those situations, I get anxiety when my mind focuses (consciously or subconsciously) on the things I can’t control: What if I don’t meet people’s expectations? What if people don’t like me? What if I’m not good enough?
You might have anxiety in other situations. Take a minute to think about the anxiety you struggle with. Can you identify questions that roll through your mind that indicate that your struggle is due to not being in control?
As a Christian, the one source of comfort I have is that I believe that God is in control. Proverbs 19:21 says, “Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.” I also know that no matter what happens, whether it seems good or bad to me at the time, God is always working for my good. Romans 8:28 says, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”
So we know that God is in control, and we know that he is working for our good if we follow him. Yet that anxiety still creeps in. In those moments, the best thing we can do is re-focus our minds not on ourselves and the stuff in life that we can’t control (e.g., situations and people) but on God. Isaiah 26:3 says, “You [God] will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you.” Doesn’t a peaceful mind sound wonderful?
What are some ways that we can keep our minds steadfastly focused on God, especially when we are in the midst of anxiety? Here are four ideas.
Note: As a trained scientist, I fully believe that sometimes anxiety has a physiological cause. If that applies to you, these strategies should not be used as a replacement for medical or mental health treatment. Instead, these strategies should be used in addition to any prescribed treatment.
1. Seek First His Kingdom
In Matthew 6:25-34 and Luke 12:22-34, Jesus tells his disciples not to worry about their life because God will take care of them. His instruction to them is found toward the end of the teaching: “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matthew 6:33).
How can we seek God’s kingdom? One way is by spending time in Scripture. 2 Timothy 3:16–17 says, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” The more we seek God and spend time in his word, the more we will understand his character. The more we understand his character, the more we will see that we have no reason to be anxious if we are living according to his word.
Seeking God’s kingdom is not only about reading the Bible, although that is certainly a good practice we should be doing daily. It’s also about memorizing Scripture so that we can apply verses in the moment we need them, just like Jesus did when he was tempted in the desert (Matthew 4:1-11).
Here are some verses that you may have memorized in the past that would be good to keep in mind:
Proverbs 3:5–6: Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.
Matthew 11:28–30: [Jesus said] “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
For those of you who don’t memorize Scripture easily, another good practice could be to print verses on small pieces of paper that you can carry with you. Stick it to your mirror. Carry it in your purse or wallet. Always have it with you so you can pull out God’s word in a moment of anxiety.
Here are some verses that you might want to carry with you:
Psalm 23:4: Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
Isaiah 40:31: But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.
Another way to focus your mind on God is through prayer. Philippians 4:6–7 says, “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.” We can use prayer to quiet our minds and focus on God.
During your time of prayer, consider asking God to help you identify why you are anxious. Psalm 139:23 says, “Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.” If you are having a hard time identifying the source of your anxiety, ask God to help you discern what the root of the problem is. Once you identify the root of the issue, you can begin to recognize Satan’s lies and replace them with God’s truths. If you identify any lies you are believing that are leading to your anxiety, confess them to God and ask him to help lead you to the truth.
3. Listen to Music
Listening to music based on Scripture is also a great way to focus on God rather than yourself. The Psalms are filled with words of David when he was in distress, and his songs (psalms) helped him focus on God. Music can do the same for you.
The songs you choose should help you focus on God, praising him for who he is. They should remind you of his promises to take care of you.
Psalm 34:1–4 says, “I will extol the Lord at all times; his praise will always be on my lips. I will glory in the Lord; let the afflicted hear and rejoice. Glorify the Lord with me; let us exalt his name together. I sought the Lord, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears.”
Two songs always come to my mind when I’m trying to calm my mind, focus on God, and turn my anxieties over to him.
Oh Lord, You’re Beautiful
This song was written by Keith Green and has a simple chorus that I sing when I need to focus on God:
Oh, Lord, You’re beautiful
Your face is all I seek
For when Your eyes are on this child
Your grace abounds to me
This is a song that brings me back to my childhood. I first heard it on Psalty’s Camping Adventure.* It is based on 1 Peter 5:7: “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” Another verse that supports this song is Psalm 55:22: “Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous be shaken.” The chorus goes like this:
I cast all my cares upon You
I lay all of my burdens down at your feet
And anytime I don’t know what to do
I will cast all my cares upon You
*This is a kids’ album, but much of it is about worry, fear, and anxiety. Several of the songs would be good to listen to in times of anxiety. And who doesn’t love to be transported back to childhood now and then?!?
Music can also help you pour out your heart to God and surrender to him. A couple weeks ago I went to a For King and Country concert, and they sang the song Control from their Burn the Ships album. It spoke directly of the need to surrender control of our lives to God. The chorus goes like this:
I give up control, oh, oh whoa
Body, mind, and soul, oh, oh whoa
Can’t do this on my own, alone, no
I give up control
What songs help you calm your mind and focus on God? Take some time to identify one or two now. If you have a good one, post it in the comments. You never know when your song might be just the one to help someone else.
4. Seek Godly wisdom
One of the greatest gifts God has given us to help us get through life is a community of other believers. When you struggle with anxiety, don’t be afraid to reach out to another Christian whom you trust to give you Godly counsel. Proverbs 19:20 says, “Listen to advice and accept discipline, and at the end you will be counted among the wise.”
In addition, Proverbs 12:25 says, “Anxiety weighs down the heart, but a kind word cheers it up.” In times of anxiety, seek a kind word from another believer. 1 Thessalonians 5:11 tells us to “encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.” As you seek encouragement from other believers now, someday you will be in a place that you can use your experience and Godly wisdom to help others.
As you go about your days and face anxiety, which of these strategies will be most helpful to you? Or maybe a combination of strategies would work best. Something like an app on your phone may help as well. There are Christian apps to help with anxiety, such as Abide (found on Google Play and the AppStore). These apps provide Scriptures, articles, and other tools to help you in moments of anxiety. Whatever strategy or strategies you choose, keep your focus on God. If you live in such a way that your mind is focused on God, your attitudes and actions will reflect that focus. And no matter what happens, you can be assured that God is in control.
I’ll leave you with a benediction from Paul in 2 Thessalonians 3:16: “Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times and in every way. The Lord be with all of you.”
Verse cards are available to keep in your wallet or purse for those moments when you need an extra reminder of the promises of God. Each verse card is credit card sized.
Eight verse cards are already created, and a template sheet is available for you to create your own verse cards with the verses that mean the most to you.
You can access the verse cards by clicking here: Verse Cards and Template