A Theology of Anxiety
by Greg Williamson (c) 2022

Anxious Introduction
Anxiety in the Bible
Anxious Truths
Anxious Examples
Anxious Bible References
Anxious Conclusion
Appendix A: Proper Rest & Sleep
Appendix B: Worry & Trust
Appendix C: 3 Questions to Ask When Anxiety Strikes
Anxious Sources

Worry affects the circulation, the heart, the glands, the whole nervous system. I have never known a man who died from overwork, but many who died from doubt. - Dr. Charles Mayo [ref]


Is This A Sign?

[There once was] a guy who prayed this prayer every morning: “Lord, if you want me to witness to someone today, please give me a sign to show me who it is.”

One day he found himself on a bus when a big, burly man sat next to him. The bus was nearly empty but this guy sat next to our praying friend.

The timid Christian anxiously waited for his stop so he could exit the bus. But before he could get very nervous about the man next to him, the big guy burst into tears and began to weep.

He then cried out with a loud voice, “I need to be saved. I’m a lost sinner and I need the Lord. Won’t somebody tell me how to be saved?”

He turned to the Christian and pleaded, “Can you show me how to be saved?”

The believer immediately bowed his head and prayed, “Lord, is this a sign?” [ref]

Too often we allow anxious feelings of unease or discomfort to hold us back from doing the good we know God has called us to do.

Webster defines "anxiety" as: "an abnormal and overwhelming sense of apprehension and fear often marked by physiological signs (as sweating, tension, and increased pulse), by doubt concerning the reality and nature of the threat, and by self-doubt about one's capacity to cope with it." [ref] Anxiety leaves us feeling vulnerable and fearful that some bad thing is imminent. [ref]

As one source explains:

Anxiety is psychologically experienced as a combination of looming dread or impending danger and a vague uneasiness. There are also associated symptoms of mild agitation, racing thoughts, impaired sleep, and difficulty in calming oneself. There are parallel physiological experiences of sustained muscle tension and/or trembling, increased heart rate, and disturbed breathing -- either as hyperventilation (i.e., breathing too fast) or as a tendency to hold one’s breath. These characteristics produce a sense of heightened awareness or alertness that frequently disturbs concentration, memory, and a person’s ability to feel emotionally comfortable.

These psychological and physiological responses combine to make anxiety a psychophysiological disturbance. According to the Scriptures, our attention should be fixed upon the ultimate spiritual realities. More than three hundred biblical passages tell us not to fear. Narcissistic self-preoccupation, besides being unnecessary and unrealistic, is a form of self-reliance, and self-reliance is, according to Scripture, sin. The consequences of seeking God’s kingdom and righteousness first is that our needs are guaranteed to be met (Matt. 6:33). When we seek anything other than God as first priority in our lives, the meeting of our needs is not assured. Seeking Jehovah God first, however, produces the realities of the kingdom of God. [ref]

Overcoming anxiety is more than an injunction to stop. Learning to worry less is undergirded by a developing, daily walk with God. - Dale Simpson [ref]



[Anxiety is an u]neasy feeling of uncertainty, agitation, dread, or fear. The most common words in Scripture translated as “anxious” or “anxiety” are the Hebrew dĕʾāgâ (ten times in either the verbal or noun form) and the Greek merimma (twelve times in either the verbal or noun form). Older English versions of the Bible often render these words as “thought,” “worry,” or “care.”

In the Bible anxiety is frequently depicted as the common human reaction to stressful circumstances. Saul’s father was anxious about his lost donkeys, and then about Saul’s failure to return from looking for them (1 Sam. 9:5; 10:2). The psalmist confesses that anxiety is “great” within him (Ps. 94:19). Anxiety is portrayed in the Scripture as being inconsistent with trust in God. David prays: “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thought” (Ps. 139:23). Jesus’ command, “do not worry,” which occurs six times in the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 6:25–33), is coupled with admonitions to trust in the heavenly Father. Paul urges: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God” (Phil. 4:6). Anxiety frequently manifests itself in ungodly concern about provision, performance, or reputation, and appears to be rooted in incomplete knowledge, lack of control over circumstances, or failure to take an “eternal” perspective on things (Matt. 6:25–34; 10:19; Mark 13:11; Luke 12:11–12, 22–34). Occasionally, anxiety is a symptom of guilt (Ps. 38:18).

Freedom from anxiety begins with confession that it is not God’s will. In fact, anxiety is a subtle insinuation that God is either unable or disinclined to see to our welfare. Other remedial measures include recognizing the futility of worry (Matt. 6:27; Luke 12:25); cultivating a growing understanding of God’s power and fatherly disposition (Matt. 6:26; Luke 12:30); entrusting to God the things that we cannot control (1 Peter 5:7); increasingly viewing things in eternal perspective (Matt. 6:32–34; Luke 12:30–34); and substituting prayer for worry (Phil. 4:6). [ref]

In both Testaments it is made unambiguously clear that the child of God has a heavenly Father who loves and cares for his own. God will allow nothing to befall his followers except what is for their good; they need not be anxious or fearful about circumstances, whether present or future. - Steven Barabas [ref]


The Imagery of Anxiety [ref]

In the Bible anxiety is associeted with such images as:

We are called to a single focus: not to live with clutter and anxiety but faithfully and peacefully under the rule and reign of God, choosing Jesus above all else. Everything else -- family, schooling, job, money, relaxation, home, and life itself -- is a secondary matter. Living in this way is to embrace simplicity. - Christopher W. Morgan [ref]


Anxiety & Christian Spirituality

Anxiety is excessive worry about events or circumstances; it manifests itself in symptoms such as impaired concentration, sleep disturbance, irritability, fatigue, physical tension, and restlessness. The individual experience of these symptoms may vary from mild and occasional to more frequent and severe. Higher levels of anxiety may cause distress and impair the person’s functioning in interpersonal relationships (e.g., couple relations, parenting, and family interaction) and employment settings. Some individuals may manifest particular anxiety disorders as noted in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (4th ed., 2000), such as panic attacks, agoraphobia, social phobia and other specific phobias, obsessive-compulsive disorder, or generalized anxiety disorder.

Cognitive behavioral therapy is the most common psychological intervention for anxiety that has demonstrated effectiveness. Cognitive interventions attempt to alter distorted beliefs, self-appraisals, and situational judgments that produce anxiety. Behavioral interventions include systematic exposure to situations that evoke anxiety and relaxation techniques to reduce the experience of anxiety. Combined, these interventions help individuals to learn how to think and behave in ways that are more adaptive and less anxiety producing.

Spirituality can be helpful in dealing with anxiety. One example of distorted perceptions that resulted in anxiety is found in the account of the twelve spies sent into the land of Canaan by Moses (Num. 13–14). When they returned, ten spies reported that the people there were giants and that they felt comparatively like grasshoppers in their own eyes. Anxiety often enlarges our perception of feared circumstances and decreases our sense of self-efficacy. The remaining two spies felt it was possible to proceed because “the Lord is with us.” An anxious-ambivalent relationship with God may create more opportunity for anxiety. In the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 6:25–34), Jesus told us that pursuit of the kingdom of God includes recognition that our heavenly Father knows what we need and that he values us and provides for us. Similarly, Paul (Phil. 4:6–7) encourages us to recognize that God is always nearby, so we may avoid anxiety by presenting requests to God in prayer and finding peace in God. A sense of God’s presence and openness to God’s perspective on life challenges can help individuals avoid cognitive distortions and find biblical beliefs that promote internal peace. [ref]

Every tomorrow has two handles. We can take hold of it by the handle of anxiety, or by the handle of faith. - Anonymous [ref]



"Christians, like Christ, are to empathize with people’s anxieties and needs in order to serve them and communicate with them effectively." "They are to do so, however, on a basis of motivational detachment from this world, through which they are momentarily passing as they travel home to God and in which their single-minded purpose must be to please God (Col. 1:9–12; 1 Pet. 2:11). Monastic withdrawal from this world is not sanctioned (John 17:15), but neither is worldliness (i.e., any internalizing of the earthbound self-absorption of the people of this world: Titus 2:12). Jesus encourages his disciples to match worldly persons’ ingenuity in using their resources to further their goals, but he specifies that their proper goals have to do not with earthly security but with heavenly glory (Luke 16:9)." [ref]

"Callousing one’s conscience by dishonest reasonings so as to justify denial of God’s power in Christ and rejection of his claims upon one is, then, the formula of the unpardonable sin." "Another version of it, this time in professed Christians who fall away from Christ, is described in Hebrews 6:4–8. Christians who fear that they may have committed the unpardonable sin show by their very ANXIETY that they have not done so. Persons who have committed it are unremorseful and unconcerned; indeed, they are ordinarily unaware of what they have done and to what fate they have sentenced themselves. Jesus saw that the Pharisees were getting close to committing this sin, and he spoke as he did in hope of holding them back from fully lapsing into it." [ref]

The cross of Christ changes everything. "[T]he gospel, which Paul called 'the word of the cross' (1 Cor. 1:18), is actually promoting a whole new way of being -- in Corinth or Los Angeles or wherever you live. Everything you once sought and valued must now be reinterpreted in light of the cross. That’s what Paul was telling his status-seeking, competitive, ANXIOUS, and insecure readers. Christ’s people are to model a new way of being human, where the old markers of success not only no longer count but also have been exposed as foolishness. So, what does the cross have to teach us about the art of living? For the apostle of the crucified Lord, the answer is everything." [ref]

God's free gift of salvation provides freedom.

The French existentialist philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre famously writes that “man is nothing else but what he makes of himself.” Sartre presents this as a state of exhilarating freedom: I am entirely responsible for myself. Yet Sartre also recognizes that this freedom is a state of immense ANXIETY. There is no grace, only responsibility. I am never free in relation to others because I must justify my existence at every turn.

The cross presents us with a radically different understanding of existence -- one governed by the logic of God’s gift. We were set free in relation to God. Our communion with God is based not on our performance but on an unconditional gift. If we insist that we need to add something to Christ, to God’s gift, that we must supplement it or earn it in some fashion, then we still don’t understand the nature of the gift. We are made free because this communion is unconditional. When a relationship is conditional, when it depends on our performance, we are not really free. This is why Paul writes, “It was for freedom that Christ set us free” (Gal. 5:1 NASB). [ref]

God is still blessing us even as we are experiencing difficulties of various kinds.

 [In Psalm 23:4 we are introduced to the image of the Lord as]  both the good shepherd who cares for his sheep and the gracious host who offers hospitality and protection. The two pictures come together, according to Bernhard Anderson, in the pastoral way of life that still prevails in some parts of the world today. The shepherd leads and cares for his sheep and welcomes travelers to the hospitality and safety of his tent.

In the tent we find that God blesses us abundantly even when we are experiencing life’s most difficult times. Like the famous opening sentences of A Tale of Two Cities, illness can be both the worst of times and the best of times. There is ANXIETY and suffering. There are blessings to be counted and good things to enjoy. The psalmist wrote, “It is good to give thanks to the Lord, to sing praises to your name, O Most High” (Ps. 92:1). George Herbert began one of his poems with the words, “Thou that hast giv’n so much to me, / Give one more thing, a grateful heart.” [ref]

"[K]ingdom is central in the Sermon on the Mount in terms of priority." "Life for sinners on this earth (which is to say: all of us) is full of woe and uncertainty. It is easy to be ANXIOUS and fearful. Jesus calls for perspective here. He refers to the animal world as well as to plants and how in general God sustains them (Matt. 6:26–28). Humans are much more valuable than them all (Matt. 6:26). Instead of endorsing the phobias of people at large, when in fact our 'heavenly Father knows that you need' all these things (Matt. 6:32), Jesus gives kingdom counsel: 'But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you' (Matt. 6:33). Here is a foundation for liberation from the tyranny of WORRY over what God alone controls." [ref]

Certainty regarding God's guidance and care is foundational to our trust in the Lord despite life's many and various difficulties both real and imagined.

[John] Calvin’s explanation of providence [= "divine guidance or care"] provides the foundation for the Christian’s ongoing trust in God despite heavy trials in the Christian life. Timothy George expresses this connection well: “More than any other reformer of the sixteenth century, Calvin was keenly aware of the precarious and utterly contingent character of human life. If Luther was preoccupied with the ANXIETY of guilt … then Calvin was haunted by the specter of the apparently haphazard and meaningless course of existence.” Calvin thus projects his discussion on providence against the backdrop of innumerable uncertainties that all humans must face. The body, no matter how strong, is susceptible to “a thousand diseases”; travel, no matter how short, requires but one mishap for death to occur; a stroll through the city streets makes one “subject to as many dangers as there are tiles on the roofs”; and even the comfort of one’s home can be disrupted by fire or other similar calamities. “Amid these tribulations,” Calvin writes, “must not man be most miserable, since, but half alive in life, he weakly draws his ANXIOUS and languid breath, as if he had a sword perpetually hanging over his neck?” Without certainty about God’s providence, life would be miserable indeed. [ref]

Singleness as a calling has several advantages.

"In [his] discussion of marriage, Paul also addresses singleness (1 Cor. 7:7–9). This state, like that of marriage, is a gift of God. Paul’s preference is that 'the unmarried and the widows … remain single,' as he is, for celibacy offers many advantages, including avoidance of worldly troubles, freedom from ANXIETIES, and undivided devotion to the Lord (1 Cor. 7:25–40). The advantages of singleness are many, yet only those to whom this gift is given should remain single. Those with the gift of celibacy are not asexual beings lacking sexual desire, but they are able to control those urges by channeling them in God-honoring ways. Lacking such self-control, people should pursue getting married so they are not overwhelmed by sexual desire and thus fall into immorality." [ref]

We can use Scripture to help us overcome unwanted thoughts and emotions.

When you find yourself feeling overwhelmed by a distressing emotion or thought, train yourself (it’s an exercise!) to examine what’s underneath that emotion and to reply with a Scripture verse. The sixth-century Saint Benedict put it like this: “As soon as wrongful thoughts come into your heart, dash them against Christ” (which is Benedict’s colorful and innovative interpretation of Psalm 137:9).

You take those thoughts when they creep up. You recognize them, name them, and then dash them against the rock that is Christ. Evagrius points to the Psalms because it’s there that we can see David doing this very thing. When he was distressed, he talked back to himself (“Why, my soul, are you downcast?” [Ps. 42:5 NIV]) and reminded himself of the truth (“God is our refuge and strength” [Ps. 46:1]).

You are not your thoughts or your emotions. It sounds so simple, but it’s so profound. The ability to name and untangle yourself from your emotions -- not to be hijacked by them but to respond to them -- takes discipline. It’s not a thought experiment. It takes exercise … in this case, the exercise of talking back.

So you find yourself in bed, tossing and turning, unable to sleep, riddled with ANXIETY and WORRY, playing the “what if” game, and absorbed in fretting over things that are outside your control. What can you do? What does the cruciform life ask you to do? The cross is your guide. It tells you to die to your own self-will and your own self-understanding. This WORRY is a weed. In this case, you could apply the truth of a Scripture verse like this one: “If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s” (Rom. 14:8).

“God, my life is in your sovereign hands, so I leave to your wise disposition whatever you have for me, in life or in death. I am not my own but belong to you, so I do not lean on my understanding but entrust my future to your gracious disposition.” [ref]

The Lord's Prayer answers some questions that God has for us.

When we talk to parents and friends about our ANXIETIES and problems, looking to them for help, they often have to take over leadership in the conversation in order to give it a meaningful shape which our own higgledy-piggledy minds have denied it. We all know what it is to have been pouring out our troubles in full flood and to be pulled up by “Wait a minute; let’s get this straight. Now tell me again about so-and-so … Now tell me how you felt about it … Then what’s the problem?” Thus they sort us out.

We need to see that the Lord’s Prayer is offering us model answers to the series of questions God puts to us to shape our conversation with him. Thus: “Who do you take me for, and what am I to you?” (Our Father in heaven.) “That being so, what is it that you really want most?” (The hallowing of your name; the coming of your kingdom; to see your will known and done.) “So what are you asking for right now, as a means to that end?” (Provision, pardon, protection.) Then the “praise ending” answers the question, “How can you be so bold and confident in asking for these things?” (Because we know you can do it and when you do it, it will bring you glory!) Spiritually, this set of questions sorts us out in a most salutary way.

Many of us crucify ourselves between two thieves -- regret for the past and fear of the future. - Anonymous [ref]



The psalmist (Psalm 38:18). "The psalmist confesses his sins again (cf. Ps. 38:3–4). As long as he was still troubled by guilt and the consequences of sin, he clung to the Lord for his assurance. Before the coming of Jesus Christ, the godly received forgiveness in “token” through the priesthood and the sacrificial system. As long as the psalmist is suffering, there remains a lingering doubt about the efficacy of God’s forgiveness. This is not so different from the Christian who, in the midst of suffering from sins, continues to plead with God for full pardon and restoration." [ref]

A person's heart (Proverbs 12:25)

The Hebrew word “anxiety” (dĕʾāgâ) refers to one’s emotional response to a threat to one’s well-being. Anxiety arises because of uncertainty about the future. Persistent anxiety leads to depression. This proverb provides an observation on life that suggests an antidote to depression: encouraging words. The “truth” expressed in this proverb is rather self-evident, but its statement reminds the hearer of it.

A “good word” is a rather general category that can be filled out in a variety of ways, depending on the situation. Perhaps it is a statement that points out strengths of a person, or perhaps it is simply a bit of positive news. This proverb fits in with the general teaching of the book about the impact that speech has on people. It also registers the sages’ concern for people’s psychological state. [ref]

Ehud the deliverer assassinates Eglon king of Moab (Judges 3:20-25)

Ehud, likewise a man of few words, speaks only three brief sentences, the second of which repeats the first -- with one significant change: “A word/thing from God I have for you” (my translation). God is the one who gives the word or thing, that Eglon will soon receive. The king rose in excited anticipation of the special word or thing, and Ehud moved closer to deliver it. The pace of the scene picks up with several staccato phrases in succession: Ehud reached with his left hand, drew the sword from his right thigh and plunged it into the king’s belly. But then instead of moving forward, the author stops the motion long enough to focus upon the sword in Ehud’s left hand as it penetrated the king’s corpulent belly, describing with gusto every gory detail, surely to the delight of his audience: Even the handle sank in after the blade, which came out his back. Ehud did not pull the sword out, and the fat closed in over it. Such excessive description is unusual in Hebrew narrative and thus expresses the author’s desire to savor every detail of the climactic moment.

The next scene must have been purely for entertainment’s sake, for the only thing it positively contributes to the story is perhaps to explain how Ehud was able to get so far away before the deed was discovered. It focuses upon the servants waiting outside the door of the upper room, presuming that the king had not called them back in because he was relieving himself in the inner room. And so they waited … and they waited … and finally unlocked the doors. The Hebrew text of [Judges 3:25b] is extraordinary in its dramatic impact: “And they took the key and they unlocked (or opened), and behold: their lord, fallen to the ground, dead!” (my translation). [ref]

Worry not; seek first (Matthew 6:25, 33)

Matthew 6:25

For this reason connects this paragraph to the preceding; because it is impossible to be a slave to both God and mammon, we should not act as though possessions were the be-all and the end-all of life. The new thought is that people “can be unfaithful to God through care as well as through covetousness” (Bruce). We are to rely on God, not on our money-making abilities. “Do not be anxious about your life,” Jesus says, and specifies food and clothing (and possibly drink) as things about which people might worry. The life seems to mean this earthly life, for it is life that may be sustained by nourishment. This is strengthened by the reference to the body; it is this physical life here and now of which Jesus is talking. And when he comes to the body he proceeds to its need for clothing. Food and drink and clothing are the basic necessities, and these things may well have been a cause of anxiety for many of his hearers, who would have come from the poorer classes. The question introduced by Is not looks for a positive answer. Put this way, even the poorest must agree that, important as are food and clothing, they are not the most important things of all. There is more to life than food; there is more to the body than its clothing. This attitude removes people from preoccupation with their own worldly success; it discourages the wealthy and the comfortable from concentrating on their own success and the poor and uncomfortable from concentrating on their own misery. We belong together, whatever our worldly goods, and this encourages the idea of sharing.

Matthew 6:33

Disciples are to seek as their first priority, not the things they would like to have or even the things they are sure they need, but God’s kingdom and righteousness. First does not here mean “first in time” but “of first importance”; the kingdom is not one among many competing aims for the disciples, but that which comes first of all (cf. Bengel, “He who seeks that first, will soon seek that only”). For kingdom see on [Matthew 3:2]. Matthew mostly speaks of “the kingdom of heaven,” though he sometimes has “the kingdom of God” (which some MSS read here) or “his kingdom” or “the kingdom.” It is generally agreed that here we should read “his kingdom and righteousness.” Jesus is clearly saying that the disciple’s first and best effort is to be directed toward God’s kingdom, not any personal needs. The kingdom has both present and future significance, and we should seek to exclude neither from the present passage. Kingdom points to rule, and the expression is to be understood in terms of doing the will of God now as well as looking for the coming of his final kingdom. The important thing for the disciple is to be constantly seeking to do the things that God wills, that is, to be submissive to the King. In this context seeking God’s righteousness (not our righteousness) will mean seeking that righteousness which God only can give (there is no thought that the believer by his own efforts can attain a righteousness that may fitly be called “God’s”). This will include the “right standing” before God that comes about as the result of Christ’s saving work and also the right conduct that befits the servant of God. But we should be on our guard against understanding the text in purely ethical terms: Jesus does not say “your righteousness,” or “to be as righteous as you can,” or anything of the sort. It is God’s righteousness that disciples must seek. Then, Jesus says, all these things will be given you, where these things are the things the Gentiles worry about. They will come to the trusting disciple, so there is no need for anxiety. The word rendered given is more literally “added”: the things in question will be added to what the disciple already has. [ref]

Do not be anxious about anything; pray about everything (Philippians 4:6-7)

Philippians 4:6

Because “the Lord is near,” his people need not be anxious about anything. This is in line with Jesus’ own teaching to his disciples: “do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear … do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself” (Matt. 6:25–34). Christian existence in a pagan world was full of uncertainties: persecution of one kind or another was always a possibility, and the impossibility of membership in guilds which were under the patronage of pagan divinities was bound to involve economic disadvantage. But if the Lord was near, there was no cause for anxiety. Jesus had encouraged his disciples to have done with anxiety because their heavenly Father, who fed the birds and clothed the grass with flowers, knew their needs and was well able to supply them (Matt. 6:26–32 par. Luke 12:24–30). Similarly Paul says, in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. He uses three different Greek words for “prayer” here. There are slight differences of nuance between one word and another, but the main effect of the use of all three is to emphasize the importance in Christian life of constancy in believing and expectant prayer. Like his Master, Paul takes it for granted that an essential element in prayer is asking God for things, with the same trustful spirit as children show when they ask their fathers for things. In the prayer Jesus taught his disciples to use when addressing their heavenly Father, the provision of his children’s daily bread is included along with the establishment of his kingdom on earth.

Moreover, a grateful remembrance of past blessings is a safeguard against anxiety for the future: it adds confidence to the prayer for continued blessings. Hence the importance of thanksgiving in all true prayer.

Additional Note: Philippians 4:6 / In everything, by prayer …: of the three words for “prayer” used in this sentence the first (proseuchē) is a general term for prayer to God; the second (deēsis) emphasizes the element of petition or entreaty in prayer; the third (aitēma) means the thing that is asked for.

Philippians 4:7

If they paid heed to this encouragement, then, in place of anxiety they would enjoy peace of heart. Jesus, in John 14:27, bequeaths to his disciples “my peace,” which he gives them “not … as the world gives.” So here, the peace that God’s children receive is the peace of God, which transcends all understanding. It “surpasses all imagination” (F. W. Beare); it exceeds all that human wisdom can plan. This peace will “stand garrison” over their hearts and … minds and keep anxiety and other intruders out: it will guard them in Christ Jesus.

The peace of God may mean not only the peace that he gives (cf. Rom 5:1) but the serenity in which he lives: God is not subject to anxiety.

Additional Note: Philippians 4:7 / Will guard [or “will garrison”]: Gk. phrourēsei. A different figure is used in Col. 3:15, where the peace of Christ is to “arbitrate” (Gk. brabeuein) in the readers’ hearts (niv: “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts”). [ref]

The path to humility (1 Peter 5:7)

The NIV begins 1 Peter 5:7] with a command, “cast all your anxiety.” The Greek text, however, uses the participle “casting” (epiripsantes), and hence the NASB represents a better translation, “casting all your anxiety upon him.” The participle should be understood as an instrumental participle,94 and it explains how believers can humble themselves under God’s strong hand. Seeing the relationship between the main verb (“humble yourselves,” 1 Peter 5:6) and the participle (“casting all your anxiety upon him,” NASB) is important because it shows that giving in to worry is an example of pride. The logical relationship between the two clauses is as follows: believers humble themselves by casting their worries on God. Conversely, if believers continue to worry, then they are caving in to pride. How can anxiety and worry be criticized as pride? We can see that it might be a lack of faith, but does it make sense to identify worry as pride? Worry is a form of pride because when believers are filled with anxiety, they are convinced that they must solve all the problems in their lives in their own strength. The only god they trust in is themselves. When believers throw their worries upon God, they express their trust in his mighty hand, acknowledging that he is Lord and Sovereign over all of life. As Goppelt says, “Affliction either drives one into the arms of God or severs one from God.”

Peter wrote this to a church afflicted by suffering and distress, and hence he realized that they faced anxiety. Casting one’s worries on God would not bring comfort if he were unable to afford assistance in times of distress. Nor would anyone tell his worries to those who are cruel or apathetic, for those who are hateful and indifferent mock our worries by their lack of concern. Giving our anxiety to God makes eminent sense “because he cares for you.” God is not indifferent, nor is he cruel. He has compassion on his children and will sustain them in every distress. Peter’s words here remind us of Jesus’ exhortation to avoid anxiety (Matt 6:25–34), and some even see an allusion to Jesus’ words. More probably, the allusion is to Ps 55:22. Psalm 55 fits nicely with Peter’s theme, for the psalmist implored God to help him because the wicked were attempting to destroy him, and even his close friend had turned against him. [Psalm 55:4–8] express the anguish and torment he felt in the midst of such opposition. Again we see evidence that Peter considered the thematic context of the Old Testament when he alluded to it. We find the allusion in [Psalm 55:22] (Ps 54:23, LXX), “Cast your anxiety upon the Lord, and he will sustain you” (epiripson epi kyrion tēn merimnan sou, kai autos se diathrepsei). [ref]

Worry is the interest you pay on borrowed trouble. - Anonymous [ref]



anxiety (in NASB) occurs 7 times in 7 verses: Psalms 38:18; Proverbs 12:25; Jeremiah 49:23; Ezekiel 4:16; 12:18, 19; 1 Peter 5:7

anxious (in NASB) occurs 11 times in 11 verses: Judges 3:25; 1 Samuel 9:5; 10:2; Psalms 94:19; 139:23; Isaiah 35:4; Jeremiah 17:8; 42:16; Daniel 2:3; Romans 8:19; Philippians 4:6

anxiously (in NASB) occurs 4 times in 4 verses: Isaiah 41:10, 23; Luke 2:48; Judges 1:21

worry / worrying / worried / worries (in NASB) occurs 19 times in 19 verses: Isaiah 57:11; Matthew 6:25, 27, 28, 31, 34; 10:19; 13:22; Mark 4:19; 13:11; Luke 8:14; 10:41; 12:11, 22, 25, 26, 29; 21:34; 1 Corinthians 7:21

If you spend your whole life waiting for the storm, you’ll never enjoy the sunshine. - Horace [ref]



Both anxiety and worry spring from natural and legitimate concerns that are part of life in this world. But legitimate concerns are handled wrongly when they do one or more of the following: (1) become dominating concerns in our life and lead to fear, (2) destroy our perspective on life and cause us to forget that God exists and cares, or (3) move us to drift into an attitude of constant worry and concern over a future that we cannot control.

Jesus deals with anxiety by calling us to an awareness of God. God does exist, and he cares. He is aware of our needs and is committed to meet our needs. Remaining aware of God frees us from the tyranny of things. It enables us to focus our lives on our relationship with God and go on living a righteous and productive life.

The Epistles add to our understanding by pointing out that areas of legitimate anxiety exist even for the strongest of believers. But the pressures of even legitimate concerns are not to dominate us or to make us habitually anxious, worried people. We escape by using anxiety creatively. This means that we must recognize the feelings of pressure and concern as a call to prayer. We should immediately turn to God to lay our needs and the needs of others before him. We then turn back to live our lives encompassed by his peace. Anxiety, rather than drawing us away from God, draws us to him and thus fulfills his purpose for it in our lives. [ref]

Anxiety does not empty tomorrow of its sorrows, but only empties today of its strength. - C. H. Spurgeon [ref]




A case can be made for, and I will adopt, the position that rest is a creation ordinance. In other words, the normal pattern of our week, consisting of seven twenty-four-hour days, is six days of work and one day of rest. Accordingly, weekly rest is proper and right. It was established as a normative pattern for humanity at the conclusion of the divine work of creation (Gen. 2:1–4). Additional revelation came later, providing details concerning its observance (e.g., old-covenant Sabbath regulations; Ex. 20:1–17; Deut. 5:6–21). The New Testament changes those details while confirming rest as a creation ordinance to be observed by the new-covenant church (e.g., Matt. 12:9–14; Mark 2:27; Acts 20:27; 1 Cor. 16:2).

As a physical discipline, rest may take some or all of the following forms. In terms of what to avoid:

  1. Activity that is similar to our usual work (the infamous “busman’s holiday”)
  2. Activity that stimulates worry and anxiety such as making major purchases, paying bills, filling out tax forms, planning our schedule for the coming week, and engaging with people who are likely to provoke anger and frustration
  3. Activity that we should have completed during our work phase of the week but failed to finish because of hectic pace, laziness, poor planning, procrastination, and the like
  4. If our day of rest corresponds with Sunday, avoid filling Sunday afternoons with church committee meetings and other nonessential “religious” activity

In terms of what to do:

  1. Spend time with loved ones and enjoy being together
  2. Nap, read, listen to music, work out, reflect, take a walk, paint
  3. Visit shut-ins, talk with people who are lonely, extend mercy
  4. If our day of rest corresponds with Sunday, gather together with other believers for worship

Rest as a discipline requires developing new rhythms, fighting against the idol of workaholism, overcoming the prideful belief that we are indispensable to the accomplishment of God’s will in this world, and engaging in rest as an activity (different from our normal work) rather than as stagnation or loafing around. Pastors, who do a significant part of their work on Sundays, need help to take a day off other than Sunday.


In addition to rest, we need proper sleep. Apparently, Americans wrestle with getting enough sleep and getting peaceful sleep. Statistics show that tens of millions suffer from scores of sleep disorders and spend billions of dollars on sleeping pills and other sleeping aids. While there are many causes of insomnia or fitful sleep, one reason for Christians is our erroneous sense that God’s kingdom may not come, and his will may not be done, unless we forgo sleep and do more than what is normal.

Importantly, God created Eve out of Adam’s side (Gen. 2:21) and unilaterally established his covenant with Abraham (Gen. 15:12) while the two men were sleeping. God communicated dreams and visions to people while they were sleeping (e.g., Gen. 20:3). He instructs his people, “It is in vain that you rise up early / and go late to rest, / eating the bread of anxious toil; / for he gives to his beloved sleep” (Ps. 127:2). If God is the giver of sleep, and he remains sovereign and accomplishes all of his good will while his people are asleep, we can surely discipline ourselves to sleep properly.

The physical discipline of sleep includes the following elements:

  1. Avoid eating and drinking (especially things that contain caffeine and nicotine) for several hours before going to bed
  2. Try to go to sleep about the same time each day
  3. Take a hot bath or shower before going to bed
  4. Avoid exercising, watching television, and engaging in emotionally charged issues for several hours before bedtime
  5. Avoid high-intensity elements such as lights, noise, temperature changes, and more

Do not look forward to what may happen tomorrow; the same everlasting Father, who cares for you today, will take care of you tomorrow, and every day. Either he will shield you from suffering or he will give you unfailing strength to bear it. - Saint Frances of Sales [ref]



WORRY (Anxiety, Concern, Fear)

How can we keep from worrying?

Bible Reading: Psalm 37:1–11
Key Bible Verse: Stop your anger! Turn from your rage! Do not envy others -- it only leads to harm. (Psalm 37:8)

  • We must remember that worrying is choosing not to trust God. Anger and worry (fretting) are two very destructive emotions. They reveal a lack of faith that God loves us and is in control. We should not worry; instead, we should trust in God, giving ourself to him for his use and safekeeping. When you dwell on your problems, you will become anxious and angry. But if you concentrate on God and his goodness, you will find peace. Where do you focus your attention?

Bible Reading: Matthew 6:25–34
Key Bible Verse: Don’t worry about having enough food or drink or clothing. Why be like the pagans who are so deeply concerned about these things? Your heavenly Father already knows all your needs, and he will give you all you need from day to day if you live for him and make the Kingdom of God your primary concern. (Matthew 6:31–33)

  • We need to understand how harmful worry can become in our life. Because of the ill effects of worry, Jesus tells us not to worry about those needs that God promises to supply. Worry may (1) damage your health, (2) cause the object of your worry to consume your thoughts, (3) disrupt your productivity, (4) negatively affect the way you treat others, and (5) reduce your ability to trust in God. How many ill effects of worry are you experiencing? Here is the difference between worry and genuine concern -- worry immobilizes, but concern moves you to action.
  • Instead of worrying about what we cannot do, we need to focus on what God can do. To “make the Kingdom of God your primary concern” means to turn to God first for help, to fill your thoughts with his desires, to take his character for your pattern, and to serve and obey him in everything. What is really important to you? People, objects, goals, and other desires all compete for priority. Any of these can quickly bump God out of first place if you don’t actively choose to give him first place in every area of your life.
  • We need to keep things in proper perspective. Planning for tomorrow is time well spent; worrying about tomorrow is time wasted. Sometimes it’s difficult to tell the difference. Careful planning is thinking ahead about goals, steps, and schedules, and trusting in God’s guidance. When done well, planning can help alleviate worry. Worrying, in contrast, is being consumed by fear and finding it difficult to trust God. It is letting our plans interfere with our relationship with God. Don’t let worries about tomorrow affect your relationship with God today.

Bible Reading: Philippians 4:4–9
Key Bible Verse: Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. (Philippians 4:6)

  • We cannot remove worry until we replace it with something better -- prayer. Imagine never worrying about anything! It seems like an impossibility -- we all have worries on the job, in our home, at school. But Paul’s advice is to turn our worries into prayers. Do you want to worry less? Then pray more! Whenever you start to worry, stop and pray.
  • God’s peace can replace worry. God’s peace is different from the world’s peace (see John 14:27). True peace is not found in positive thinking, in absence of conflict, or in good feelings. It comes from knowing that God is in control. Our citizenship in Christ’s kingdom is sure, our destiny is set, and we can have victory over sin. Let God’s peace guard your heart against anxiety.

TRUST (Confidence, Dependence, Faith)

What are the characteristics of trust?

Bible Reading: Genesis 30:1–24
Key Bible Verse: Then God remembered Rachel’s plight and answered her prayers by giving her a child. She became pregnant and gave birth to a son. “God has removed my shame,” she said. (Genesis 30:22–23)

  • Trust almost always involves patience. Eventually God answered Rachel’s prayers and gave her a child of her own. In the meantime, however, she had given her maidservant to Jacob. Trusting God is difficult when nothing seems to happen. But it is harder still to live with the consequences of taking matters into our own hands. Resist the temptation to think God has forgotten you. Have patience and courage to wait for God to act.

Bible Reading: Exodus 14:1–31
Key Bible Verse: As Pharaoh and his army approached, the people of Israel could see them in the distance, marching toward them. The people began to panic, and they cried out to the LORD for help. Then they turned against Moses and complained, “Why did you bring us out here to die in the wilderness? Weren’t there enough graves for us in Egypt? Why did you make us leave?” (Exodus 14:10–11)

  • Trust often requires courage. Trapped against the sea, the Israelites faced the Egyptian army sweeping in for the kill. The Israelites thought they were doomed. After watching God’s powerful hand deliver them from Egypt, their only response was fear, whining, and despair. Where was their trust in God? Israel had to learn from repeated experience that God was able to provide for them. God has preserved these examples in the Bible so that we can learn to trust him the first time. By focusing on God’s faithfulness in the past, we can face crises with confidence rather than with fear and complaining.

Bible Reading: Proverbs 3:1–8
Key Bible Verse: Trust in the LORD with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will direct your paths. (Proverbs 3:5–6)

  • Trust involves heartfelt confidence in God. Leaning has the sense of putting your whole weight on something, resting on and trusting in that person or thing. When we have an important decision to make, we sometimes feel that we can’t trust anyone -- not even God. But God knows what is best for us. And he knows even better than we do what we really want. We must trust him completely in every choice we make. We should not omit careful thinking or belittle our God-given ability to reason; but we should not trust our own ideas to the exclusion of all others. We must not be wise in our own eyes. We should always be willing to listen to and be corrected by God’s Word and wise counselors. Bring your decisions to God in prayer, use the Bible as your guide, and follow God’s leading. He will make your paths straight by both guiding and protecting you.
  • Trust includes giving God our future plans. To receive God’s guidance, said Solomon, we must acknowledge God in all our ways. This means turning every area of life over to him. About a thousand years later, Jesus emphasized this same truth (Matthew 6:33). Look at your values and priorities. What is important to you? In what areas have you not acknowledged him? What is his advice? In many areas of your life you may already acknowledge God, but it is the areas where you attempt to restrict or ignore his influence that will cause you grief. Make him a vital part of everything you do; then he will guide you because you will be working to accomplish his purposes.

Bible Reading: Romans 3:21–28
Key Bible Verse: Now God has shown us a different way of being right in his sight -- not by obeying the law but by the way promised in the Scriptures long ago. We are made right in God’s sight when we trust in Jesus Christ to take away our sins. And we all can be saved in this same way, no matter who we are or what we have done. (Romans 3:21–22)

  • Trust is wholeheartedly believing in God’s promises. After all this bad news about our sinfulness and God’s condemnation, Paul gives the wonderful news. There is a way to be declared not guilty -- by trusting Jesus Christ to take away our sins. Trusting means putting our confidence in Christ to forgive our sins, to make us right with God, and to empower us to live the way he taught us. God’s solution is available to all of us regardless of our background or past behavior.

Lord Jesus, make my heart sit down. - African Proverb [ref]


APPENDIX C: 3 Questions to Ask When Anxiety Strikes [ref]

Life in a fallen world can be, to put it mildly, difficult. Natural disasters hit. We get sick. Relationships break. We struggle to make ends meet. And even if life seems to be going well right now, there’s always the nagging thought that everything can change in an instant.

We’re fragile, vulnerable, and terrifyingly not in control. And perhaps counterintuitively, the failure to recognize these realities isn’t a sign of maturity or self-actualization but rather a sign of delusion. We are creatures, not gods.

Yet awareness can also easily turn into anxiety. Jesus’s words in the Sermon on the Mount are familiar to many of us: “Do not be anxious about tomorrow” (Matt. 6:34). While it’s true that anxiety is oriented toward the future, it’s experienced in the present and can be influenced or motivated by our past. So anxiety can strike when we think about the past, experience the present, or worry about the future.

How, then, can we reorient ourselves when anxiety threatens to overwhelm us? While life is more complex and nuanced than offering easy steps to get from here to there, asking myself three questions has proven helpful.

1. What’s the most important truth about my past?

The older we get, the more opportunity there is to look back with regret on some of our choices, whether sinful actions or simply decisions we made back then lacking the information and knowledge we have now. Some may feel haunted by the guilt of what they’ve done, while others feel enveloped in shame for evils done to them. Incidents from our past can often influence us in the present, provoking anxiety regarding things done to us (Are we safe now? Will the bad thing happen to us again?) or things done by us (Does God really forgive us? Did our choices ruin our own or others’ lives?).

But as real and influential as our past actions and the actions of others may be, as believers, none of them is the most important thing about our pasts. The most important truth is that God chose you, redeemed you, and made you his (Eph. 1:3–7). You’re a beloved child of the Father (1 John 3:1). You’re united to Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 1:30). You’re indwelt by the Holy Spirit (Gal. 4:6).

2. What’s the most important truth about my present?

If we’re honest, sometimes the present feels like nothing more than the place where past regrets and traumas and future anxieties and fears meet. We find it hard to live in the present because, on the one hand, we seek to make sense of our pasts, and on the other, we struggle with anxiety about what the future holds. And sometimes our present circumstances are full of suffering and difficulty.

Most of us realize that going through difficult times isn’t the hardest thing we can face. Rather, the hardest thing is navigating difficult things alone. And that’s why the most important truth about your present is that God is with you and promises to “never leave you nor forsake you” (Heb. 13:5).

It doesn’t always feel like God is with us (Ps. 88). But even though your circumstances might be screaming that you’re utterly alone, you aren’t. Even if other Christians aren’t walking with you in your distress, God is with you.

You are united to Christ in an inseparable bond. And that means there’s a Friend you can talk to, day or night, who is making intercession for you at all times (Heb. 7:25). God’s presence means he sees you and he hears you. And it means the indwelling Holy Spirit is empowering you to endure despite the weakness you feel.

3. What’s the most important truth about my future?

This is perhaps the best question of all because now we enter the realm of hope, and biblical hope does not -- and cannot -- disappoint (Isa. 49:23). It’s easy to experience anything from low-grade, rumbling-under-the-surface anxiety to all-out, full-blown terror as we contemplate the future.

What if I’m disabled and no longer able to work and support myself or my family? What if I’ll never be able to afford a house and rent prices keep going up? Who will take care of me in my old age if I’m unmarried and childless? What if my spouse dies? What if my business fails? What if my children destroy their lives or reject the gospel?

Anxiety is highly creative and endlessly imaginative, well-suited for infinite mental scrolling and defying a hard stop. Well-meaning people say this or that will never happen to us, but no one can promise that. So in the face of these fears, we must widen our perspective to focus on the bigger, broader guarantees about our futures.

What’s the most important truth about your future? You will live in perfect happiness forever, beholding the glory of God (Rev. 21:1–7; 22:1–5). No more money problems. No more relationship problems. No more health problems. No more pain. No more confusion. No more fear.

Yesterday, Today, and Forever

The God who created time yet exists outside of it provides all we time-bound creatures need to rightly view our past, present, and future. Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Heb. 13:8). He inhabits our past, present, and future with his sustaining grace and loving presence -- even (and perhaps especially) when we feel like anxiety is winning and we’re failing.

May these three questions serve as a faithful compass, helping to guide our hearts and minds back to true north when anxiety strikes. God chose us from the foundation of the world, God is with us today, and God will one day bring to fulfillment his promises of a perfect world in perfect fellowship with him.

Anxiety and prayer are more opposed to each other than fire and water. - J. A. Bengel [ref]


(Click on title for more info)

3 Questions to Ask When Anxiety Strikes
Baker Commentary on the Old Testament Wisdom & Psalms
Baker Encyclopedia of Psychology and Counseling
The Complete Gathered Gold
Concise Theology: A Guide to Historic Christian Beliefs
The Cross Before Me
Dictionary of Christian Spirituality
Draper's Book of Quotations for the Christian World
Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology
Evangelical Dictionary of Theology
The Expositor's Bible Commentary, Revised Edition
The Handbook of Bible Application
Holy Bible, New American Standard
The New Encyclopedia of Christian Quotations
McHenry's Quips, Quotes, & Other Notes
Merriam-Webster's 11th Collegiate Dictionary
The New American Commentary
New International Encyclopedia of Bible Words
Pillar New Testament Commentary
Theology in Community
Understanding the Bible Commentary Series
Zondervan Encyclopedia of the Bible