The feeling of oncoming anxiety is…well, anxiety inducing. Symptoms and experiences vary for everyone; I personally can tell when there’s a wave of anxiety lurking deep down, getting ready to surge up. I’ll be doing a normal task but then, amidst my train of thought, a small voice will mention something unsettling. I could be thinking about my university work, or taking the dog for a walk, or getting ready to say goodnight to my family, and that pestering little voice will pipe in the ominous thought – ‘What if you die?’. And then, promptly and as usual, I’ll feel the pit of my stomach churn and the pulse of my heart beating faster and harder until my arms are throbbing.
Thankfully, God has over the years taught me many things about faith and peace through my anxiety. Even though I am now much improved from a few years ago, there are still times when the physical symptoms return. When they do, that’s when I revert to the tools that God taught me when I was experiencing anxiety at its worst.
I’ve been keeping a log of Bible verses, song lyrics, sayings, and other tools that have brought me peace whenever I’ve felt anxious. These tools have helped calm my body and mind when my thoughts strive to keep me awake. I was inspired when my mum reminded me of how Jesus used scripture to refute the Devil during His time of temptation in the wilderness (Matthew 4:1-11). Since then, I have relied on scripture and other scripture-based tools as a first point of call when my anxiety begins to kick in. Keeping a log is something I would recommend to anyone who is looking for different tools to help them when the anxiety creeps in, as the log can serve as a reminder of the different ways that God encourages and communicates to us during hard trials.
Here is a sample of my personal log which I hope will be of encouragement to you:
1. Matthew 28:20; “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
My favourite time to ponder on this verse is when I take the dog outside every night before bed, and I look up at the stars. Sometimes they are gently shining through clouds and other times they are brilliantly shimmering, especially when I’m camping away from the city. The concepts of all the time that has passed on earth, all the time that is yet to come, and the vastness of space that I can never fully grasp with the stars that have existed for so long, puts me in a place of rightful awe. God is awesome, and always will be.
2. Romans 8:38-39; “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
This verse really hit me when I was experiencing an intense time of anxiety; I honestly felt like death and life, angels and demons, the present and the future were all fighting to seize control over me. Paul’s words reassured me of the most profound and magnificent truth to surpass all else: I will never be separated from God’s love that is in Christ Jesus.
3. Psalm 95:7; “… for He is our God, and we are the people of His pasture, the flock under His care.”
Like the other famous Psalm, ‘The Lord is my shepherd’ (Psalm 23), this verse succinctly reminds me of who I am, where I am, and who is in charge.
4. Genesis 5:22-24; “After he became the father of Methuselah, Enoch walked faithfully with God 300 years and had other sons and daughters. Altogether, Enoch lived a total of 365 years. Enoch walked faithfully with God; then he was no more, because God took him away.”
Enoch walked faithfully with God for 300 years! The image of a man, spending time daily with God and diligently living out every aspect of life for and with Him, is both astounding and a challenge for Christians. By God’s grace, that is the kind of faithfulness that I want to live out.
5. 1 Samuel 1 (The whole chapter)
Here is a woman who, apart from being barren, is like any other woman. Hannah’s story communicates to me that even the most ‘simple’, ‘normal’, ‘domestic’, and ‘average-people’ problems are important and valued by God. God didn’t forget about Hannah, and her prayers were heard; and amazingly, He used her situation to bring Samuel into the world.
6. ‘Be Thou My Vision’; “Be thou my vision, O Lord of my heart”
This old hymn, which likely originated in Ireland during the 6th century AD, is one of my favourites. The thought of people throughout history, in a land and time so different to my own and singing these words, reminds me that as Christians, we are part of a spiritual family and community that transcends time and place, bonded together by God’s love.
7. Sanctus Real, ‘Confidence’; “Give me faith like Daniel in the lions’ den, give me hope like Moses in the wilderness, give me a heart like David, Lord be my defence, so that I can face my giants with confidence.”
This song’s lyrics remind me of the miracles that God has performed in the Old Testament, not just the physical miracles of shutting lions’ mouths and providing food in a desert, but the internal miracles of transforming, growing, and empowering broken people to use for His kingdom. It gives me hope and encouragement that God can, and has promised, to grow myself through life’s trials.
8. Steven Curtis Chapman, ‘God is God’; “God is God and I am not, I can only see a part of the picture He’s painting. God is God and I am man, so I’ll never understand it all, for only God is God.”
My anxiety loves to rear its head in the face of an unknown future: When will I die? What is the point of these difficulties? Why am I going through this? What is the future that God is leading me towards?
These lyrics from Chapman’s song provided a very straightforward answer to me, and I can still recall the peace that settled over my heart when I first heard it.
When my anxiety is triggered, I would recite and meditate upon the above verses and lyrics, and reflect on how they are applicable to my anxiety. I understand that everyone has different conditions and experiences of anxiety, and there are different effective methods to cope with anxiety. Keeping a log of different tools and reminders is something which has helped me cope with my anxiety over the years. Ultimately, I hope and pray that this tool will be a blessing to you as it has been for me, and that you will turn to God for inspiration towards developing your own tools for dealing with anxiety.