Psalms: Anxiety and Fear

Anxiety and fear can be crippling. Sometimes it slowly builds up and explodes. Other times it seems to come out of nowhere. Swirling questions and emotions. A tailspin of negative and mostly untruthful thoughts about yourself. Hopelessness. Darkness.

Anxiety and fear are pervasive forces in the world, but they aren’t new. Humanity has been plagued by them since the beginning. The Psalmists know these forces well. Psalm after Psalm consists of anxious questions and often fearful emotions. Yes, anxiety and fear are in your Bible. So what do the Psalms have to teach us about living in the midst of anxiety and fear? Quite a lot actually.

Up front, the Psalms certainly don’t have a “cure” for anxiety and fear. We’ll simply be looking at a pattern throughout the Psalms that can help us in the midst of anxiety and fear. So don’t read this thinking that curing yourself is the goal. If after reading this you try to apply what I say and you still find yourself struggling with anxiety and fear don’t feel guilt or shame. Feel human and join the club with the Psalmists. It’s ok not to be ok. God meets you there.

So what is this pattern in the Psalms? Simply put, it involves three actions: abiding, remembering, and awaiting (I couldn’t think of an “a” word for remembering lol). Throughout the Psalms, God’s people are called to remember God’s past actions—to remember His faithfulness, to remember what He has done for His people, to remember what He has done for you. For instance, Psalm 143 says, “Therefore my spirit faints within me; my heart within me is appalled. I remember the days of old; I meditate on all that you have done; I ponder the work of your hands.” When you’re anxious or fearful, remember that God is the God of Creation. He’s the God of the Exodus. The God of the Promises. The God of the Incarnation. The God of the Cross. The God of the Resurrection. The God of the sent and powerful Spirit. And even go one step inward. What has God done in your own life? When has God shown up in amazing and faithful ways? Remember those times.

Another action that the Psalms call us to do in midst of anxiety and fear is to await God’s future action. Specifically, to await God’s coming Kingdom when all will finally be set right. For example, Psalm 69 begins with, “Save me, O God! For the waters have come up to my neck. I sink in deep mire, where there is no foothold; I have come into deep waters, and the flood sweeps over me. I am weary with my crying out; my throat is parched. My eyes grow dim with waiting for my God.” And ends with, “Let heaven and earth praise him, the seas and everything that moves in them. For God will save Zion and build up the cities of Judah, and people shall dwell there and possess it; the offspring of his servants shall inherit it, and those who love his name shall dwell in it.” This is all kingdom language. God’s future kingdom language. The Psalmist is saying that God will establish His Kingdom. Await in hope of God’s future action.

Lastly, remembering and awaiting implicitly involves living in the present while doing both of these things. This is where the idea of abiding comes in. To abide is to bear or to endure. The Psalms are calling us to abide in the midst of anxiety and fear by remembering God’s past action and awaiting God’s future action. So, when the Psalmists are full of anxiety and fear, their questions are Godward, “What has God done and what will God do?” This is the pattern of the Psalms. They abide in the midst of anxiety and fear by remembering and awaiting.

All in all, I pray that you and I can abide in the midst of anxiety and fear by remembering God’s past action and awaiting God’s future action. Abide. Remember. Await.

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