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Anxiety in the Heart

“My favorite verse” is the writing assignment, oh what a task! How can I choose just one? There are verses to offer hope when I am discouraged, verses to guide me when I am unsure of the right steps to take, and verses to warn me when I am drifting. I often think that our favorites reveal something about our attitudes, needs, and especially our appetites. The verses that talk about our minds are always among my favorite. They speak to a problem I face and that is shared almost universally in all mankind: anxiety. My favorite verse is “Anxiety in the heart of man causes depression, but a good word makes it glad” (Prov. 12:25). This one short verse is so very powerful and helpful to me in my personal battle with anxiety. In this verse we have three important elements: (1) anxiety, (2) its consequences if left unchecked and (3) its ultimate cure. 



Biblically, anxiety is defined as fear, heaviness, and sorrow. It is not, in truth, a negative thing in its proper context. Were you or I hanging by a finger grip from the edge of a cliff, we would rightly feel quite anxious! Anxiety stimulates hormone production and allows for rapid responses in emergency situations. However, it is not healthy for us to maintain a state of high anxiety. The gift of anxiety can most definitely become a curse if we allow either imagined troubles or past troubles to rest in our hearts constantly. Just as fear is a gift to keep us from danger but a state of fearfulness is paralyzing and can even be damning (Rev. 21:8).


The Scriptures indicate to us a number of things to keep in our hearts and anxiety does not make the cut. Thou hast put gladness in my heart” (Ps. 4:7), the worthy citizen of Zion “speaks the truth in his heart” (Ps. 15:2), God’s word is to be hidden in our hearts (Ps. 119:11), and the fear of God is to remain in our hearts (Col. 3:22). The Parable of the Sower warns us that there are things that can distract us and choke the word. “Cares” can push God’s Word out of our hearts just as surely as riches and hedonistic pleasures. Anxiety, heaviness, and sorrow are to be experienced when circumstances evoke those feelings, however they are to be carried, not in our hearts and minds, but to the One Who cares for us (1 Pet. 5:7). 

The terrible consequence of living in a persistent state of anxiety is the growth of depression in our minds. The process is slow and begins with a little worry over matters which are outside of our control. This worry becomes our meditation holding the place God’s Word is meant to have in our hearts and minds (Ps. 1). Soon we begin to add other concerns, what ifs, and fears to our list until our outlook has become shadowed, darkened, and so filled with pessimism that we can no longer imagine a scenario in which all goes well and life is good. Darkness prevails in the outlook of the depressed soul so much that the brightest rays of hope appear distant and unreachable. Uncontrolled anxiety is a prescription for progressively deepening depression. 


There is a cure! “A good word” can restore gladness to the anxious mind and lighten the heavy heart. This good word is not simply a kind word, a passing nicety, or a complement. These things are certainly pleasant however, they can only provide a shallow moment of brightness. It is only the goodness of the Word of God that can truly banish anxieties and the depressive state they breed. The world can be a dark and hopeless place but God’s Word is a “light to our path” (Ps. 119:105).  According to the Psalmist, God’s Word is capable of melting away our heaviness and strengthening our hearts (Ps. 119:28). 


When it comes to favorite verses, mine seem to always be those that aid me in winning battles of the mind. David wrote, “If I say, ‘My foot slips,’ Your mercy, O Lord, will hold me up. In the multitude of my anxieties within me, Your comforts delight my soul” (Ps. 94:18-19). This is another of my favorite verses that is in keeping with the theme of finding rest from anxiety in the Lord. Tied up in this discussion is one final element, choice. We have a choice how we handle this challenge. Anxiety can be a hard habit to break and can be nearly as potent as any addiction. Much like overcoming an addiction, the first steps are to recognize the problem and decide that we will no longer participate in it (Ps. 119:59-60). The process is simple; however, it is not at all easy. I have found that even severe anxiety attacks can be overcome and the severity lessened by my own refusal to participate and give myself to them. Are my heart and mind racing? Yes. Is my head spinning. Yes! Do I feel as if there is an elephant sitting on my chest? YES! Is there a reason for this? No. In that case, I can refuse to participate in it and feed it. I can accept it with patience, carry it to the Lord and wait for it to pass. Simple, but not easy. 


Peter assures us that God’s power has given us “all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us…” (2 Pet. 1:3). True comfort, peace, lasting joy, and hope are found when we lay down our anxieties and the cares of life at the feet of our Savior finding shelter under his wings (Matt. 23:37). 


 

By Carlie Bond

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