If you’ve struggled with anxiety, fear, or worry, you are not alone. The truth is, we all get anxious – and the current climate of our world and the daily heartache in front of us doesn’t help. Fear and worry is a part of life for most of us, and a way of life for some of us. But it doesn’t have to be. David Marvin, pastor of The Porch – the young adult ministry of Watermark Church in Dallas, Texas – shares what the Bible says about our fears and worries and how we can strategize differently not if, but when anxiety strikes. It’s a grace to welcome him to the farm’s front porch today…
I was only a day into being married and I was freaking out.
Our wedding had gone off without a hitch: my wife looked beautiful, vows were made, family and friends celebrated with us at the reception, and everything was amazing.
But waking up the next morning beside my new wife, there was something I didn’t expect to be there: anxiety.
A lot of it.
“I thought I was having a panic attack.”
Not anxiety about whether I’d made a mistake getting married or regarding whom I married. Those I had no concerns over. I was panicking about something entirely different: the honeymoon. The honeymoon was my primary contribution to our wedding planning, and I had made sure the place I chose would not disappoint.
We were going to a hotel that prized itself on seclusion, quiet, and relaxation. We were hours from experiencing all this lavishness, and what flooded my mind wasn’t excitement; it was panic. Why?
Well, I am what people would call an extra extrovert. Being alone is not a perk to me. I’m also someone who doesn’t relax well and, honestly, doesn’t really like to try to. I realized I had booked us a honeymoon at my own worst nightmare.
My new wife could soon tell there was something on my mind. When she asked me what was wrong, I told her I thought I was having a panic attack.
The trip came and those eight days were some of the most incredible of my life. We also look back and laugh at how crazy it was for me to be so anxious. The truth is, being anxious about a honeymoon is crazy—not just because it was a honeymoon, but because anxiety is always irrational.
“We are anxious not because we believe it helps but because we don’t know how not to be.”
Let me explain: Being anxious is normal and understandable, but it’s not rational.
Freaking out about the future doesn’t change the future; it just makes you more miserable in the present. Dwelling on anxious thoughts is not helpful to ourselves, those around us, or our circumstances. It adds nothing and only takes away.
Why would we keep doing this? We are anxious not because we believe it helps but because we don’t know how not to be.
The Bible promises that we can experience a peace that “surpasses all understanding” (Philippians 4:7, ESV)—a peace greater than our ability to explain or put into words. If that is promised, why do we rarely feel that peace?
For most of us, the opposite is true: we experience anxiety that goes beyond understanding. We get stuck in moments, or even seasons, of crippling fear and worry that we can’t explain and find hard to express to others.
We experience anxious feelings that paralyze us, keep us from sleeping, rob us of our ability to be present with friends, and just suck the life out of us.
“The Bible gives us real tools that can truly help us fight anxiety, fear, and worry.”
The Bible gives us real tools that can truly help us fight anxiety, fear, and worry.
In fact, the most repeated command in all of Scripture is “Fear not.”
Think about that. God tells us not to fear more than He tells us not to murder, commit adultery, or steal. God tells us not to fear more than He tells us to pray or love our neighbor.
At least 366 times, we are commanded in the Bible not to give way to fear. That is once for every day of the year, even on a leap year. It is clear God does not want us to experience lives owned by fear.
I am married to a licensed professional counselor who has worked primarily with young adults who struggle with anxiety. But as my wife and thousands of counselors would agree, God’s Word should be our first line of defense against anxiety.
If you were to ask the average Christian, “What does the Bible teach about anxiety and worry?” my guess is you would get answers like, “It says to stop” or “It says don’t worry; just pray” or “Don’t be anxious; you just need to trust God.”
All those statements are . . . well . . . kind of true, but not entirely. The teachings throughout Scripture are far more helpful and practical than simply “Stop being anxious.”
“God loves you and doesn’t want you to be ruled by anxiety and fear.”
The word the Bible uses most often for anxiety, worry, and anxiousness is the Greek term merimnao, which means “dwelling on or pondering fearful or anxious thoughts.”
When the Bible says, “Do not be anxious” in Philippians 4:6, it is not saying, “Don’t have anxious thoughts.” That’s impossible. We can’t just not have those thoughts. Rather, it’s saying, “Do not meditate or dwell on those anxious thoughts.”
That is possible; we can choose not to continue ruminating on anxious thoughts.
Think of it like this: you may not be able to stop some burglar from bursting into your house, but you can choose not to invite him to sit down and stay awhile.
None of us wants to live imprisoned by fear, anxiety, and worry.
God loves you and doesn’t want you to be ruled by anxiety and fear.
He invites all of us into lives marked by His peace instead of our panic.
You don’t have to freak out, even if everyone else is.
David Marvin serves as the young adults director at Watermark Community Church, where he leads The Porch, a Tuesday night ministry for thousands of young adults that meets across seventeen locations in seven states. In addition to his role as a pastor, his first priority is being a husband to his wife, Calli, who is a licensed counselor.
David is the author of We’re All Freaking Out (and Why We Don’t Need To): Finding Freedom from Your Anxious Thoughts and Feelings. It’s a book to help you free yourself from anxiety by discovering and applying principles given by God to lead us away from panic and toward peace.
Consider this book a practical resource to help you connect the dots between your anxiety and what God has to say about defeating it. As you are about to discover, you really can stop freaking out.
[ Our humble thanks to Waterbrook for their partnership in today’s devotion ]