Living By Faith AND Living With Anxiety

 

When I was a child, I was terrified of thunder and lightning. During a thunderstorm, you could count on finding me hiding behind the couch or under the dining room table. My parents would attempt to comfort me, gently reassuring me that everything was okay, but the storm was so loud and so powerful and so real that I could not begin to find comfort. The only thing that I could feel was the fear from the storm.

Living with anxiety is like living in an invisible thunderstorm. It is so loud and powerful that it can make it difficult to focus on anything else, and yet no one else can see it. Sometimes anxiety rolls in slowly; a fearful thought that creeps its way to the forefront of your mind. Other times, the anxiety comes on full force without any warning or trigger. We don’t always get to predict what might set our anxiety off and put us in the center of the storm; we only know that our life depends on it passing.

Our knowledge of God tells us He is bigger, stronger, faster, and louder than any storm. Yet, despite that knowledge, we may still feel anxious. Knowing we are safe is not the same as feeling that we are. The question then arises: does feeling anxious indicate a lack of faith?

In the first chapter of the book of Joshua in the Bible, we see the relationship between faith and anxiety play out between God and Joshua. Joshua is instructed by God to replace Moses as Israel’s leader. He’s got some big shoes to fill. God also instructs Joshua to lead Israel into the Promised Land. This is a huge task to undertake and reading on in the chapter, you sense the weight Joshua is feeling.

Three times, God tells Joshua to be “strong and courageous.” Even the Israelites can sense the weight of what Joshua is feeling. They, too, tell Joshua to be strong and courageous, just as God has. Despite hearing God’s voice speaking words of comfort over him, Joshua still needed to be comforted by the people of Israel. Did Joshua not trust God the first, or second, or third time He reassured him? Did Joshua lack faith?

If only our emotions operated like Google maps, we could get clear instructions on how to go from one feeling to the next. When we feel anxious, we could easily take the roads of prayer and faith to help us reach peace. But that is not how anxiety works in the real world. And that’s not how emotion works in the Bible. In reality, navigating our emotions looks more like the people of Israel wandering through the desert. The trip from Egypt to the Promised Land should have taken days, and yet it took decades. For forty years, Israelites navigated the wilderness. But throughout the journey, God was with them, instructing them, providing for them, comforting them.

Living by faith doesn’t mean feeling peace all the time. Living by faith means bringing our faith into our anxious moments. So how do we live by faith while living with anxiety? There are several ways, but a few worth mentioning:

Presence. The storm of anxiety is so loud and so powerful that it can become all we see. In these times, we need a lighthouse. A lighthouse’s main function is not to take a ship out of the storm, but to provide a sign that the ship is closing in on something stable. Try to slow your breathing and repeat these words: “God, You are with me and I am with You.” It may not immediately take away the chaos of the storm, but it can be a sign that you are always closing in on something, or someone, stable.

Comfort. The Bible is full of God’s comfort. Just like my parents telling me everything was okay didn’t take away my fear of the thunderstorm, you can’t pray the right prayer or read the right verse to make the discomfort go away.  That isn’t how God or the Bible works. But the Bible is full of reminders of how God sees you and how much He loves you. Even though the storm remains, so does God’s love. You can refer to Psalm 23 for more details that you may find comforting.

Provision. We may not be able to recognize God’s provision while we’re busy navigating the loud and powerful storm of our anxiety. But once the storm has passed, or in times of calm, it’s helpful to recognize the ways God provided for you in a time of anxiety. Maybe it was a phone call from a friend. Maybe it was a quiet place at work for you to ride out the storm. Or maybe it was the availability of your therapist. Whatever it looks like, reflecting on those moments of provision when they come is an opportunity to praise God, which is what living by faith is all about.

Just as God was with Moses, Israel, Joshua, David, Solomon, Isaiah, Peter, Paul, and many more throughout the Bible in their fear and anxiety, God is with us too. The Bible is full of scripture about turning to God in our times our fear because He knew we would need this.  Take comfort in knowing that especially in the midst of our anxiety, He is always there, instructing us, providing for us, and comforting us. “Cast all of your anxieties on him, because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7).

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