“Anxiety in a man’s heart weighs him down,” Proverbs 12:25 says. For those of us who struggle with anxiety of any sort, we know all too well how true this is.
The world offers many suggestions to lift us from our anxieties, things like exercise, meditation, taking medicine or supplements, and laughter. Things like these are helpful and good; many are from hand of God. However, I must confess: I sometimes reach for these as a pick-me-up or a quick-fix; they become my go-to form of therapy. And while they might offer me some relief, beneath the surface, those anxieties are still there.
In Think Good, Jennifer Gerhardt refers to Mark 7:21, which says,
“For it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come.”
She points out that if I’m having problematic thoughts, they’re coming from a heart that’s sick.
So I must ask myself:
Am I simply putting band-aids over symptoms with quick-fixes?
Is the root cause of my anxieties really just my sick, sinful, self-sufficient heart?
I know that this discussion is complex, and that with mental disorders in particular, things can get complicated. I know that there can be many factors at play: chemical imbalances, brain wiring that was was set in childhood, underlying health issues, etc. I am no specialist in any of these areas, and I am not suggesting that all mental ailments are the direct result of one’s own sin.
But I will say this. In this post I’ve listed 15 different temptations toward anxiety — all issues I’ve dealt with at one time or another (and I suspect I’m not the only one). I have found help for my worry issues and obsessive-compulsive disorder in lots of different ways, but do you know what has benefited me more than anything else?
Honestly, it’s Scripture.
When I am actively reading my Bible and making a conscious effort to call God’s words to mind throughout the day, the difference is like night and day. And I think it’s because God’s Word addresses something that nothing else can: my heart.
If we are to rise above our anxieties, living with the joy of Christ and hope of eternity, I believe we must get to the root cause of those anxieties. And I believe we must be open to the possibility that the root cause might be the sin in our hearts. God’s truth can bring bring those dark corners of our hearts into His light for healing — if we let it.
As Psalm 139:23-24 says,
Search me, O God, and know my heart!
Try me and know my thoughts!
And see if there be any grievous way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting!
If we will do this —
allow God to search our hearts,
allow God to lead our hearts,
while we follow behind in total trust and obedience in Him —
we might just find that many of our anxieties fade.
Before I share this collection of Scriptures, a word of warning:
May we be careful not to use the Bible as a quick-fix, either.
God’s Word is not a mere self-help book.
God’s Word is not simply a therapy tool to make us feel better.
God’s Word is “sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” (*)
God can heal our hearts, but it won’t be easy.
It will require more than memorizing a few Scriptures.
It will require a lifetime of dedication to learning and submitting to God’s ways.
It will require us learning to live like Jesus did, as obedient servants to our great King.
And now for those Bible verses. I pray that, whether you simply struggle with worry or have a particular mental ailment, these Scriptures will be helpful to you. I also encourage you to search the Word yourself for lessons that address your own anxieties. May we do whatever we need to do to imprint these messages on our brains. (Remember how Jesus fought Satan’s temptations in the wilderness: with Scripture that He had memorized.) May God’s words be medicine for our minds and healing to our anxious hearts.
1) The temptation to worry about things we don’t have but believe we need:
Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.
— Philippians 4:11-13
Keep your life free from the love of money and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you or forsake you.”
— Hebrews 13:5
His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness…
— 2 Peter 1:3a
And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.
— Philippians 4:19
2) The temptation to worry about food:
(for example, that we won’t be able to put food on the table, that we’re not eating healthily enough, that certain foods might make us or our family sick, etc.):
But he answered, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”
— Matthew 4:4
It is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but what comes out of the mouth; this defiles a person… What comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person… But to eat with unwashed hands does not defile anyone.
— Matthew 15:11, 18-20
(Jesus’ response here to the Pharisees reminds us to be more concerned with having clean hearts than clean hands, clean food, etc.)
Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life… Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?
— Matthew 6:25
3) The temptation to worry about physical health:
For while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come.
— 1 Timothy 4:8
For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?
— Mark 8:36
For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account.
— Philippians 1:21-24
For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. For 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.
— Romans 14:7-8
Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints.
— Psalm 116:15
4) The temptation to worry about the direction of our nation:
Say not, “Why were the former days better than these?” For it is not from wisdom that you ask this.
— Ecclesiastes 7:10
But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.
— Philippians 3:20
The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?
— Psalm 27:1
5) The temptation to try and know everything about a certain subject:
For in much wisdom is much vexation, and he who increases knowledge increases sorrow.
— Ecclesiastes 1:18
For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.
— 1 Corinthians 2:2
Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.
— Philippians 3:8
Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up.
— 1 Corinthians 8:1b
6) The temptation toward perfectionism:
I have seen a limit to all perfection, but your commandment is exceedingly broad.
— Psalm 119:96
7) The temptation to obsess over how others have hurt you:
Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.
– Ephesians 4:31-32
Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, meekness, and patience,bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.
— Colossians 3:12-14
8) The temptation to worry about all the bad in the world:
Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
— Romans 12:21
9) The temptation to worry that you are incapable:
He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant.
— 2 Corinthians 3:6a (NIV)
God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another.
— 1 Peter 4:10
10) The temptation to worry that, deep down, you’re an especially bad or immoral person:
For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.
— Romans 3:23
No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man.
— 1 Corinthians 10:13
For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.
— Hebrews 4:15
… Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality,nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.
— 1 Corinthians 6:9-11
For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.
— 2 Timothy 1:7
(There is no need to fear ourselves; fear of anything, including ourselves, is not from God. Who then is it from?)
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.
— John 3:16
(You are not perfect, but God loves you, anyway — so much that Jesus died for you.)
Also: I used to be scared by the verse, As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he (Prov. 23:7). But this translation (KJV) of this particular verse is not the most accurate. (ESV: For he is like one who is inwardly calculating. NET: For he is like someone calculating the cost in his mind. NIV: For he is the kind of person who is always thinking about the cost. Read this verse in context here.) This is an important point. Just because you believe that you might be a criminal or unlovable or worthless or even the world’s best at something does not mean it is true.
11) The temptation to worry about your salvation:
Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.”
— Acts 2:38-39
But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.
— 1 John 1:7
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.
— Ephesians 2:8
The Lord is merciful and gracious,
slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
He will not always chide,
nor will he keep his anger forever.
He does not deal with us according to our sins,
nor repay us according to our iniquities.
For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him;
as far as the east is from the west,
so far does he remove our transgressions from us.
As a father shows compassion to his children,
so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him.
For he knows our frame;
he remembers that we are dust.
— Psalm 103:8-14
12) The temptation to continually dwell on anxiety-inducing, earthly things:
Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.
— Colossians 3:2-3
I love your law! It is my meditation all the day.
— Psalm 119:97
(Notice here the thing we are to be meditating on.)
13) The temptation to stay stuck in my old, sinful patterns of thinking:
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
— Romans 12:2
Put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.
— Ephesians 4:22-24
14) The temptation to try and bear your anxieties alone, without help from your brothers and sisters in Christ, whom God has given to you:
Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.
— James 5:16
Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.
— Galatians 6:2
(Note that this can look many different ways: one-on-one conversation with godly friends, asking publicly for prayers from the church, seeking help from a Christian counselor, etc.)
15) The temptation to be anxious in general:
The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick…
— Jeremiah 17:9
(In your heart, you may feel that something is totally worth worrying about. But feelings can be unreliable.)
And aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands...
— 1 Thessalonians 4:11a
(I find that my anxiety is reduced greatly when I embrace this verse in my life.)
Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God… casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.
— 1 Peter 5:6-7
And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?
— Matthew 6:27
... The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
— Philippians 4:4-7
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me – practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.
— Philippians 4:8-9
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.
— John 14:27
You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.
— Isaiah 26:3
Header photo credit: Priscilla du Preez via Unsplash
Footer photo credit: Nathan Dumlao via Unsplash