Becky Harling, authentically admits she has wrestled anxiety for most of her life. But in a particularly dark season, she discovered the extraordinary power of praise to quiet her anxious heart. I can relate to Becky’s story of anxiety. I believe in the wake of the COVID 19 pandemic, many have become paralyzed by anxiety. Becky, lays out a practical plan for times of anxiety. She encourages those who wrestle with worry to turn their panic into praise. It’s a grace to welcome Becky to the farm’s front porch today…
For as far back as I can remember, I’ve struggled with anxiety. I’m pretty sure I was a neurotic little kid who worried about a whole lot of stuff.
I worried about my friends—had they accepted Jesus into their hearts, and would they go to heaven?
“For as far back as I can remember, I’ve struggled with anxiety.”
I worried about my family—would they die and leave me all alone? I worried about suffering for my faith in Jesus—would I be brave enough? I know. Neurotic, right?
I remember the emergency drills we had at school during the Cuban Missile Crisis when I was in kindergarten and first grade. An alarm would sound, and everyone would immediately crawl under their desks. Worry and fear invaded my mind: “Were the Cubans coming to get us?” I remember thinking, “If we get bombed this desk will fall on my head.”
My anxiety followed me into adulthood and skyrocketed when I became a parent. How would I keep my children safe in a harsh and violent world? How would I keep them healthy (especially during the season when we were living in Sudan as missionaries)? What were the best parenting methods to raise kids to love Jesus and want to follow Him? My questions were endless and my fears varied.
In college, I discovered the joy of the book of Psalms.
I began each day reading some, writing them out, and borrowing the words in my prayers. It felt like the psalmists were giving voice to many of my feelings. I discovered that they didn’t give easy answers for negative emotions. Instead, they invited me to feel all my emotions and bring them to God.
As I copied their words in my journal, as well as my own thoughts and feelings, my heart found comfort. I felt understood. It was as if the psalmists were my empathetic friends.
While still in the journey of raising kids, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. Nothing sends anxiety into a tailspin quite like cancer. Questions flooded my mind: Would I be alive to finish raising my kids? Would I live to see them married and having children of their own? How would cancer impact their faith? I dove into Psalm 46 and Psalm 27, memorizing both. God needed to become my refuge in a new, relevant, and life-sustaining way.
“As I began to practice this two-step process, pouring out my heart, and then praising God by faith, I felt a shift in my spirit.“
As I grappled with the severity of my diagnosis, a mentor of mine challenged me to begin each day by praising God. At the time it felt ridiculous. Who feels like praising God for cancer? Right? Yet, I figured I had nothing to lose.
In addition to memorizing the Psalms, I began borrowing the words of the psalmists to praise God. “God, I praise You! You are my refuge and strength! You are my ever-present help in times of trouble. Even with cancer, I will not fear. You are with me and I praise You” (based on Psalm 46:1, 5).
The more I studied the Psalms, the more I discovered that the psalmists practiced a two-step rhythm: They poured out their hearts to God authentically and then praised God by faith passionately.
When they poured out their hearts, their honesty was raw.
They held nothing back and didn’t worry about how their anger, hurt, or worry was coming across to God.
Their praise was equally exuberant and passionate. “Let them praise his name with dancing and make music to him with timbrel and harp” (Ps. 149:3). Imagine uninhibited and unreserved dancing-in-the-aisles, throw- your-hands-up-and-shout type of praise.
“Gradually, faith replaced fear, peace replaced worry, and joy replaced anxiety.“
As I began to practice this two-step process, pouring out my heart, and then praising God by faith, I felt a shift in my spirit.
Gradually, faith replaced fear, peace replaced worry, and joy replaced anxiety.
New confidence and courage rose, not in myself, but in God’s goodness and what He could do through me.
You see, “God invites us to bring before Him our rage, doubt, and terror—but He intends for us to do so as a part of worship.”
I wonder about you. Have any worries? Fears? Anxiety? Concerns? Anything keeping you up at night? While you might not have a diagnosable anxiety disorder, you may still have some worries or be dealing with residual fear after the pandemic. Perhaps you’re just stressed and overwhelmed. Let’s face it, in our fast-paced, packed-full lives, there are quite a few things to feel anxious about.
“As you praise Him in the middle of your anxiety, the Holy Spirit awakens your soul to His presence and the Holy One calms you down.“
Is God angry with us for our anxiety? No. As the psalmist writes in Psalm 103: 13–14, God is a compassionate Father who is aware that we are dust. We are human.
Does He want to help us live victoriously over our anxiety? Yes. Does He want us to experience joy? Yes. How do I know? Because it’s written all throughout His Word.
“When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought me joy” (Ps. 94:19). The idea behind this verse is when our anxieties multiply—and they do, don’t they?—it’s God’s comfort that calms us down and settles us in joy. That’s the extraordinary power of praise.
As you praise Him in the middle of your anxiety, the Holy Spirit awakens your soul to His presence and the Holy One calms you down.
Why don’t you take a moment and write out that verse on a card, and then tape it to your mirror? It would be a great idea to memorize those words.
The next time you feel worry or fear overwhelming you, turn your panic into praise.
Pour out your heart authentically and then praise God by faith.
Authentic. Passionate. Funny and Biblical all describe Becky Harling. A best-selling author, Becky is a popular speaker at conferences, retreats and other events. She is the author of 11 books including, How to Listen so Your Kids Will Talk, Psalms for the Anxious Heart and The Extraordinary Power of Praise. Becky is a certified coach with the John Maxwell Team and a seasoned Bible teacher.
In The Extraordinary Power of Praise, Becky wants you to experience the surprising truth that praising God is exactly what you need when anxiety threatens to overwhelm you. The psalms of Scripture offer you a twofold solution: first, the honest words to pour out your heart to God with no-holds-barred realism about your situation. And second, the confident words to praise your almighty God, who holds all things in His hands even when it feels like your world is spinning out of control.
The Extraordinary Power of Praise is suited for both individual and group use. In this 6-week Bible study, you’ll delve into handpicked psalms whose sacred words are designed to comfort the anxious heart. You’ll learn to face your fears, find contentment through praise, lament your struggles, worship while you wait, rekindle joy, and live in victory. Join Becky as you discover the abiding truth that worshiping God is the key to overcoming anxiety.
[ Our humble thanks to Moody Publishers for their partnership in today’s devotion ]