Dealing with Anxiety

Summer Devotional 2021 | Week 6

Getting Started

I'm a worrier and I'm pretty sure I always have been. Growing up it was common for me to hear phrases like, "Josh, don't be such a worry wart" or "all you can do is your best, and let God handle the rest."

True story, during my junior year I had just poured my heart and soul into a behemoth term paper. I ran up to the word limit because I was afraid that if I didn't, I'd miss the mark, get an F-, and lose my academic scholarship. I had more sources than the recommended amount. I triple checked my bibliography's format in addition to the footnotes. When I finally went up to the third floor of the Professor's Hall and placed my paper into the incoming assignment bin, you'd expect this melodramatic saga to be over... but you'd be wrong. When I went back to the 1st floor, I worried that I somehow magically messed up turning my paper in, and ran back up the three floors to ensure it was in the basket. If that's not enough, when I was halfway to my fraternity house I walked back and checked again to make sure it was there.

One could commend my fanatical devotion and responsibility to my work, OR you could see that I struggle with anxiety. The thing is, I don't like the advice given to me when I was a kid. I don't like leaving something at 'my best' and I certainly do not enjoy letting God 'handle the rest.' I struggle with anxiety a lot because I don't trust God. My actions indicate that the only person I can trust is myself, and even then there is something in me that says that isn't enough either. The truth is, the reason I feel like it's not enough is because it's not. It isn't enough, and will never be enough, when I trust myself over God.

I wish I remembered that God is in control more often, but I don't. I still actively struggle in this duality of pride and anxiety. If you can even relate a little bit to what I'm saying, I want to invite you to read this Psalm that I root myself in when I feel my anxiety rising.

Psalm 42

1 As the deer pants for streams of water,
    so my soul pants for you, my God.
My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.
    When can I go and meet with God?
My tears have been my food
    day and night,
while people say to me all day long,
    “Where is your God?”
These things I remember
    as I pour out my soul:
how I used to go to the house of God
    under the protection of the Mighty One
with shouts of joy and praise
    among the festive throng.

Why, my soul, are you downcast?
    Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God,
    for I will yet praise him,
    my Savior and my God.

My soul is downcast within me;
    therefore I will remember you
from the land of the Jordan,
    the heights of Hermon—from Mount Mizar.
Deep calls to deep
    in the roar of your waterfalls;
all your waves and breakers
    have swept over me.

By day the Lord directs his love,
    at night his song is with me—
    a prayer to the God of my life.

I say to God my Rock,
    “Why have you forgotten me?
Why must I go about mourning,
    oppressed by the enemy?”
10 My bones suffer mortal agony
    as my foes taunt me,
saying to me all day long,
    “Where is your God?”

11 Why, my soul, are you downcast?
    Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God,
    for I will yet praise him,
    my Savior and my God.

Questions to Consider

  • Is there a phrase that stands out to you more than the rest? Pray and ask God why.
  • Verse 9 has the speaker cry out to God - his supposed rock, "Why have you forgotten me?" Do you feel like God is completely absent in a situation, big or small, and that He has left you to fend for yourself? Take a second and analyse if you are relying on God as your rock, or if you're secretly bearing all the weight on your own. Pray or journal about this.
  • Verses 5 and 11 echo each other by asking, "why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me?" Are you able to identify anything that is causing your demeanor to be cast down, and for the whole of your being to be in turmoil? Name those things.

Closing Reflection 

The concept of feeling like my soul is in turmoil is very familiar. I seriously get spun up quickly and I'm slow to surrender control to, or put my hope in, God. I love how Psalm 42 takes our human anxiety and redirects that energy into knowing that God isn't just in control of 'the rest.' He is in control of everything.

The antidote to a distressed heart is to hope in the God who has control of everything. I want to end this devotional with a quote from Paul Miller's 'A Praying Life,'

"Anxiety wants to be God but lacks God's wisdom, power, or knowledge. A godlike stance without godlike character and ability is pure tension. Because anxiety is self on its own, it tries to get control. It is unable to relax in the face of chaos. Once one problem is solved, the next in line steps up." 

In 'A Praying Life' Mr. Miller asserts a solution similar to the one asserted by the writers of Psalm 42. Mr. Miller asserts the only way to find freedom from anxiety is to turn toward God our Father. So, if you're like me and find yourself wrestling with anxiety - take some deep breaths, and pray. Let's hope in God, and praise Him. For He is our salvation and thankfully, He is God and we most certainly are not.

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