Loading...
Menu

Anxious? A Booklet of Bible Verses for When You Feel Anxious

Anxious?

 

A Booklet of Bible Verses for

When You Feel Anxious

 

 

 

 

 

Shakespir Edition, License Notes

Thank you for downloading this eBook. This book remains the copyrighted property of the author and may not be redistributed to others for commercial or non-commercial purposes. If you enjoyed this book, please encourage your friends to download their own copy from their favorite authorized retailer. Thank you for your support.

 

 

 

John Zehring

 

 

 

Copyright 2016 John Zehring

 

 

INTRODUCTION

 

When I needed surgery, I was anxious. I know enough about my body, mind and spirit to know that anxiety is a natural response to an upcoming event which possesses a bit of the unknown. As I considered my anxiety, I started to list verses which I would hold onto as my spiritual first aid kit. I guessed rightly that when I would lie on the operating table my mind would be racing and not able to hold on to any single thought. Therefore, I wanted the verses in my spiritual first aid kit to be well-rehearsed and stored in my conscious so that I could draw from them when they were needed most.

 

In one of the most beloved teachings of Jesus from the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus assured his followers “Do not worry about your life…” (Matthew 6:25). In the Revised Standard Version, it is translated “Do not be anxious about your life…” Perhaps behavioral scientists would delineate differences between worry and being anxious. Worry tends to be about something specific whereas anxiety tends to be more generalized. Worried? Anxious? Most of us know the feeling and whichever word is used, the feeling causes discomfort of the spirit. Worry and anxiety affect the mind and the body in unknown and unexpected ways.

 

Hearing anyone, even Jesus, tell you to not worry or to not be anxious does not stop you from worrying or being anxious. However, being reminded of God’s comfort, peace or care helps to sooth an aching soul and to strengthen your spirit for whatever you may face.

 

I thought about making this a longer book with more commentary about each verse. I realized however that the power resides in the verses themselves which need little explanation. I also wanted to provide a quick and easy resource for you to use as an aid to calm, comfort, heal and bring you peace – not just an emotional peace, but the peace that comes by the gift from God.

 

A FEW NOTES ABOUT THIS BOOK

 

All scriptures in this work come from the New Revised Standard unless otherwise noted.

 

I have attempted to use inclusive language wherever possible in the words I have written, although I have not altered the author’s reference to God as “he.” I recognize that the Divine has no gender and for many it may be just as appropriate and accurate to acknowledge God as Mother or Father. Whichever pronoun is used, consider God as a loving parent.

 

Some of this work is adapted from other books or eBooks I have written. My website can be found by searching online for John Zehring books.

 

John Zehring

COVER PHOTO by Donna Taber Zehring

 

One

 

Do not worry… can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? …but strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness (from Matthew 6)

 

Matthew 6:25-34

Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? And why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things; and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. “So do not worry abot tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today.”

 

A behavioral scientist studied what people worried about and found that 40% of what an average person worries about will never happen. 30% of what they worry about concerns things in the past that cannot be changed. 12% of the worry was about criticism by others, mostly untrue, and 10% was about health, which gets worse with worry. Only 8% of the worries were about real problems that need to be faced. Do the math: 92% of worry is wasted.

 

Mark Twain wrote I am an old man and have known a great many troubles, but most of them never happened. Most troubles never happen and most worry is wasted. Worry dissipates energy, muddies focus and zaps vitality. So we are comforted to hear Jesus say Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today.

 

And yet, we continue to worry. Can’t help it. We become anxious. Do not be anxious is the translation by the Revised Standard Version. How can anyone who tells us not to worry or not to be anxious reduce our worry and anxiety? Don’t worry, be happy sang Bobby McFerrin. The sun will come out tomorrow sang Annie. Keep your chin up. Everything will be okay some friends tell us. But that is not enough. Sometimes everything is not okay. So how can Jesus on the Mount saying Do not worry have power to reduce our anxiety? The answer is found in his word but – one of the most important but’s in the bible: But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness. In the King James Version it reads But seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness.

 

When Jesus the master teacher and wordsmith employs a word like first, it is like a classroom teacher giving hints to students that this is key, this is important, you need to know this, this information has priority… which students interpret to mean this is going to be on the test! Jesus used the word first intentionally to emphasize putting first things first.

 

Some have considered this to be the most important verse in the bible. It is at least among the most important for Christians. If this is what you should put first, you do well to understand more about what Jesus meant by kingdom of God and righteousness.

 

The Kingdom of God means the same thing as the will of God. Jesus used a Middle Eastern teaching technique here known as a parallelism. Parallelisms are common in the bible, where one verse or phrase amplifies, explains or clarifies its parallel partner. In the Lord’s Prayer, thy kingdom come, thy will be done… both are parallel statements. They mean approximately the same thing. Kingdom of God means where and when the will of God is done. It does not refer to heaven, as the idea of where you go when you die. God’s will is done on earth as it is in heaven. But what is God’s will? “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” said Jesus (John 14:15). Which commandments? Two: Love God. Love neighbor. Who is my neighbor? The one in need, Jesus explained in the Parable of the Good Samaritan. To review: you seek the Kingdom of God whenever you seek to do God’s will.

 

Righteousness in its best translation means right relationships. Righteousness is one of the most misunderstood and misused words in the bible. It does not mean right moral behavior. Anyway, by whose standards? Who would ever be good enough to require you to adhere to some code of their interpretation of right moral behavior? Righteousness does not mean being goody good. Right behavior is not worthy of being first in God’s book, but seeking to be in the right relationship with God and with all God’s children is most certainly worth seeking first in your life. To Jesus, religion was about right relationships. Strive first to see every woman and man, every girl and boy as a unique wonder, never to be repeated in human history, and to treat each as God’s most sacred creation.

 

Let us return to your worry and anxiety. How can Jesus advising not to worry about your life or your stuff or tomorrow reduce your worry? Because of the “but.” When you strive to seek first to be doing God’s will and to be in the right relationship with God and with all of God’s children, your eyes are not centrally focused upon worries but upon God’s kingdom. When your vision focuses first upon God, worry and anxiety tiptoe off to the side peripheral vision. Even when anxiety remains in the background, you have now chosen to place something more important in the foreground. Now there is something higher in your life than anything over which you worry.

 

Two

 

I lift up my eyes to the hills – from where will my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth. (Psalm 121:1, 2)

 

Psalm 121

I lift up my eyes to the hills – from where will my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth. He will not let your foot be moved; he who keeps you will not slumber. He who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. The Lord is your keeper; the Lord is your shade at your right hand. The sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night. The Lord will keep you from all evil; he will keep your life. The Lord will keep your going out and your coming in from this time on and forevermore.”

 

What is your favorite image of at hills or a mountain? Or, where in nature have you felt close to the Divine? When those views in your eyes or pictures in your memory bring a pleasurable and spiritual feeling then that is the moment to know that your help comes from the Lord.

 

When the writer of this Psalm wanted to feel close to God, he did not go into a building. He went outside. As he gazed at the majestic hills, perhaps he reflected that they existed long before him and they would continue to look the same way long after he was gone. Surrounded by a sense of permanence, perhaps he considered what a tiny speck he was in the universe of God’s creation. And yet, the hills reminded him of the Creator’s personal help and intimate relationship.

 

Have you ever considered your own lifespan and realized that the mountain or the bolder by the roadside existed before you were born and will still be there after you die? Being in the presence of God’s creation in nature puts into perspective our finite journey on this planet. The beauty of our favorite places in nature provides a calming influence to anxiety. These are our happy places and a spiritual center.

 

People have said that it is often when they are outdoors that they feel closest to God. A fly fisherman told about the flowing waters: “That is my real sanctuary.” For some it is the mountains. For others it is by the sea or in the forest, the garden or the lakeside. When our eyes behold the beauty of God’s creation, our souls long to sing “O Lord My God, when I in awesome wonder, consider all the worlds thy hands have made… How Great Thou Art.”

 

Psalm 121 is an outdoors Psalm. Can you imagine the Shepherd tending his flock by day and by night, spending hours looking at the stars overhead to behold the purple mountain majesty in the distance and feeling particularly close to God? When he felt troubled or anxious, he looked up to the hills. His religion came from the hills. That is where Moses went to meet God. Atop that mountain, God said… (Exodus 3:5) “Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.” There is something holy about being in God’s creation:

 

All nature sings, and round me rings,

the music of the spheres

The morning light, the lily white,

Declare their Maker’s praise.

In the rustling grass I hear him pass,

He speaks to me everywhere.

 

Be not misled: your help does not come from the hills. Nature is not your help. Your help comes from God. This is not about nature worship. The hills are not to be worshipped. The hills will not be your help and your keeper, but the hills are reminders that His hand the wonders wrought.

 

 

FROM WHERE WILL MY HELP COME?

 

The first verse raises the question and the second verse answers it: My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.

 

Consider what an amazing contrast these two phrases form: God is as big as the universe and created the heavens and the earth and yet God knows you and helps you. The juxtaposition of these two ideas may make a person wonder if the Maker of the universe might be too big or too busy to give you much help. Do you ever find yourself thinking of God as an overworked customer service representative who cannot possibly handle all of the calls that keep coming in? Or, have you ever thought that your needs or worries were nothing compared to all the major tragedies, wars, famines, earthquakes and droughts to which God must tend? So, you do not want to bother God. This simple but profound Psalm tells that those ideas of God are too small. That is a small conception of the greatness of the Divine. God is big enough to care about all of the planet’s big problems as well as the small things you are worried about. Allow this verse to expand your concept of God’s greatness. God made the heaven and earth and yet your help comes from the Lord.

 

Anxious? Do not fail to turn to God even for what might seem a minor worry. God is big enough to care about the small things that are important to you. Do not forget to ask God for help. A young girl was in her backyard trying to move a large rock while her mother sat nearby watching. The girl tried her hardest but she could not budge the rock. “I can’t do, mom. The rock won’t move.” Her mother replied, “Of course you can, my love. You haven’t asked me to help yet.” When you cannot move the big challenges in your life, do not make the same mistake. Ask for help.

 

When you are anxious, know that the Lord is your keeper and keeps watch over you. And… when you gaze to hills or mountains, say one more time I lift up my eyes to the hills to allow God’s care to soak into your every spiritual pore.

 

Three

 

Take my yoke upon you… you will find rest for your souls. (Matthew 11:29)

 

“Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)

 

You do not need to pull your burden or face your anxiety alone. You have a partner in Jesus, a yokefellow, to share the load. Then the burden is light.

 

One of the main events at county fairs is the ox pulling contest where a couple oxen are teamed up to a wooden yoke. A chain is linked from the ring of the yoke to the cement block load, which is named the burden. The race is to determine how far and how fast the oxen can pull the burden. That is how they plowed the field or pulled the wagon, yoked together, but today the oxen pull the burden to demonstrate their strength and to please the crowd. The burden, usually cement blocks, is so heavy that the two oxen can barely pull it and certainly one could not pull it alone.

 

A modern day carpenter who had visited the holy lands noted that both he and Jesus shared the same trade. He was asked, “What did carpenters make in Jesus’ day?” He replied that they made little furniture – perhaps a table, a trunk for storage or a door. They used little furniture in the way we do today. They did not make houses, for houses were not made of 2” by 6” studs with plywood sheathing. “Mostly,” he said, “they made farm implements. And most of those,” he added, “were ox yokes.” It is likely that Jesus made ox yokes in the carpenter’s shop in Nazareth during the silent years of his teens and twenties. When he invites you to “Come… take my yoke upon you” he is using an image which he has wrapped his hands around.

 

Consider the physics of an ox yoke. There are two holes, one for each animal. That is named the oxbow. The oxen pull together, in tandem, so that the load is shared. Neither could pull the burden alone, but together they can. Imagine if only one animal had to wear this contraption. It would be off-balanced. Uncentered.

 

An iron ring is fastened to the center of the oxbow. A rope or chain is hooked to that. The thing they pull – be it a plow, a wagon or any kind of load – is named the burden. A heavy burden cannot be pulled by one ox alone. A heavy burden cannot be pulled comfortably if the yoke does not fit easy.

 

From his crafting of yokes, Jesus offered one of his most comforting and reassuring invitations: “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

 

Even the sound of his words sooth the restless soul: COMERESTGENTLEEASYLIGHT.

 

COME TO ME. Jesus invites you. He is the source of strength, renewal and refreshment.

 

CARRYING HEAVY BURDENS. Carrying a burden is not necessarily a bad thing. A burden can be a responsibility we shoulder. Or it could be a problem, a worry, a challenge or a difficulty.

 

I WILL GIVE YOU REST. The word rest does not mean a brief coffee break. It does not mean not having to do any work or idleness. We would not want that. Idleness is more boring and stressful than work. Rest here means to make fresh again, to RE-fresh. The rest he gives restores your inner nature, as in Psalm 23 “He restores my soul.” Rest means to make new, as in “if anyone is in Christ, he or she is a new creation… the old has passed away, behold, the new has come.” (2 Corinthians 5:17). When you are without rest, things can feel like they are falling apart. Paul wrote to the Colossians (1:17) that “in him all things hold together.” The rest Jesus gives renews your strength for the journey. In the verse, Jesus did not place limits on how many times you can come to him. He did not say you could come to him only once or twice. Picture Jesus with open arms and upturned palms offering you this invitation whenever you “are weary and are carrying heavy burdens.” Whenever you are anxious. Whenever you are worried. Every time.

 

TAKE MY YOKE UPON YOU. Since the yoke is a metaphor, why not be a bit fanciful with the imagination? Imagine the oxbow with two holes in it. Put your head in one of the holes and look over to see Jesus in the other. You and he pull your burden together, in tandem. The load is shared between you. Alone, you could not pull the weight. You would be off-centered and unbalanced. The load would be too heavy. But yoked together, you and he can pull any burden you have.

 

FIND REST FOR YOUR SOUL. The body needs rest and so does the soul. When your soul is rested and renewed you are able to surge forward with energy, vitality, and a strong spirit. Center your spirit and find your spiritual balance. Jesus gives rest. You do not have to earn it, pay for it, deserve it or do anything except receive it. Ask and it will be given to you. Seek and you will find. Sometimes people find it hard to receive gifts. Learn to receive graciously and accept his gift of rest for your soul.

 

MY YOKE IS EASY. Easy here means well-fitting like a comfortable favorite pair of slippers or clothes in which you relax. The yokes were hand-crafted and tailor-made to fit the ox so they did not chafe or irritate. When you and Jesus are pulling your burden together, the yoke is tailor-made to fit you and feels comfortable. There is the reassurance that together “Jesus and I can do this.”

 

What is the burden that you are worried about right now? What are you anxious about? What is making you weary? Allow Jesus to share your heavy load. Place your head in one side of the yoke and sense his presence in the other side. With him pulling with you, the burden is light and you will have his gift of rest and renewed strength. Jesus will help you pull your burden.

Four

 

My times are in thy hand. (Psalm 31:14)

 

In thee, O LORD, do I seek refuge… Incline thy ear to me, rescue me speedily! Be thou a rock of refuge for me, a strong fortress to save me! Yea, thou art my rock and my fortress; for thy name’s sake lead me and guide me… for thou art my refuge. Into thy hand I commit my spirit; thou hast redeemed me, O LORD, faithful God… Be gracious to me, O LORD, for I am in distress; my eye is wasted from grief, my soul and my body also… But I trust in thee, O LORD, I say, “Thou art my God…My times are in thy hand…” (from Psalm 31)

 

Psalm 31 is a beautiful Psalm for anxious times. It is not just about God but it is a prayer to God. Contained within are some of the briefest and calming powerful prayers.

 

Verse 3 affirms that God is your rock and your fortress and that God leads you and guides you.

 

Verse 5 exemplifies trust and yielding. The short prayer Into your hand I commit my spirit was a child’s prayer before bedtime, much like you were taught to say Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep. Jewish mothers and fathers taught their children to say Into your hand I commit my spirit. How tenderly beautiful and ironic that those are the last words Jesus spoke from the cross. Jesus died with a child’s prayer on his lips.

 

Verse 14 teaches one of the most powerful prayers you could ever pray: But I trust in you, O LORD; I say, “You are my God. My times are in your hand.” Pray those words when you feel anxious: But I trust in you, O LORD; I say, “You are my God. My times are in your hand.”

 

MY TIMES ARE IN YOUR HAND. The most beautiful prayers in the bible are brief and I think this one is best of all. You can pray this short prayer about anything, entrusting into God’s hand whatever it is that you worry about or the one you are caring about. Turn it over to God: My son or daughter is in your hand. My beloved spouse’s situation is in your hand. My health is in your hand. My career is in your hand. This conflict I am facing is in your hand. My financial problems are in your hand. What I am worrying about is in your hand. Make the substitution to place anything into God’s hand. The Psalmist used the poetic phrase “my times” to symbolize that everything is placed into God’s hand. My times… all of me: My past, including my regrets. My present, including my worries, problems and challenges. My future, including my anxiety about the unknown. My times, dear Lord, are in your hand. For as the old credo proclaims: I may not know what the future holds but I know Who holds my future. Place the uncertainty, worry and unknown about the future into God’s hand.

 

An old Christian hymn reminds us to yield your trust into God’s hand:

Have Thine own way, Lord! Have Thine own way!

Thou art the potter, I am the clay.

Mold me and make me after Thy will,

While I am waiting, yielded and still.

 

We like to be in charge of our times. We want the control. We want to be the ones who manage our present as well as our future. But imagine: what if we became yielded? That does not excuse us from planning, preparing or taking action, but being yielded affirms that we are willing and choosing to allow God to be in charge of our future, our present and our times: My times are in Thy hand. When you are anxious, pray: My times are in Thy hand. Then, let go and let God.

 

Five

 

Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. (Matthew 7:7)

 

Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened. Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for bread, will give a stone? Or if the child asks for a fish, will give a snake? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask him! (from Matthew 7)

 

When you are anxious, you are inclined to ask God to help you. When you worry, you ask God to calm your spirit and remove the cause of your worry. Perhaps it feels like you are always asking for something. Will you be bothering God? What if you ask God for something and you do not receive the answer you hoped for? When you consider all the things on God’s plate like wars or famine, what is your worry compared to those? Times of being anxious or worry cause us to wonder: how should we ask God for what we want? What did Jesus teach about asking God to help us?

 

Look at Jesus’ teaching about asking God for something: “Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you.” Ask, Seek, and Knock. Those verbs shape a favorite bible verse. They are imperatives which are verb forms that tell you to DO something. There is a message for you encoded in the verbs. To capture Jesus’ meaning of this verse, we need to know that in Greek there are two kinds of imperative.

 

The AORIST IMPERATIVE issues one definite command. Shut the door behind you would be an aorist imperative. Do it now. An aorist imperative is a command to do something once and to do it in response to the person telling you to do it. If, for example, I said Stand up, that means Stand up right now. If you enter my car and I ask you to please fasten your seat belt, it means do it now.

 

The PRESENT IMPERATIVE issues a command that a person should always do something or should keep on doing something. For example, Always shut doors behind you would be a present imperative. Or, Always lock your car doors. That is a present imperative. Do it now and keep on doing it. If I suggest that you should wear a seat belt, it means you should do so every time you enter any car.

 

In his teaching about asking, Jesus used the PRESENT IMPERATIVE mood of the verb. What he meant is not so much ask, seek, and knock, but to:

Keep on asking. Do not ask once and then stop.

Keep on seeking. Do not seek once and then give up.

Keep on knocking and knocking and knocking.

Keep on keeping on.

 

Do you see how this can change how you pray and how you ask God for what you want? Once we understand that asking, seeking and knocking is an on-going activity, we are therefore encouraged to persist in prayer, to not be discouraged in prayer, to keep on asking, seeking and knocking even when we do not receive an answer in the timeframe we would like.

 

Jesus is telling you here to persist in prayer, to not be discouraged in prayer, to keep on asking, seeking, and knocking. Ask for what you want. Tell God about your worry. God is big enough to care about your hurting finger or stomach ache and there is still enough of God left to care too for those caught in famine, violence or crisis.

 

Do not allow your God to be too small. God is like a loving parent. What loving parent would refuse his or her child a request? The loving parent desires to give to the child. Of course, if a five-year-old asks for a loaded gun, the parent may deny the request for the child’s own sake and safety.

 

Sometimes the answer is “NO.” Sometimes the loving parent knows better. We do not receive everything we ask for. But that should stop you from keeping on to ask.

 

Sometimes the answer is “WAIT.” Trust in God to answer in God’s time. Hope may be in your future, but trust requires waiting.

 

Sometimes the answer is “I’ve got something even better, something that has not even crossed your mind.” Trust God to know what is best for you.

 

Sometimes the answer is “YES.”

 

Always, the One to whom you pray answers with what God knows best in God’s own time and always with love and regard for your highest interests because that is the way it is with a loving parent. That is the picture Jesus drew of God in the Parable of the Prodigal Son, also known as the Parable of the Loving Parent. The story is not so much about the prodigal child but about the loving parent. So, when you are anxious or worried, keep on asking, seeking and knocking. Your beloved God is there.

Six

 

For there is still a vision for the appointed time… If it seems to tarry, wait for it; it will surely come. (Habakkuk 2:3)

 

I will stand at my watch post, and station myself on the rampart. I will keep watch to see what he will say to me, and what he will answer concerning my complaint. Then the Lord answered me and said: Write the vision; make it plain on tablets, so that a runner may read it. For there is still a vision for the appointed time… If it seems to tarry, wait for it; it will surely come, it will not delay. Look at the proud! Their spirit is not right in them, but the righteous live by their faith.” (Habakkuk 2:1-4).

 

Any change in your life can cause stress. Two changes at the same time can triple your anxiety. Three or more changes can cause you to glow white hot with apprehension, fear or extreme worry. A woman accepted a new job and was selling her old house, moving to a new location and buying a new house. Her life was in transition. She felt, she said, like she was living between trapezes. Can you picture hanging in mid-air, letting go of one bar and waiting to catch the next? Might you fall? It is a scary place to be, although also filled with the potential of adventure.

 

For Jesus’ disciples, the time between the Ascension and the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost might be described as living between trapezes. The disciples wondered what they were supposed to do. Jesus answered that they were supposed to wait: “While staying with them, he ordered them not to leave Jerusalem, but to WAIT there for the promise of the Father.” (Acts 1:4). Wait there. That is not the answer they hoped for. Waiting is not likely to pop into the forefront of your mind when facing anxiety about a challenge. Just the opposite. It feels like you should be doing something.

 

Who likes to wait, especially when you are mid-air between trapezes? You want to do something. Humans are naturally inclined to take action, to change, to do… even if it is the wrong thing. Indeed, the New Testament book is not named the Book of WAIT, but the Book of ACTS. Waiting sounds inactive like you do not know what to do, which way to turn or how to respond. Waiting is passive, responsive and reactive. Acting is Proactive.

 

A prophet in the Old Testament named Habakkuk made waiting an art. What he did when he did not know what to do can inspire you when you do not know what to do.

 

Habakkuk was in Judah, the region west of the Dead Sea. They were the best of times, they were the worst of times. Judah had just experienced the exhilaration of the glorious days of great king named Josiah. Perhaps they called it Josiah-mania. His leadership was marked by freedom, prosperity and a great religious revival. You might say they enjoyed a rising stock market, increasing property values and a bustling job market. The future looked bright. They had money, they had time and to what would you guess they turned? Materialism. Idols. Worship of the wrong things. Habakkuk called them to be good, to be righteous. That fell upon disinterested ears. His listeners were apathetic about spiritual matters. Apathy about the spiritual can be a by-product of prosperity.

 

Judah’s old enemy, the Assyrians, had fizzled out. The threat was gone. But there is always an enemy. It almost seems like if a nation does not have an enemy it invents one. Enter the Babylonians, also known as the Chaldeans. Now the media broadcasts a new threat to Judah’s good times. How does Judah respond? Rather than seeking a non-violent resolution to the threat, rather than by turning to communication and searching for a win-win solution, Judah turns directly to violence.

 

The dependence upon violence frustrates Habakkuk as he sees his people going the wrong way. Why, he cries, does violence rule rather than justice? Why do his people worship idols rather than Yahweh? Habakkuk does not know but he is supposed to know because he is a prophet. He is expected to have the answers. He ought to be able to tell people what to do and how to act in those times between trapezes.

 

So Habakkuk goes up on the ramparts to wait for an answer from God. Ramparts are walls, like the wall surrounding a walled city or the wall around a castle. Habakkuk needed direction, did not have a map and so he went up to keep watch on the rampart and to wait upon the Lord: I will stand at my watch post, and station myself on the rampart; I will keep watch to see what he will say to me, and what he will answer concerning my complaint… If it seems to tarry, wait for it; it will surely come.

 

Wait upon the Lord. Action is portrayed here not as one who has the answers but as one who knows how to wait upon God for them. Many of us are not good at waiting. We want to see the time-line, the strategic plan, the goal and the expected outcomes. We want to see more of the map. We want a GPS to display a picture of the road to follow and a voice to tell us where to turn. Waiting upon the Lord? When you are living between trapezes in the air with nothing to hang onto, waiting is not what you have in mind.

 

When God answered Habakkuk, God said “For there is still a vision for the appointed time…

If it seems to tarry, WAIT for it. It will surely come.” Might that be the bible’s message for you? When you are between trapezes, indecisive or uncertain about what to do next, God says to you: Trust me. Have faith. Trust. Wait expectantly. Trust ME. There is still a vision for the appointed time. It may seem like it is not coming according to your timetable, but wait for it.

 

The word “wait” in the bible is a synonym for the word “trust.” When facing an unknown future, remind yourself that waiting and trusting is frequently the best response. In so much of your life you have been taught to take initiative and to act. When between trapezes, learn that it is not completely up to you but to you and God. Live by faith.

Seven

 

Hope… a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul. (from Hebrews 6:19)

 

Irish musician Enya sings lilting and hauntingly soothing songs. Consider a few lines from her song Only If:

If you really want to, you can hear me say,

only if you want to, will you find a way,

if you really want to, you can seize the day,

only if you want to, will you fly away.

 

If you really want to, you can seize the day. Seize is a word that grabs. Seize the day. Carpe Diem, in Latin. Seize is also a word used by the book of Hebrews: Seize the hope. “SEIZE the hope” is not passive. You must seize it to possess it. You must reach out, grab it, grasp it, capture it and catch it. Can you seize hope? Enya and the bible agree: only if you want to, will you find a way. Seize the hope.

 

The anchor is the bible’s metaphor for hope. The anchor of hope increases your holding power in rough seas. An anchor holds firm and, as Hebrews encourages, provides you with hope which is a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul. Anxiety is reduced and worry calmed when your soul trusts in your holding power.

 

The purpose of an anchor is to dig in and hook the bottom. An anchor must hook into something. It is not just a heavy weight. If it did not dig in, the anchor would simply drag across the bottom. The anchor digs in, hooks the bottom and holds on. That is holding power. Your faith gives you holding power.

 

The rope or the line which ties the anchor to the boat is called the rode. Boaters have a name for everything. The important fact about the rode is that it must be long enough. If it is too short, that is, if you drop the anchor straight down from the bow of the boat, it cannot grab and will not dig in and hold. You have to let out more rode so the anchor can get a good grip. It is a matter of angle. If the rope is long enough, the anchor will hold just about anything even in the most severe weather. Even a small anchor can hold vast and immeasurable amounts of weight if you let out enough rode.

 

If your faith does not seem to be helping you in the face of difficulty, what is needed is to let out a little more rode because with enough rode, you have the fortitude to endure anything… to hang in there.

 

Consider three lessons about the holding power of anchors and the holding power of your trust in God to renew your strength.

 

First, believe in your own holding power. Believe the rope will not break. A little anchor which is not much more than a little piece of metal attached to a thin rope does not seem like it could hold the weigh. But it can. Boaters trust the great value of their watercraft to that little anchor. Believe in the strength you have to hold on.

 

A Pastor named Martin Neimoller survived the horrors of Dachau which was one of the Nazi’s worst concentration camps. For three years he was kept in solitary confinement. Years later he was asked this question by an interviewer: “How could you stand it without losing your sanity?” Neimoller answered confidently “A person does not realize how much he can stand until he is put to the test. You can stand far more than you think you can.” You are much stronger than you think you are. You have deep reserves of holding power within you and you also have the added power of strength given to you by God. Believe in the strength you have to hold on. As a leader observed: They can conquer who believe they can.

 

Second, let out a little more rode. Increase your patience. If your anchor is not holding well, it may be that you have not given it enough rode so that the anchor can get sufficient angle to dig in and hold on. It is like the saying “When you come to the end of your rope, make a knot and hang on.” If it feels like your anchor is not holding, let out a little more patience. God’s time is not your time. That is another way of viewing the phrase waiting for the Lord. Patience is almost always rewarded.

“Wait for the LORD; be strong, and let your heart take courage…” (Psalms 27:14)

“Lord, for what do I wait? My hope is in thee.” (Psalms 39:7)

“I wait for the LORD, my soul waits, and in his word I hope.” (Psalms 130:5)

 

Third, let the anchor do the work. I sat on the bow of my day sailer holding the anchor’s rope. The rope twisted around my hand, pulling with its might and cut off the circulation to my hand until I tied the rope to the cleat of the boat. Then, I could lean back, rest and let the anchor do the work. I could let go and let the anchor hold the boat. Let go.

 

To Let go and let God takes a lifetime of practice to learn that you can trust. Tie on your anchor of hope and let go. Let the anchor do the work. Entrust your need into God’s hands. Paul says: “Hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into your heart through the Holy Spirit which has been given to you.” Trust in the Holy Spirit who comforts you, who advocates on your behalf and who blows through you like a fresh wind to give you power beyond your own to cope with life and to thrive. That is hope that you can trust which will not disappoint you.

 

Find a way to seize the hope set before you, the sure and steadfast anchor of your soul. Trust in God to help you increase your holding power.

Eight

 

Mount up with wings like eagles. (Isaiah 40:31)

 

Those who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.” (Isaiah 40:31)

 

At my cottage on the coast of Maine, I have been watching eagles land and take off for a quarter century. I can be sitting next to the tree and the eagle will come and go as if I was not even there. The eagle lands in the tree with a flappy flutter. Then it sits there as it prunes and primps itself. And then… you can see it coming… it starts to get restless, it moves about a bit, and with a ceremonial HARUMPH, it mounts up with wings, jumps out of the tree away from the branches, and leaps heavenward as it climbs to the heights where it will soar.

 

Isaiah must have had an eagle tree too, because he described the behavior perfectly and used it as a metaphor for one of the greatest truths about God and about you: Those who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles.

 

This is a soothing verse for your spiritual first aid kit. In Isaiah’s majestically poetic encouragement, there are three words to contemplate:

 

The word wait is a good substitution word. When you come to the word wait in the bible, substitute the word trust because in many ways that is what it really means: Those who trust in the Lord shall renew their strength. When you are anxious, you need more strength of spirit. When you need more strength, trust in the Lord.

 

The word renew reminds you that you are getting back something you had before. You had more strength before. Now, through your trust in the Lord, you are getting back some of that old energy, enthusiasm and vigor. You are re-newed, made new again. “So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away. See, everything has become new!” (2 Corinthians 5:17)

 

The words mount up are the pre-cursor for what follows. After the eagle mounts up, it leaps outward from the tree and then begins to soar. Perhaps Isaiah is hinting that before you can soar, you must take a leap of faith.

 

Consider a couple soaring lessons for how to mount up with wings like eagles and to allow this verse to lead you to renew your strength.

 

First, get up when you fall down. Many years ago a radio commentator named Paul Harvey had a program where he would tell a fascinating story and conclude: And now you know the rest of the story. Paul Harvey said: Someday, I hope to enjoy enough of what the world calls success so that if somebody asks me, What’s the secret of it? I shall say this: I get up when I fall down. Grab for yourself an attitude of determination that you will get up when you fall down. The book of Proverbs (24:16) says a righteous person falls seven times, and rises again. So, get up when you fall down and spread your wings to soar.

 

Second, practice the AS IF principle. This comes from Norman Vincent Peale, who was Pastor of a church in NYC, a popular author, and on the side, he also taught public speaking. This was his thinking: Act , and that which you practice will tend to be. If, for example, you are fearful but want to have courage, act as if you did have courage and in time you will have courage. Similarly, if you are lacking in enthusiasm, act as if you were enthusiastic and your personality will begin to be just that. To have enthusiasm for life, act as if you did possess it and it will come to you. When you are anxious, act AS IF you knew without a doubt that God’s everlasting arms are beneath you. To renew your strength, act AS IF you are strong and live into your fullest potential.

 

God means for you to soar and to mount up with wings like eagles. God will raise you up on eagle’s wings, bear you on the breath of dawn, make you to shine like the sun, and hold you and hold you in the palm of God’s hand.

 

 

Nine

 

We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28)

 

Don’t worry. All things work together for good.” That ranks as the #1 worst-ever thing you could say to someone who is anxious or hurting. Who are you to assure this? Sometimes things do not work together for good. Evil happens. Suffering is real. Tragedies break hearts. Can you imagine telling someone who is scared to death about their health not to worry because all things will work together for good? They’d have every right to turn about-face and walk away.

 

And yet, Romans 8:28 is one of the most beloved verses in the bible. Why? How can this assurance which sounds so questionable be one of the mountain peaks of the New Testament?

 

This section of Romans (verses 24-28) is about hope. Things were going bad for Lucy in a Peanuts comic strip. Charlie Brown was trying to console her: “Life has ups and downs,” he told her. “Why!” yells Lucy. “Why do there have to be downs? I do not want any downs. I just want UPS. Nothing but UPS and UPS and UPS.”

 

Hope is needed when it is not all UPS and UPS. So Paul writes to the Romans… (24, 25) “For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.” The word wait, as was illustrated in an earlier chapter, is a good substitution word for the word trust. We trust with patience. For in hope we were saved. Saved is one of the most misunderstood and misused words in the bible. In its best translation saved means not only delivered or rescued but “to be made whole.” Does that mean if you hope and trust your illness will be healed? An enlightened health professional explained that ILLNESS is the opposite of WHOLENESS. “Healing occurs,” she said, “when we achieve a sense of wholeness and spiritual well-being, even though the illness or disability may not be cured.” Being healed is not identical with being cured. In hope we are made whole.

 

We hope for what we do not see. That is a faith statement made by a person who believes. We trust that God will make us whole even if we get something different than what we ask for. Such a trust leads to patience, even when the way ahead is unseen. At the end of World War II when allied forces searched houses in Germany looking for snipers, they found these words that a victim of the Holocaust scratched on a basement wall: “I believe in the sun even when it does not shine. I believe in love even when it is not shown. I believe in God even when God does not speak.” That describes hope in what is not seen. Sometimes in our prayers we are made whole but not necessarily given what we ask for. Consider these thoughts of a person who did not get what was asked for:

 

I asked God for strength that I might achieve;

I was made weak that I might learn humbly to obey.

I asked for help that I might do greater things;

I was given infirmity that I might do better things;

I asked for riches that I might be happy;

I was given poverty that I might be wise.

I asked for power that I might have the praise of other people;

I was given weakness that I might feel the need of God.

I asked for all things that I might enjoy life;

I was given life that I might enjoy all things.

I got nothing that I asked for, but everything I hoped for.

Almost despite myself my unspoken prayers were answered.

I among all people am most richly blessed.

 

Romans 8:28: “We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to GOD’S purpose.” The reason you cannot tell another person that all things work together for good is because of the first two words of the verse: “WE KNOW…” We know is a first-person testimony. It is a personal faith statement. You can tell your own story and share your own faith conviction but you cannot impose it upon another. Another can tell his or her own story and make a faith statement, but they cannot demand that you adopt his or her perspective. This is why telling an anxious or hurting person that “All things work together for good” is the worst thing to say. You cannot tell them because of the first two words of the verse: “We know…” It can only be said by the person who holds this trust and knows it to be true for herself or himself.

 

Paul was writing to ordinary people of faith. His audience for this verse was composed specifically of people who believe. People of belief can say this for themselves… “I know… We, who believe and trust in God, we know this…” and isn’t this true for you and for me as Christians? WE KNOW that “all things work together for good.”

 

Do not get confused by that last phrase: for those who love God, who are called according to God’s purpose. It could almost sound like everything works out for some who are in God’s corner but not for others, leading to an erroneous theology that those who believe in God will not have problems or difficulty. This phrase is the Hebrew literary technique known as a parallelism. Both phrases mean approximately the same thing. People who love God ARE called according to God’s purpose. Those who love God pray “thy will be done.” Those who love God say, like Joseph said to his nasty brothers (Gen 50:20), “Even though you intended to do harm to me, God intended it for good…” That is the same kind of faith statement as Romans 8:28 which trusts that God can use everything for good.

 

 

Ten

 

His mercies never come to an end, they are new every morning. (Lamentations 3:22, 23)

 

“My soul is bereft of peace, I have forgotten what happiness is… but this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is thy faithfulness.” (Lamentations 3:17, 22, 23)

 

Have you ever felt bereft of peace? Did you ever experience a dark time when you feel like you forget what happiness is? Anxiety can lead to those feelings. The Book of Lamentations tells of an antidote for those feelings.

 

We wish our lives radiated an inner light. Often it does but in times of high anxiety we may feel more like a dim bulb than a glowing light in the world. We know that faith should provide strength, hope and resilience. We know that in our head but our gut feels otherwise. Darkness threatens. The Bible understands the depths of human pain. Lamentations is a book in the Old Testament named for grieving. Down times. Dark times. End times. Sad times. You might expect a hopelessness about it, but out of the valley emerges light. From this writing about valleys arises a bright light of hope:

 

My soul is bereft of peace, I have forgotten what happiness is You can’t get much lower than that. This is a verse for when you feel terrible.

 

but this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope… Whatever comes next, we are anxious to hear because this hope sounds like it is going to lead somewhere good, perhaps to a source for the inner light.

 

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases… That is it! At first blush, it appears understated. Until you think about it. In your darkest valleys, what could you want more than to know that the steadfast love of God is there for you… For Thou art with me.

 

His mercies never come to an end… If I were writing this verse, I would have chosen a different word, like His blessings never come to an end, His care never comes to an end, His surprises never come to an end or His gifts never come to an end. But mercies? The Hebrew word for mercies comes from a root word meaning to have compassion and, even more deeply, to fondle. That provides an interesting image, that God’s love and compassion for you is so great that God fondles you with affection much like a loving grandmother cannot refrain from hugging and touching with affection the beloved grandchild. That is a source of inner light.

 

They are new every morning… What would it be like to waken every morning and think I wonder what new mercies God is going to give me today? People are always asking What’s new? Here is what’s new: If there are eyes to see, his mercies to you… God’s blessings, God’s gifts, God’s surprises… are new every morning and proclaim that, for you, the best is yet to come. Imagine growing in faith to the point where on the worst of days you hold fast to the hope that the best is yet to come.

 

After considering this source of hope, the writer sums it up with Great is your faithfulness. May that also be the response of those who desire to know God better and to love God more, a shout of praise. This verse is the basis for the hymn:

Great is thy faithfulness, Great is thy faithfulness!

Morning by morning new mercies I see.

All I have needed Thy hand hath provided,

Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me.

In every season of your life, may the light of God be in you. Let us not keep the light to ourselves, under a bushel – which is useless. Useless is not something you want to be. You are never useless when you let your light shine, even on your worst of days. Let your light shine before others, taught the Light of the World, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.

 

The Psalmist knew that we worry, even to the point of tears: “Weeping may linger for the night, but joy comes with the morning.” (Psalm 30:5b). When you are anxious, look ahead to the new morning, for each new day contains the seeds of God’s new mercies. May you recognize that God’s steadfast love never ceases. Then, what follows is: “Great is Thy faithfulness!”

 

Eleven

 

If there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. (Philippians 4:8)

 

Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” (Philippians 4:8)

 

Anxiety has the tendency to frazzle your brain. Some of your thoughts ramble in a myriad of directions while others focus like a laser beam upon a worry. What you think about flows all over the place, sometimes logical and sometimes not. Perhaps it is like waking from a deep sleep where nonsense dreams cross the threshold into reality.

 

When worried we think the worst. Our minds consider worst case scenarios. The brain conjures up ideas for contingency plans. What if? We become nervous about our future. We fear the unknown.

 

Perhaps you want to grab your brain by the shoulders, shake it and tell it to stop thinking all those thoughts. Think about something else, you tell yourself. But what? Answer: look at the Apostle Paul’s list and his encouragement to think about these things. These are good things to think about.

 

A classic book As a Man Thinketh takes its title from the book of Proverbs (23:7, only in the KJV): As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he. Today we would add As a woman thinketh in her heart, so is she. The basic premise is: you become what you think. Think the best, you become the best. Think the worst, you become your worst. A person’s attitude determines his or her success, contentment and joy. Attitude influences self-confidence which then affects relationships with others. Might the content of your thoughts contribute to self-fulfilling prophesy?

 

When you are awake at night, lying on an operating table or in any anxious experience, review this verse in your mind to remind yourself what to think about: Beloved,

whatever is true,

whatever is honorable,

whatever is just,

whatever is pure,

whatever is pleasing,

whatever is commendable,

if there is any excellence and

if there is anything worthy of praise,

think about these things.

 

Paul sets the bar high and encourages you to hold high expectations. His high standards list of things to think inspires you to rise to your highest and best self. Think about what is excellent and you rise to become excellent. Think about what is honorable and you become honorable. Think about what is compromising and you risk becoming less than your best. Think the worst and you see the worst. Think the best and you see the best in others and in yourself.

 

The verse begins with Beloved. This is also our wish and our prayer for those whom we love. We want the people we care about most to think about these things. That takes it out of realm of just good advice. Think about what is excellent. Strive for excellence.

 

Excellence. True. Just. Pure. Commendable. Worthy of praise. That last one seems a bit odd. We wouldn’t mind a bit of praise coming our way. What is worthy of praise? God is. Perhaps shifting the emphasis of our prayers from asking God to praising God changes our way of thinking. The good that people do is worthy of praise. Shifting the emphasis from thinking about the good we have done to the good done by others lifts our spirits to a higher realm. We begin to see that anxiety and worry centers upon our selves and our needs. Thinking about excellence, truth and goodness raises our sights higher.

 

One of the greatest insights that we might obtain is to see that human beings possess the capability to choose what to think about. Thank you to Paul for giving us a good list of things to think about when we are anxious.

 

Twelve

 

The Lord is my shepherd… (Psalm 23:1)

 

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures. He leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul.” (Psalm 23:1-3a, KJV)

 

To say The Lord is my Shepherd is to utter the most powerful faith statement a person can make. Much as the word Islam means submission, a person of faith who declares The Lord is my Shepherd gives himself or herself over to management by Another. To recognize that you are the sheep and God is the Shepherd is a choice which goes against every fiber of our independent natures. Are we not inclined to desire to be the master of our fate and captain of our soul? Yet here in five words is a personal faith statement that yields to the will of another. Jesus taught followers to pray Thy will be done. A beloved hymn by Adelaide A. Pollard goes Have Thine own way, Lord, Have Thine own way. To choose to follow the Shepherd indicates a willingness to be yielded.

 

This is a Psalm for those who desire to belong to the Shepherd, to be owned by God and to be see God as owner and manager. We are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. (Psalm 100:3b). God is not a shepherd. God is my shepherd.

 

In the Psalm, we are likened to sheep. This is not necessarily a compliment. A woman who kept sheep put it ever so simply: “Sheep are stupid,” she said. They are not known for their intellectual acumen. They are nervous, afraid of their own shadow, will eat poisonous weeds, drink polluted water, run off and get lost, become entangled, get stuck upside down, become vulnerable to predators and they butt up against one another in conflict. Sound familiar? Sounds like us. We too make bad choices, engage in self-defeating behavior, lose our way and do not select what is best for our mind, body and soul. We too butt up against others and find conflict even among family or friends. Perhaps we are like sheep. We need the shepherd to guide us, lead us, comfort us and help us to settle down and thrive. Anxious? The Lord is your Shepherd.

 

Sheep have a tendency to roll over on their back and then they cannot get up again. They will flail their legs in vain and in time will die if they cannot get right side up. In shepherd’s language, this is known as being cast. A sheep that gets stuck upside down is a cast sheep. Did you ever have a pet turtle? Same thing happens to turtles: they can get stuck upside down and they cannot right themselves. So, in the case of sheep, the shepherd must remain on the watch for sheep which have become cast. The shepherd turns it back on its legs and then the sheep is off and running again. Note that a cast sheep cannot right itself. Have you felt anxious because you feel stuck upside-down and cannot right yourself? The Lord is your Shepherd. If you have felt cast down, discouraged or disquieted, Psalm 23 is a Psalm for you.

 

I shall not want. This verse can be interpreted to mean “I shall want for nothing.” When the Lord is my shepherd, I shall have everything I need. WHEN the Lord is my shepherd, the Psalmist writes, THEN I shall want for nothing. I shall have the vital things in life that I need and the most important: a relationship with God.

 

He maketh me to lie down in green pastures. Phillip Keller in A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23 explained that when a sheep becomes aware of the shepherd’s presence, it feels safe enough to lie down in green pastures. He wrote “When my eyes are on the Master they are not on those around me. This is the place of peace.” So too for you. Close your eyes and visualize that you are in your Shepherd’s presence. Gaze upon the Shepherd and allow your focus to narrow in on the loving and caring Shepherd, crowding out the worries that create anxiety. Allow yourself to be led to rest. Regular times to lie down in green pastures are necessary for your spiritual, physical and emotional health. You will be more effective in your work and creative living when you are rested. Educators advise students to rest before a major test and studies indicate that rest is more effective than cramming for better exam results. Employers know from experience that employees who are exhausted make more mistakes or stifle their creativity. Anxious? Allow rest to restore you and serve you as a weapon. In a Robert Ludlum thriller novel, the hero of the story Jason Bourne is being chased. Then he recognizes a great truth when he says “Rest is a weapon.” For him, rest becomes as important or perhaps more so than any other weapon for his effective and creative battle against adversity. You too need rest to face challenges as well as to fully embrace an abundant life.

 

He leadeth me beside the still waters. When the best of abundance and God’s blessings are right in front of you, worry can distract you from enjoying the fullness of life. Allow the Shepherd to lead you to still places which provide refreshment for your soul, where your worries or anxieties do not distract you and you drink from the good waters. Simply meditating on Psalm 23 feels like drinking at still waters.

 

He restoreth my soul. You have substantial strength within you, more than you realize until it is tested. When inner strength seems to wane, God gives you back what you had before and more. God REstores your soul to newness. What you once possessed is renewed and infused into your spiritual veins again. Energy is regained for the journey. Look at all the words about God that begin with “re”: Rebuild. Renew. Restore. Repair. Refresh. Reshape. Rekindle. Revive. Recreate. Anxious? What you need most is for your soul to be restored. The Lord is your Shepherd.

Thirteen

 

For thou art with me. (from Psalm 23:4, KJV)

 

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil. For thou art with me. Thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.” (Psalm 23:4, KJV)

 

The majestic poetry of this verse has comforted countless through the ages especially when they faced the final chapters of life. It certainly applies there as well. Perhaps that is why Psalm 23 is thought of as a funeral psalm and is read at just about every celebration of life. But it does not say valley of the shadow of death in the original language. It says valley of dark shadows. The New Revised Standard Version more accurately translates it Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no evil. That is what makes Psalm 23 an everyday psalm. It is not just about valleys of death, but about every valley in daily life. It is in dark valleys that you become anxious. After all, you know neither how long is the valley nor what is on the other side.

 

It is in the dark valley that sheep become closest to the shepherd. We too, when facing dark places, find time alone with the Shepherd. That is the place where our loving and trusting relationship grows deeper and richer. Had it not been for the valley, we might have missed the motivation, out of our need, to reach out to the Shepherd and seek a renewed closeness to the One we follow.

 

The Psalmist never expected to remain in the valley but to walk through it to higher ground where the light shines brighter. In another Psalm, the writer captured what many have faced: “Weeping may linger for the night, but joy comes with the morning.” (Psalm 30:5). You will appreciate that if you have ever tossed and turned the night away in worry, only to awaken at dawn to wonder what you worried about so much. New light and higher ground helps put our worries and our weeping into perspective and move on into the new day. You do not remain stuck in the valley but will get through it. Eleanor Roosevelt put it succinctly: “This too shall pass.” The darkness is followed by the light and you will emerge out of the valley.

 

People of faith believe the same even in a time of dying. We hold that the best is yet to come and even though we cannot imagine or describe it, we know it will be good and that we will be with God in perfect joy and peace. The bible as a whole points to the affirmation that there is life with God after death.

 

I will fear no evil. Evil happens in our world and in our lives. The bible is realistic. Scripture does not sugarcoat life. Jesus spoke about how the sun rises on the evil and on the good and how God “sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous.” (Matthew 5:45). Evil happens. The bible never says there will not be evil. What it does say is that God will be with you – “For Thou art with me” – when you face times of evil. It does not satisfy our curiosity about the question of why evil happens but it does reassure of the Shepherd’s presence and care. That may be the reason why people can encounter bad things happening to them and still hold fast to their faith in God.

 

For thou art with me are the most important five words in the bible. They were Jesus’ final words on earth: And remember, I am WITH YOU always, to the end of the age. (Matthew 28:20). In difficult times, is that not what you want to know most: that God is with you? When you are aware of the Shepherd’s presence you fear no evil. The words spoken in Isaiah (41:10) could just as easily be God’s word to you: Do not fear, for I am WITH YOU, do not be afraid, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my victorious right hand.

 

Thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. The shepherd’s STAFF is a long pole with a bend on the top called a crook. It is, more than anything else, the symbol for the shepherd. The ROD is like a club or a baseball bat to shoo away predators. Shepherds traveled light with a minimum of simple tools which had multiple purposes. The staff was the sign of comfort. The rod was the sign of protection.

 

The shepherd employs the staff to draw sheep together, guide them and steer them on the right track much as God the Shepherd can lead you back on the right track and into the right pathways.

 

The staff is also used to free a sheep when it becomes stuck in the thorns. Remember what sheep wear: Wool. It is easy for the sheep’s coat of wool to become embedded in thorns. As it struggles to free itself, it becomes more deeply entangled. Would you want to stick your hand into a bush full of sharp thorns as a sheep flails about? Your arm would emerged scratched and bloody. So, the shepherd works in the staff’s crook around the sheep’s neck to carefully and gently free it from the thorns, much the way the Shepherd frees you from places where you get stuck. In life, you can get stuck in ways from which you see no way out. Anxious? Know that the Shepherd will come looking for you and can make a way out of no way.

 

The rod was a club used for defense. Perhaps you have seen on TV nature shows how predators will stalk a herd, waiting and watching for a vulnerable or weak one. Sometimes the predators will walk right near the heard, ready to pounce as opportunity provides. The shepherd uses the rod to threaten or push away the predator, bopping it over the head if necessary. The club is a symbol of the Shepherd’s protection.

 

Up to now Psalm 23 has been ABOUT God. Now the Psalmist speaks directly TO God, as do you when you own the credo “The Lord is my Shepherd.” The Psalm becomes the song of your life about your personal I-Thou relationship with your God.

 

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. It is just when you need it most in the valleys of anxiety that fear diminishes and comfort rises from the discovery or rediscovery that God is with you… and God’s rod and staff comfort you.

 

In a way, the entire Bible reaches its summit in this verse: Everything in the Psalm and in the Bible boils down to relationships and most of all to your relationship with God. Here, in this verse, the follower realizes that he or she is in the presence of God. Everything about faith should lead to an encounter with the Divine. When you sense that you are in the Shepherd’s presence, the things that trouble you most settle back into perspective, for you have climbed a little higher on the mountain and seen a little more of God’s face.

Fourteen

 

Thou anointest my head with oil. (from Psalm 23:5, KJV)

 

Strangely enough, this may be one of the Bible’s best verses for when you are anxious. Why? Because it gives you a reason why you should not let the little things bug you.

 

Consider: Why in the world would a shepherd anoint a sheep’s head with oil? Perhaps you are thinking of anointing the forehead with a holy oil to sooth or to symbolize God’s healing touch. Does it suggest for you some sort of religious ritual? The meaning is not so lofty. Rather, it is about bugs.

 

Years ago I moved to Maine and was out mowing the lawn on a calm sunny summer morning. An itch caused me to swat my arm and then another until I looked down to see blood trickling down my arm. What caused it? Black flies. In Maine they are known as “no-see-ums” because they are so small they are hardly seen. Small as they may be, they can be severely irritating and will keep even dedicated fishers off the ponds and ardent campers out of the woods just to avoid them. No-see-ums are what prompts this verse.

 

Phillip Keller who was a sheep herd manager and who wrote a book about the Psalm from the shepherd’s point-of-view says that for the sheep man “summer time is fly time.” Hordes of insects appear with the warm weather. Only people who have kept livestock are aware of the serious problems for animals presented by insects in the summer.

 

Flies are everywhere in the summertime on the tablelands and the worst of these are tiny little bot flies or nasal flies. The nasal flies buzz about the sheep’s head, attempting to deposit their eggs on the damp, mucous membranes of the sheep’s nose. Keller explained that if the nasal flies succeed, the eggs will hatch to form small, slender, worm-like larvae which work their way up the nasal passages into the sheep’s head. They burrow into the flesh and create an intense irritation and inflammation. So, the sheep try anything to get rid of the irritation. They will deliberately beat their heads against trees, rocks, posts or brush. They will rub them in the soil and thrash around against woody growth.

 

If you have ever been chased by a bee or a wasp, you know what it is like to run away from them. Keller told how in extreme cases of intense infestation, a sheep may run itself to death in a frenzied endeavor to gain relief from the aggravation. And so, to prevent this from happening in the first place, the shepherd creates a homemade mixture of oil, tar and spices to spear over the sheep’s nose and head as protection against the nasal flies. It works. The homemade oil keeps the flies from getting up the sheep’s nose. The shepherd anoints the sheep’s head with oil to prevent the nasal flies from bothering the sheep.

 

Up your nose is a yucky picture! Yet, how often do we use the phrase bugged? People bug us. Don’t bug me. Pressures bug us. It does not have to be big stuff. It is the little things that can bug you, raise your stress level and make you miserable. Richard Carlson wrote a book with a perceptive title that says: [+ Don't Sweat the Small Stuff -- and it's all small stuff +]. Indeed, it really is the little things, like tiny bot flies, that can bug you most. Never underestimate the power of the small stuff to get up your nose, under your skin, make you anxious and cause you to worry. The small stuff can kill you… physically or spiritually. Thou anointest my head with oil is a picture of irritations in your life and how the small stuff bugs you and can drive you to distraction.

 

Like sheep, we cannot stop many of our worries. We are not skilled at allowing today’s trouble to be sufficient for today, for we like to add tomorrow’s worries to the mix as well. Like sheep, we cannot help ourselves. We need the shepherd to anoint our heads with oil to keep the small stuff from bugging us.

 

Notice that a sheep cannot anoint its own head. It relies on the shepherd to care for it in this way. That is a good message for you to realize that you need the Shepherd to help you keep the little things from bugging you. You cannot do that for yourself. Not only that, the anointing does not last once and for all. You need it constantly. When small stuff is bothering you, go to the Shepherd. Then, ah, that Divine oil soothes your head, calms your spirit and refreshes your soul so that you feel safe to lie down in green pastures and rest beside still waters.

 

The Shepherd understands how the small stuff can stress you out, make you anxious and bother you. So God anoints your head with oil which transforms your behavior, mood and attitude from distraction to peace. Anxious? When you find it difficult to cope, invite the Shepherd to apply the oil of God’s spirit to your mind. Ask God to help keep the little things from bugging you. When your eyes are upon the Shepherd, they are not upon the little things that bug you.

 

Fifteen

 

My cup runneth over. (from Psalm 23:5, KJV)

 

Cup is a metaphor for your life, for all that you are and all that you have. You have heard how a pessimist says My cup is half empty and an optimist says My cup is half full. A person of faith says My cup runneth over. These are the most powerful four words of gratitude ever written. The New Revised Standard Version translates it My cup overflows.

 

My cup runneth over describes an attitude of gratitude. It could almost sound like the speaker considers himself or herself wealthy. But wealth is not an amount. Wealth is an attitude. Some of the wealthiest people in the world feel poor and some of the poorest feel wealthy. What makes the difference? Adopting the attitude of My cup runneth over. You rarely see a grateful person who is an unhappy person.

 

When you are anxious about serious threats or concerns, it may not seem obvious to turn to gratitude to sooth your worries. And yet, that is when a deep heartfelt gratitude to God may mean the most. If you have suffered a loss, even a serious loss, it is still possible to thank God for what you have not lost, for what you have left or for the good in your past. Doctors and psychologists have studied and written about stages of dying and grief, ranging from denial and anger to a final sense of acceptance. People of faith recognize a stage even beyond acceptance: saying “thank you.” Some have died with the words “thank you” on their lips, affirming that even in the most anxious places “my cup runneth over.”

 

It is possible to become content by saying thank you. Thank others frequently. Watch for opportunities to thank another. Say thank you to God. Rather than beginning your prayers with petitions and asking, begin by thanking. Wake up each morning and go to bed each evening with these words on your lips: My cup runneth over. Adopt these four words for your mantra.

 

To adopt a life attitude of “My rup runneth over” possesses the power to transform. What changes as you repeat these four words? What changes is how you see things. That makes all the difference in the world. Program your routine so that every morning when your toes touch the floor, you begin your day by proclaiming My cup runneth over. It is easy to say it on the good days. Say it especially on your worst days. As you practice this mantra, pledge to see through lenses of abundance rather than through lenses of scarcity. If you change how you see things, you will change your attitude and that will transform your spirit. Worry is reduce and you increase your capacity to manage anxiety when your spirit is transformed

 

After a worship service about thanksgiving, a saintly older woman said ever so sincerely “I’m working on my gratitude.” This was surprising because she already radiated a life of being thankful. She said thank you to everyone. She served as a model of gratitude. And yet, she said she was still working on it! Her comment reminds us that gratitude not something you either have or do not have. Gratitude is not infused into your DNA. Gratitude is something to be worked on. By repeating the words and owning the attitude, it is possible to live into the verse.

Sixteen

 

He said, “Do not be afraid, friend. Peace. Everything is going to be all right. Take courage. Be strong.” (Daniel 10:19)

 

In Daniel 10, in The Message by Eugene H. Peterson, Daniel hears a voice. It does not say it was the voice of God but as we listen we might presume it is. It is spoken through a messenger. The word for messenger in Greek is translated as angel. Daniel writes: “Then this humanlike figure touched me again and gave me strength. He said, ‘Do not be afraid, friend. Peace. Everything is going to be all right. Take courage. Be strong.’ “Even as he spoke, courage surged up within me. I said, ‘Go ahead, let my master speak. You’ve given me courage.’”

 

Consider a phrase from that verse: “Everything is going to be all right.” That is another one of the worst things you can say to a person who is worried or anxious. You and I can never give that assurance to another. How can you ever know that everything is going to be all right? There may be plenty of times when everything does not feel all right.

 

However, might there be times when you hear the voice of God speaking to you… touching you… giving you strength… infusing you with courage… and somehow you hear God assuring you: Do not be afraid, friend. Peace. Everything is going to be all right.

 

This too is a personal faith understanding. However things may turn out, you sense that in the eternal scope of things that everything will be all right. As you hear the still small voice of God speaking to you, perhaps you join Daniel to say “Even as he spoke, courage surged up within me. I said, ‘Go ahead, let my master speak. You’ve given me courage.”

 

Seventeen

 

So we do not lose heart… Even though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day. (from 2 Corinthians 4)

 

But we have this treasure in clay jars, so that it may be made clear that this extraordinary power belongs to God and does not come from us.  We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be made visible in our bodies… So we do not lose heart. Even though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day.  For this slight momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all measure, because we look not at what can be seen but at what cannot be seen; for what can be seen is temporary, but what cannot be seen is eternal.” 2 Corinthians 4:7-10, 17-18

 

 

Paul described four dichotomies for people facing difficulty:

 

FIRST, body and soul. Paul wrote (2 Corinthians 4:7) “But we have this treasure in clay jars, so that it may be made clear that this extraordinary power belongs to God and does not come from us.” The clay jar is your body. The treasure refers to the real you, your spirit or your soul. We have this treasure in clay jars. As we age, we consider how our clay jars might be wearing, weakening or perhaps failing. That is certainly not unimportant but more important is the state and quality of our spirit, for that is what determines a person’s outlook on life. That is our treasure. The King James Version translates it Treasure in earthen vessels. The body is the vessel, however fragile, which contains the treasure which is your inner nature or your soul. It is the inner spirit that determines if you will live with a smile or a frown, with resilience or bitterness, with the will to adapt or the surrender to feeling like a victim. In a Nazi concentration camp he had lost everything: Family, health and possessions. Stripped naked, no shoes, laid bare in the lowest that human beings can sink, Viktor Frankl in Man’s Search for Meaning observed: “Everything can be taken from a person but one thing: To choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s way.” To choose your way is your treasure, even though the earthen vessel may weaken.

 

SECOND, struck down but not destroyed. The second dichotomy is a set of couplets that are THIS but not THAT. Paul writes in verses 8 and 9: “We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed.” That sounds like a punching bag that keeps popping back up. This is real life. Sometimes a person is afflicted, perplexed, persecuted or struck down. Sometimes news is bad, tests are positive, friends betray, families hurt, good attempts fail, plans fall through, decisions turn sour or hopes become disappointed. Stress causes anxiety. Yet if we can grow to that maturity in our spiritual lives where we desire for God to be glorified, we are not crushed, not driven to despair, not forsaken and not destroyed. You may be at your wit’s end, but you are never at your hope’s end.

 

THIRD, our inner and outer nature. Paul wrote “So we do not lose heart. Even though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day.” Teilhard de Chardin wrote “We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience.” The outer and inner nature is a theme for Paul. In another letter (1 Corinthians 15:44b) he wrote: “If there is a physical body, there is also a spiritual body.” Have you ever observed people of faith whose outer nature did indeed waste away, yet their inner nature did not? Instead, their inner nature became renewed. Healthier. Stronger. Their inner nature… their treasure in clay jars… their spiritual body matured even while their physical body neared its conclusion and they became more beautiful than they had ever been. Even as the earthen vessel fails, their spirit declares the hope that the best is yet to come.

 

William Sangster who was a British pastor in the early 1900’s was told he was dying of progressive muscular atrophy. He made four resolutions and faithfully kept them: 1) I will never complain. 2) I will keep the home bright. 3) I will count my blessings. 4) I will try to turn it to gain. It happens that a person’s bodily strength fades away but by faith a person’s soul keeps growing. The suffering which leaves a weakened body may be the very thing which strengthens the muscles of the soul, like the prayer of the poet, “Let me grow lovely growing old.”

 

FOURTH, now vs. eternity. The fourth dichotomy compares now and eternity: “For this slight momentary affliction is preparing us for an eternal weight of glory beyond all measure, because we look not at what can be seen but at what cannot be seen. For what can be seen is temporary, but what cannot be seen is eternal.” Every part of Paul’s writing suggests that the soul goes on to be with God and though it is beyond words or imagination, it will be better than anything that can be described or pictured in the mind. Therefore to Paul, pain or discomfort is nothing compared to what is to come. For Paul the next stage is that we will be with God and it will be good. It is a notable fact that Jesus never foretold his death without foretelling his Resurrection. Such is the cycle of momentary affliction and the eternal wait of glory held by people of faith. So we do not lose heart, for our inner nature and our spirit’s strength is being renewed day by day.

 

Eighteen

 

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. (Psalm 46:1)

 

The theme of the Psalms is that God helps you. This presumes the belief in a personal God. The Psalms affirm that God knows you, hears you, gives you strength and acts in your life. You could therefore also presume that God knows you are anxious. Recognizing that you have a wellspring of refreshing renewal helps you to manage anxiety. Consider some of the majestic mountain peaks from the Psalms which reinforce that God is your refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble:

 

When my spirit is faint, you know my way.” (Psalm 142:3a)

 

“Behold, God is my helper; the Lord is the upholder of my life.” (Psalm 54:4)

 

“O LORD my God, I cried to thee for help, and thou hast healed me.” (Psalm 30:2)

 

“The LORD is my strength and my shield; in him my heart trusts; so I am helped, and my heart exults, and with my song I give thanks to him.” (Psalm 28:7)

 

“In my distress I called upon the LORD; to my God I cried for help… he heard my voice, and my cry to him reached his ears.” (Psalm 18:6)

 

“I was pushed hard, so that I was falling, but the LORD helped me.” (Psalm 118:13)

 

Nineteen

 

This is the day that the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it. (Psalm 118:24)

 

A woman said that every morning when her toes touch the floor, she repeats this verse. That graphic image inspires a new day to start each day: Toes touching the floor. That is when to say it: This is the day that the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it. How you start your day has the power to shape your day, determine your attitude and recognize that this day is God’s gift to you. When you forget, say it as you remember. Let know day go by without this pledge to recognize God’s day and your gladness.

 

Here is an idea: change one word, the pronoun. Instead of “Let us rejoice and be glad” substitute the first person singular: I will rejoice and be glad.” Then, underline and capitalize the word WILL: I WILL rejoice and be glad. In that word is determination. I determine that I will… I choose to… I pledge to… I intend to… With this early morning mantra, there is a commitment to God and to self to find something to be glad about.

 

REJOICE: Determine to find something to be joyful about in this day. No matter what happens in your waking hours, you will find some joy. Not only that, but perhaps you also declare your intent to bring joy to someone else today. At the least, do no harm: do nothing to take joy away from another.

 

BE GLAD: Being glad evokes feelings of pleasure, delight, happiness or cheerfulness. I’m glad you are here today. I’m glad I made that decision. I’m glad to be going on vacation. I am glad to receive that news. Easy to say on a good day. On your worst days, the verse reminds you that you intend to still find something to be glad about. If it does not fall into your lap, search for it. When something really bad happens, say to God: “I am glad for…”

 

No book of the bible uses the word “glad” more than the Psalms. There were plenty of things which made the Psalmist glad, but one of the writer’s greatest contributions was to show that people can find gladness from their relationship to God. Notice how the Psalmist describes joy coming from “in you” or “in him”: I will be glad and exult in you. (Psalm 9:2). Our heart is glad in him, because we trust in his holy name. (33:21)

 

THIS IS THE DAY: The first words of the verse remind us to live in the present and to not miss the moment. It is a summary of the bible’s overall message about where you should live: not in the past, not in the future but live in the present. This day.

 

A woman tended to live in the past. She spoke to her adult children about “when we grew up,” fondly recalled her high school experiences and talked frequently about when her brother was in the war. There was a warm sentimentality as she clung to happy memories of the past. She even subscribed to a magazine title Reminiscent. Some have tilted in the other direction tending to live in the future. To them the only purpose of today is to prepare for tomorrow. Perhaps tomorrow they will be glad. Perhaps tomorrow will bring joy. If they work harder today, maybe tomorrow will bring satisfaction. Learn from the past and appreciate it, but do not live there. Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it, wrote George Santayana. The past is a treasure, but THIS is the day that the Lord has made. Rejoice and be glad IN IT. Plan for the future and prepare for it, but do not live there. Failing to plan is planning to fail. People of faith believe that the best is yet to come. The future is a hope, but THIS is the day that the Lord has made. Rejoice and be glad IN IT.

 

THIS is the God’s day. The Psalmist employed a similar phrase in Psalm 24: The earth is the Lord’s and all that is in it (Psalm 24:1a). The earth is the Lord’s. The day is the Lord’s. Possessive case. God created your day and everything that God created, God pronounced good. If God is the owner of time and the possessor of the day then that makes us stewards of the day. We are entrusted to care for and to manage well that which belongs to God in the first place.

 

A Native American explained that every time the Indian dances, he or she touches the earth twice: one light step gently tapping the earth signifies that the ground is holy. Then the Indian steps to the ground in dance with the other foot. When your toes touch the floor as you emerge from sleep, touch the ground gently and repeat the beautiful pledge: “This is the day that the Lord has made. I will rejoice and be glad in it.”

 

Twenty

 

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid. (John 14:27)

 

The New Testament word for peace (eirene) is a sense of inner peace. Synonyms include: harmony, tranquility, quietness, rest or to be set at one again. To feel peace is to sense that everything is okay. Is that not the medicine we crave when feeling anxious… to possess a sense of peace within?

 

Where or how can you get that peace? Begin by realizing where you cannot find the pathway to that peace. It does not come from a book, including this one. It is not available from motivational speakers, infomercials, YouTube presentations or internet searches. Getting peace in your life is not a system to be learned, not a secret to be discovered, not tips to glean out of the “how to” section of a magazine or a pop-psych sermon.

 

So how is peace gained? Jesus said peace is his gift to you: My peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Three times in one verse he uses the verb: give, give, give. Jesus’ peace comes by gift.

 

Paul called this (Philippians 4:7) the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, which guards your heart and your mind in Christ Jesus. It is in dark valleys or times of transition when we worry and need Jesus’ gift of peace as a salve to sooth our hurting places.

 

Horatio Spafford knew that peace. A successful attorney from Chicago, his young son died, his business ventures burned in a fire and then his four daughters drowned when the S. S. Ville du Havre sank off the coast of Newfoundland on their way to Europe. Spafford left immediately to be with his bereaved wife. When passing over the spot where is daughters had perished, Spafford stood at the rail as he passed over the watery grave of his beloved four daughters and on that spot, took out his pen and notebook and he wrote the words to the hymn Peace Like A River: “When peace like a river, upholds me each day, When sorrows like sea billows roll, Whatever my lot, You have taught me to say, ‘It is well, it is well with my soul. It is well… with my soul… it is well, it is well, with my soul.”

 

Spafford’s hymn amplifies the message of Christ’s gift of peace even in the most troubled of events: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.”

 

Twenty One

 

If any of you is lacking in wisdom, ask God, who gives to all generously and ungrudgingly, and it will be given you. (James 1:5)

 

Anxious? Perhaps one of the leading causes for anxiety is indecision: I don’t know what to do. Will I have the wisdom to make the best choice?

 

Choices. How to respond when there is conflict? Which purchase to make, job to take or doctor to select? When caught in a bind, which way out? How to proceed with a friendship, family matter or love relationship? Financial choices. Health choices. Lifestyle choices. The list is endless and when faced with a decision, anxiety raises its head. A multiplier effect can make things worse. Two important decisions triple the anxiety. Three major choices and you can glow white hot with worry and anxiety.

 

A beloved prayer known as the Serenity Prayer helps to place choices into perspective:

God, give me grace to accept with serenity the things that cannot be changed, courage to change the things that should be changed, and the wisdom to distinguish the one from the other.

 

GRACE TO ACCEPT. There is healthy catharsis in being able to say “It is what it is.” That is a statement of acceptance of reality. Things are not going to change so the only alternative is to accept them with serenity. The prayer adds the word grace. Perhaps you are familiar with the theology of God’s grace. God gives grace. It is a gift. It cannot be earned, deserved or bought. Only accepted. God gives you grace, forgives you, loves and accepts you as you are, warts and all. A second principle of grace is that, out of gratitude for God’s grace, we are led to want to give grace to another. They do not deserve it, perhaps even have not asked for it but we give it as our gift – costly as that may be. Giving grace to another is God-like behavior. Then there is a third principle: to give yourself grace. Give yourself a gift. Accept yourself, like yourself, forgive yourself and enjoy yourself as you are, imperfections and all. Then accept with serenity the things in your life that cannot be changed.

 

COURAGE TO CHANGE. A ship in the harbor rests safe, but that is not why they build ships. There are times you know you must act, make a choice and leave the harbor to sail into your future. Mark Twain said “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails.” The prayer petitions God to give you the courage to do what needs to be done.

 

WISDOM TO DISTGUISH. This is the anxiety producer. Will I have enough smarts to make the right decision? What should I do? Ask God. That is what the book of James recommends: “If any of you is lacking in wisdom, ask God, who gives to all generously and ungrudgingly, and it will be given you.”

 

Consider the gifts from God contained in this prayer: Wisdom. Grace. Courage. Those are weapons to battle the demons of anxiety when facing choices and decisions.

Twenty two

 

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control. (Galatians 5:22, 23, RSV)

 

This verse contains Paul’s list of nine characteristics known as the fruit of the Spirit. When God’s spirit dwells within a person, these are the outcomes and God-like behaviors.

 

These characteristics are not gifts. You are not born with them. They are goals. If you desire God’s spirit to dwell within you, these are the fruit that your tree of life yields.

 

What does that have to do with being anxious? Anxiety produces the tendency to become self-absorbed. We are thinking mostly about our self, our needs, our worries and our hopes for the best possible outcome. That is natural but we need something to draw us out of ourselves to a higher plain. We need God’s Holy Spirit. We value God’s Spirit to lift our sights to desire the highest and best goals to which we can aspire. When pursuing those goals, we become less self-absorbed and therefore our anxiety is reduced because it is replaced with a higher activity.

 

LOVE. There are numerous words for love in the bible, but this one is agape which is translated “to truly desire the highest and best interests of another.” To love others, even enemies, draws us out of our anxiety to the higher aspiration of becoming other-directed.

 

JOY. A man recuperating from surgery said “I can’t say that I am happy but I can say that I have joy.” Do you see the difference? The joy comes from God. Happiness comes from, in its root meaning, chance. Happenstance.

 

PEACE. We pray for peace among all peoples, but the word used in the New Testament describes the inner peace that comes as a gift from God… which reduces anxiety.

 

PATIENCE. This is patience with people. It is like when you want to tell another “be patient with me.” Give that kind of patience to another.

 

KINDNESS. The Dali Lama said “Kindness is my religion.” We suspect there is much more to his religion, but this saying tells. If a person is not kind, God’s spirit does not appear to dwell within. When another is kind, God’s light radiates out. There may be no more important behavior for spiritual people than to be kind to everyone.

 

GOODNESS. A well-known successful musician was asked “In light of all your accomplishments, what do you most want to be known for?” Surprisingly this man of faith answered “I just want to be a good person.” Aspiring to be a good person supersedes anxious worry.

 

FAITHFULNESS. Have you ever wondered if you have not been good enough to suit God? Perhaps you fret over feeling that your accomplishments have been meager or that you have not made much of a difference. Relax. What God wants most of you, like any loving parent, is your faithfulness. God is not measuring your successes. What God desires is for you to be God’s faithful child. Love, communication, obedience, wanting to be together – those are a faithful child’s desires to please the parent. Mother Theresa said “God does not call us to be successful. God calls us to be faithful.”

 

GENTLENESS. Be gentle with your words to others, especially to your family, friends, neighbors and co-workers. Gandhi said that gentleness is an attribute of the strong. Only the strong can be gentle.

 

SELF-CONTROL. This is about ego. Keep the ego under control. Everyone has needs to be recognized, valued, cherished and given attention. When anxious, our ego needs can jump out of control. That is a time to ask for God’s spirit to fill you, so that you choose the right goal of self-control.

 

Perhaps the concern which worries you is real and pressing. You are naturally worried. You have reason for some anxiety. But at a time like that, pursue God’s spirit within. Ask for it. Meditate upon it. Choose it. The object of your worry is still there but by seeking to live by the fruit of the spirit, the object becomes overshadowed by your bigger care: to choose a life marked by the fruit of God’s spirit.

 

Twenty three

 

Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. (Matthew 10:29)

 

Jesus was a master teacher. He employed object lessons, like the illustration of two sparrows being so insignificant that they sell for a penny. He also used Middle Eastern teaching techniques like hyperbole which is a dramatic overstatement to point to a great truth. When he spoke of a camel passing through the eye of a needle (a vast exaggeration) or cutting off your hand or plucking out your eye if it causes you to sin (not to be taken literally!), his hyperbole was meant to emphasize how important was his teaching point. That is the case with the sparrow.

 

If you were to walk among birdfeeders with sparrows darting to and fro, you admire their beauty and are glad to be in their presence and listen to their singing. Were you to gaze upon a sparrow perched upon a pine branch, you might reflect upon Jesus’ teaching, for this beautiful little creature is here today and gone tomorrow and yet not one sparrow will fall to the ground apart from your Father. The bigger point, of course, is that if God so cares for his tiniest creature, how much more will God care for you. That is what he added in Matthew 6:26: “Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?” You matter to God. Even the smallest things which cause your anxiety fall within God’s care. God is big enough to know every creature and every person, to love them and to care about their needs and their worries.

 

This verse led Civilla Durfee Martin to pen one of the most beautiful religious songs: His Eye Is On The Sparrow:

 

[Why should I feel discouraged, why should the shadows come,
Why should my heart be lonely, and long for heav’n and home,
When Jesus is my portion? My constant Friend is He:
His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me;
His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.]

Refrain:
[I sing because I’m happy, I sing because I’m free,
For His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.]

 

“[Let not your heart be troubled,” His tender word I hear,
And resting on His goodness, I lose my doubts and fears;
Though by the path He leadeth, but one step I may see;
His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me;
His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.]

 

Twenty four

 

If you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you’. (Matthew 17:20b)

 

Jesus himself never actually moved a mountain. He is again using the teaching technique of hyperbole to illustrate a great truth which is that if you have even the tiniest seed of faith you can move mountains of challenges or opportunities.

 

The mustard seed is the smallest of seeds. You do not need the towering faith of a saint or the mature wisdom of a life tempered by experience. It is enough to come to Jesus with whatever faith you have to trust that it is sufficient for God to use your faith to give you the attitude to move mountains and to believe that nothing will be impossible for you.

 

The bible’s attitude is a can-do attitude. That is how David slew Goliath. He believed he could. In 2 Samuel (22:30), David said “By you I can crush a troop, and by my God I can leap over a wall.” (2 Samuel 22:29-33). This again is exaggeration to illustrate the point that by your God you can embrace the attitude to leap over walls, even walls of anxiety or worry.

 

Look at the bible’s encouragement about possessing a can-do attitude:

I sought the LORD, and he answered me, and delivered me from all my fears.” (Psalm 34:4)

I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:13)

If God is for us, who is against us?” (Romans 8:31b)

“With God all things are possible.” (Matthew 19:26)

“…all things are possible to the one who believes.” (Mark 9:23)

“With God nothing shall be impossible.” (Luke 1:37)

 

Many figures through history embraced this same attitude:

Ralph Waldo Emerson, quoting a Roman general, wrote “They can conquer who believe they can.”

Henry Ford observed: “If you think you can or can’t, you are right!”

British essayist William Hazlitt wrote “If you think you can win, you can win. Faith is necessary to victory.”

John Stuart Mill philosophized “One person with a belief is equal to a force of ninety-nine who have only interests.”

Eleanor Roosevelt kept the faith that “The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.”

 

Over the doorway to a church hangs a sign which says: “We believe that the power behind us is greater than the task ahead.” That is in the spirit of Jesus’ teaching about faith. Adopt that attitude that “I believe that the power behind me is greater than the task ahead.”

 

Your attitude may not eliminate the potential threat which causes you to be anxious but it most certainly will help you to learn to manage your anxiety. Perhaps that is the key, not to eliminate it but to manage it. You can do it, with only a mustard seed’s worth of faith.

 

 

“I believe that the power behind me is greater than the task ahead.”

 

  1. # #

 

Bible Verses for When You Are Anxious

 

Do not worry… can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? …but strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness (from Matthew 6)

 

I lift up my eyes to the hills – from where will my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth. (Psalm 121:1, 2)

 

Take my yoke upon you… you will find rest for your souls. (Matthew 11:29)

 

My times are in thy hand. (Psalm 31:14)

 

Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. (Matthew 7:7)

 

For there is still a vision for the appointed time… If it seems to tarry, wait for it; it will surely come. (Habakkuk 2:3)

 

Hope… a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul. (from Hebrews 6:19)

 

Mount up with wings like eagles. (Isaiah 40:31)

 

We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28)

 

His mercies never come to an end, they are new every morning. (Lamentations 3:22, 23)

 

If there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. (Philippians 4:8)

 

The Lord is my shepherd… (Psalm 23:1)

 

For thou art with me. (from Psalm 23:4, KJV)

 

Thou anointest my head with oil. (from Psalm 23:5, KJV)

 

My cup runneth over. (from Psalm 23:5, KJV)

 

He said, “Do not be afraid, friend. Peace. Everything is going to be all right. Take courage. Be strong.” (Daniel 10:19)

 

So we do not lose heart… Even though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by day. (from 2 Corinthians 4)

 

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. (Psalm 46:1)

 

This is the day that the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it. (Psalm 118:24)

 

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid. (John 14:27)

 

If any of you is lacking in wisdom, ask God, who gives to all generously and ungrudgingly, and it will be given you. (James 1:5)

 

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control. (Galatians 5:22, 23, RSV)

 

Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. (Matthew 10:29)

 

If you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you’. (Matthew 17:20b)

 

About the Author

 

John Zehring has served United Church of Christ congregations for twenty-two years as Senior Pastor in Massachusetts (Andover), Rhode Island (Kingston), and Maine (Augusta) and as an Interim Pastor (Arlington, MA). Prior to parish ministry, he served in executive administration at colleges and a theological seminary for more than two decades. He is the author of more than two dozen books and eBooks.

 

 


Anxious? A Booklet of Bible Verses for When You Feel Anxious

A booklet of two dozen bible verses and explanations for when you feel anxious. The verses form a spiritual first-aid kit for times of anxiety or worry. Store them in your consciousness for when you need them most. Feeling anxious causes discomfort of the spirit and affects the mind and the body in unknown and unexpected ways. Hearing anyone, even Jesus, tell you to not worry or to not be anxious does not stop you from worrying or being anxious. However, being reminded of God’s comfort, peace or care helps to sooth an aching soul and to strengthen your spirit for whatever you may face. The power resides in the verses themselves which need little explanation. This work provides a quick and easy resource for you to use as an aid to calm, comfort, heal and bring you peace – not just an emotional peace, but the peace that comes by the gift from God.

  • ISBN: 9781370139644
  • Author: John Zehring
  • Published: 2016-08-18 21:05:15
  • Words: 19869
Anxious?  A Booklet of Bible Verses for When You Feel Anxious Anxious?  A Booklet of Bible Verses for When You Feel Anxious