Anxiety- Seeking Prayer, Peace, and Rest for this Moment
Seeking prayer, peace, and rest for this moment.
When we hare anxiety, fear, or feel overwhelmed, the most significant thing we can do is lean into the One who knows us completely and loves us best – the God of all comfort.
Nearly one-third of adults experience an anxiety disorder in their lifetime. Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness, globally affecting an estimated 284 million adults in 2017. The source of anxiety disorders can stem from a variety of risk factors, including genetics, brain chemistry, personality, and life events.
Those who suffer from anxiety disorders also commonly suffer from depression (and vice versa). Generalized anxiety, panic, social anxiety, phobias, OCD, PTSD, and various depressive disorders are all common types of anxiety disorders.
While it is highly treatable, relatively few (about one-third) of those affected get treatment for anxiety and depression. Therapy, medication, and other treatments are common approaches that have been successful.
…whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things. Philippians 4:8
C.S. Lewis wrote, “Some people feel guilty about their anxieties and regard them as a defect of faith. I don’t agree at all. They are afflictions, not sins. Like all afflictions, they are, if we can so take them, our share in the Passion of Christ.”
Anxiety is a common co-existing condition for many with chronic illness, due in part to:
• chronic pain
• the unpredictability of illness
• uncertainty about the future
• medication side-effects
• loneliness and isolation
• sustained loss
• financial challenges
• insurance issues
• unpleasant procedures and surgeries
• repeated hospitalizations
• inadequate sleep
• mobility challenges
• strained or distanced relationships
• job stress
• and so much more
We are not alone.
Remembering God’s love and faithfulness – the times He has rescued us, protected us, led us, guided us, comforted us, and tenderly heard our prayers, can anchor us in truth when anxiety threatens to obscure our world – fueling our heart rate, disrupting sleep, driving nausea, causing us to sweat and feel short of breath, provoking persistent tension headaches which can escalate into migraines, and sometimes even raging into panic attacks that obscure everything in their path.
So what do we do when anxiety starts to snap at our heels?
We can remember. God calls us to be a remembering people – to anchor ourselves in His loving kindness, to root ourselves in His faithfulness, to fasten ourselves in truth, and moor ourselves to His precious promises.
Across the generations, God has called His people to build altars and erect Ebenezers, to raise standing stones as powerful reminders that He has heard His people and is at work in their lives.
Each time they passed by the stones, God’s people would remember. They would tell the story to their children and to their children’s children, and to those who saw the stones and asked, “What happened here?”
EBENEZER – A STONE OF HELP
1 Samuel 7:12 tells the story of a miraculous battlefield victory, after which Samuel “took a stone and set it up … He named it Ebenezer, saying, ‘Thus far the Lord helped us.’” Ebenezer
These touchstones of help, built from words, also fill the book of Psalms, telling of God’s love and faithfulness across the generations.” Psalm 78:2-3 says, “I will utter hidden things, things from of old – things we have heard and known, things our ancestors have told us.”
God’s people built Ebenezers to anchor them in truth in the midst of frightening, painful, difficult, or challenging circumstances.
How many seeming disasters has God turned into blessings?
How many times have God’s people been graciously forgiven?
How often has God turned toward His people and heard their prayers?
How many times has God rescued, protected, and providentially provided for His people throughout the generations?
God holds our tomorrows just as surely as He held our yesterdays. He knows what we will face and when, and He has promised He will never leave us. We are called to remember God’s goodness, His character, and His faithfulness.
Why? “Because when pain becomes severe or sorrow becomes crushing, you can look at that memorial set in place in a time of greater strength, and you can pray, ‘Oh God, thus far you have helped me, and I have every reason to believe you will continue to help me.” Joni Eareckson Tada
A PLACE TO BEGIN
BUILD AN EBENEZER:
… these stones shall become a memorial … Joshua 4:7c
We are God’s precious children, filled with His Spirit, washed with His blood, forgiven, redeemed, and delighted in. We are called to remember His faithfulness and to share those stories with others. Like the Psalmists, we can build our Ebenezers with words, touchstones of God’s love, protection, provision, forgiveness, and faithfulness in our lives.
THOUGHTS TO GET YOU STARTED:
• Create a list of blessings you have received from God’s Hand.
• List experiences or events which initially seemed like disasters, but which were really blessings in disguise.
• Write about the people who have shaped, influenced, cared for, mentored, taught, protected, or selflessly loved you and the impact that had on your life.
• How has God led you through a difficult situation?
• How has God provided for you?
• When has God protected you?
• In what ways has God answered your prayers?
• When have you felt called by God?
“Let each generation tell its children of your mighty acts; let them proclaim your power.” Psalm 145:4 NLT
We build our Ebenezers and write down our stories so that when the winds of anxiety begin to blow and the waves roll and the thunder comes, we are securely anchored in the storm.
As Monica Oullette writes, “It is through telling our stories that we encourage one another in our grief, illness and struggles … through hearing and sharing faith stories that we grow closer to one another and closer to God.”
Our Ebenezers are touchstones of our faith, powerful reminders of the Presence of God at work in the lives of His people, anchors of truth in the storms of anxiety.
It can be difficult to pray in the midst of anxiety, challenging to feel peace, hard to rein in our thoughts, painful to be still. But when the winds of anxiety begin to blow and the waves roll and the thunder comes, God invites us to lean a little deeper in Him – to seek the wonders of His creation, to meet Him in His Word, to rest in His Presence, safe in His compassionate care. These two FREE printable pdfs are a gentle invitation to meet the God of all comfort in the midst of our anxiety.
Verses to Comfort & Encourage
Leaning into the wonders of creation when we are anxious, afraid, or in pain can draw us into the Presence of God, temporarily distracting us from our circumstances and calming our anxiety.
When you feel anxious or overwhelmed, thank God for:
- 5 Things You Can See Look for small details, like an interesting pattern on the floor, sunlight glinting off of a tabletop, or a framed photo you haven’t noticed for a while.
- 4 Things You Can Feel Notice the physical qualities of the clothes you’re wearing, the chair you’re sitting in, an object in your hand.
- 3 Things You Can Hear Listen for the hum of an appliance, leaves rustling in the breeze, birds singing, or the sounds of traffic.
- 2 Things You Can Smell Try to identify things like freshly brewed coffee, a freshly washed towel, a scented lotion or soap, or freshly cut fruit.
- 1 Thing You Can Taste Take a bite or sip of something and savor its flavor.
2. OBSERVE YOUR ENVIRONMENT
God designed our senses to equip us with information about His world. Today, take a few minutes to observe your surroundings. If the area you’re in is large or crowded, limit the space to what is directly in front of you or within a two- or three-foot diameter around you. Notice everything you can see, hear, smell, taste, or touch, and thank God for each one.
Gratitude is the practice of expressing appreciation. As we focus on what God has already done for and given to us, our thoughts are drawn away from our circumstances and toward His loving-kindness.
1. VERSES TO MEDIATE ON
- “I will give thanks to you, LORD, with all my heart …” Psalm 9:1a
- “I will praise God’s name in song and glorify him with thanksgiving.” Psalm 69:30
- “Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name.” Psalm 100:4
- “Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever.” Psalm 106:1, Psalm 118:1, Psalm 118:29, Psalm 136:1
- “Let them give thanks to the LORD for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for mankind.” Psalm 107:21
- “Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever.” Psalm 136:1
- “I thank and praise you, God of my ancestors …” Daniel 2:23a
- “Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Ephesians 5:19b-20
- “So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.” Colossians 2:6-7
- “Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.” Colossians 4:2
- “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:18
2. A HANDFUL OF HOPE
As each day draws to a close, thank God for five things that brought you joy, made you smile, gave you hope, or filled you with peace.
3. GRATITUDE JOURNAL
“Gratitude is an offering precious in the sight of God, and it is one that the poorest of us can make and be not poorer but richer for having made it.” A.W. Tozer
A gratitude journal is an invitation to savor the blessings in our lives. Each day, write down one thing you’re grateful for:
• a small victory
• something that brought you joy or made you smile
• an act of kindness
• a pleasant scent
• a cherished memory
• a favorite song
• something beautiful in God’s creation
• a touching story
• a surprise gift
• a gentle rain
• a cool breeze
• a delicious food
• an invitation
• a friend or loved one checking in
Some days, the blessing will come easily, on the difficult days when your mind is spinning and anxiety is nipping at your heels, use these questions to get you started:
• What am I most grateful for today?
• What is one good thing right now?
• What made me smile today?
• Where did I see beauty today?
• What was one small victory today?
• What simple pleasure did I enjoy today?
• What did I learn today?
• How did technology make my life easier today?
• What was one blessing in a difficult situation today?
• What brought me hope today?
• What negative habit did I avoid today?
• When was I at peace today?
• How did I show myself compassion today?
• When did I feel a sense of abundance today?
• What inspired me today?
• What brought me joy today?
• What quote made me think today?
• What color made me smile today?
• What am I most grateful for in this season?
• What recent challenge am I grateful for experiencing?
• What in God’s creation surprised me today?
• What hobby or activity did I enjoy today?
• What book captivated my attention today?
The most significant thing we can do when we’re anxious, afraid, or overwhelmed, and in need of comfort is to turn to the One who knows us completely and loves us best – the God of all comfort.
“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort…” 2 Corinthians 1:3
Our God is not a god of some comfort, in some circumstances, at some times, or if we deserve it. Our God is the God of all comfort.
The word comfort, traced back to its earliest Latin roots, means “together-strength.” That definition has slowly evolved to mean, “a state of physical ease and freedom from pain or constraint; the easing or alleviation of a person’s feelings of grief or distress.”
How interesting that what began as “together-strength” has morphed into “freedom from pain.” God never promised us pain-free lives. What He promises us is that He is with us, that He will never leave us, and never forsake us.
“And surely I am with you always,” God said, “to the very end of the age.” Matthew 28:20
That is “together-strength.” God with us. Always. No matter what. To the very end of the age.
Lord, “May your unfailing love be [our] comfort.” Psalm 119:76
1. VERSES TO CALM ANXIETY
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” Philippians 4:6
“Anxiety weighs down the heart, but a kind word cheers it up.” Proverbs 12:25
“When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought me joy.” Psalm 94:19
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things. Philippians 4:8
2. VERSES TO CALM FEAR
“So we can say with confidence, ‘The LORD is my helper; I will not be afraid.’” Hebrews 13:6
“I sought the LORD, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears.” Psalm 34:4
“When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.” Psalm 56:3
“But now, this is what the Lord says …’Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine.’” Isaiah 43:1
“There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear …” 1 John 4:18
“Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me…” Psalm 23:4
“The Lord is with me; I will not be afraid.” Psalm 118:6a
“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10
“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9
“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” Deuteronomy 31:6
“For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.” 2 Timothy 1:7 NKJV
3. VERSES FOR TROUBLED TIMES
“Then they cried out to the LORD in their trouble, and he brought them out of their distress. He stilled the storm to a whisper; the waves of the sea were hushed. They were glad when it grew calm, and he guided them to their desired haven.” Psalm 107:28-30
“Do not let your hearts be troubled.” John 14:1
“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.” Psalm 46:1
“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ.” 2 Corinthians 1:3-5
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” John 14:27
“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the LORD your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior…” Isaiah 43:2-3
4. VERSES FOR PEACE AND REST
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28
“Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.” Psalm 91:1
“In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, LORD, make me dwell in safety.” Psalm 4:8
“You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you.” Isaiah 26:3
“The LORD replied, ‘My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.’” Exodus 33:14
“There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God…” Hebrews 4:9
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33
“Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times in every way.” 2 Thessalonians 3:16a
5. VERSES TO STRENGTHEN AND ENCOURAGE
“…but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” Isaiah 40:31
“Because the hand of the LORD my God was on me, I took courage …” Ezra 7:28a
“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9
“Be strong, and let us fight bravely for our people and the cities of our God. The LORD will do what is good in his sight.” 2 Samuel 10:12
“’Do not be afraid, you who are highly esteemed,’ he said. ‘Peace! Be strong now; be strong.’” Daniel 10:19a
“Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD.” Psalm 27:14
“Be strong and take heart, all you who hope in the LORD.” Psalm 31:24
“But blessed is the one who trusts in the LORD, whose confidence is in him. They will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.” Jeremiah 17:7-8
“I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death.” Philippians 1:20
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When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought me joy. Psalm 94:19
Dear Heavenly Father,
Thank You that You understand the waves of anxiety that can flood our soul within so deeply. When those waters seem to overwhelm us, will You help us to look up to You? We long to be consoled, and that is exactly what You tell us You have to offer us. Thank You for the Word spoken from Your own heart for us: YOUR joy can rest inside of us, right here in the midst of our anxieties.
In the name of Your son, Jesus, we pray,
The more original a human being is, the deeper is his anxiety. Søren Kierkegaard