Much has been written about anxiety and anxiousness recently. May I share with you how the Bible addresses anxious thoughts and worry?
In Psalm 94:19, King David penned these words: When my cares within me are many, Your comforts cheer me up. (from the Complete Jewish Bible). Hebrew is a pictorial language. Let’s look at the picture of what anxious thoughts can do to our mind.
• When my cares (within me) are many – This phrase refers to an abundance in number, in size, in duration, and even in quality (in a good or bad sense). It is very much like the individual drops when it rains. Alone one drop is not bothersome and, even when drops increase in number, you may not need to cover up. A slow gentle rain is easily soaked up by the ground and is actually helpful. But when raindrops increase in size, frequency, and speed, a thunderstorm occurs. Often large, severe thunderstorms do massive amounts of damage. Anxious thoughts are like that gentle rain. We are human. We will all have anxious thoughts. When we discuss them with God and we get His perspective, He helps us take these thoughts and use them to prepare us for the future. But when anxious thoughts multiply in our heads unchecked, we often run ahead of God. We become distracted trying to ensure everything will work out right and we fail to remember that our view is limited while His is not.
• Within me – The distracted mind here is described as branches lopped off a tree. A destructive thunderstorm leaves downed power lines, disconnected limbs, fallen tree trunks and all types of other debris in its wake. Simply being anxious or feeling nervous about what’s coming next is like collecting the limbs in your own yard, sorting through them so you can effective deal with them. Unchecked anxiety is like piling up all the disconnected limbs from your yard, along with all the limbs from every other yard all over town. It’s possible they came to you by natural means (like the wind) or neighbors pushed them into your yard, or the enemy came and dropped them off, or you went out and collected them yourself. At any rate, now it’s hard to tell which ones are truly yours. That’s why Paul wrote we have to take every thought captive. We think about what we are thinking about and ask God to help us know which thoughts are the ones to keep and which ones must be tossed out. It’s a skill that the Holy Spirit wants to teach us.
• Your comforts cheer me up – The word picture here involves breathing. Have you noticed how much is written in our world today about breathing when you are anxious? It’s not a new idea! But we must be clear about the focus of our breathing. Notice the capital Y on Your? That means God. God’s comforts cheer me up. The breathing here starts with sighing. Sighing is a sign of fatigue or sorrow. It may be an involuntary breath or an intentional exasperated breath. Either way, it expresses a discomfort or displeasure. Sighing is part of human life, but you don’t have to continually live with sighing. “Your comforts cheer me up” describes something that God does. We are passive and must let Him cheer us. How? By allowing God to breath upon us, to refresh us and allowing the Holy Spirit to remind us of the promises Jesus made: When four friends dropped their friend in front of Jesus, He told the man, “Son, be of good cheer; thy sins be forgiven thee.” (Matt 9:2). When the disciples were in the middle of the sea, in the middle of the night, in the middle of the storm unable get to shore, and they were frightened by a man walking on the water, Jesus told them, “Be of good cheer; it is I; be not afraid (Matt 14:27). In His last discussion with the disciples, when Jesus told them that there would be trouble, He added, “But be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33). In every one of these places, the Hebrew translates “good cheer” as courageous or brave. Our task is to stay close enough that we can hear His voice
Dear Heavenly Father, I see lots of disconnected limbs from storms raging all around me. I know it won’t be long until my gaze is averted to the storms and destruction and sighing will come from my lips. Your Word tells me to bring the multitude of thoughts, the concerns, the what-if’s, the maybe’s to You, so here I am. Help me not to grasp and hang on to these things that will distract me from hearing and doing what You have called me to do. When my thoughts are not connected to Your truth and when plans and ideas fall to the ground, rather than trying to repair things on my own, help me first capture the thought, run to put it in Your mighty hands, and then listen for Your instructions. Remind me to let You turn my sighing into courage. I can’t do that on my own. Dear Jesus, remind me of Your promises: You are with me. You have forgiven my sins. You have overcome the world. Thank You for Your sacrifice. Thank You for the model of lovingkindness and compassion You set. Help me to live as You did, completely reliant on Your Father in Heaven so that Your gentleness, kindness, faithfulness, and compassion flows through me to those around me.