Joy for the Anxious
Anxiety presents a real struggle for many in the United States. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, "Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S., affecting 40 million adults in the United States age 18 and older, or 18.1% of the population every year."
This is a genuine and present issue, not only out there in our culture, but also within the Church. Anxiety is something I myself have struggled with since I was a teenager. Over the years, my battle with anxiety has improved with the help of pastors, with the study of God's Word, and with the support of godly friends. But for others this isn't always the case. Anxiety is often tethered to loneliness; the struggler feels as though nobody cares for them.
All Things Through Christ
One of the most vital truths in my fight against anxiety came one day as I was reading Philippians. In Philippians 4:4, Paul commands the Philippians and all Christians to rejoice in the Lord. In v. 13, Paul says, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." Sandwiched in-between, we find teaching about anxiety (Philippians 4:5), contentment (Philippians 4:11), and experiential peace (Philippians 4:7). These truths about anxiety, contentment, and experiential peace appear in a context; they are prefaced by the command to rejoice in the Lord, and conclude with Paul's statement that he can do all things through Christ.
From this we can see that when we are rejoicing in the Lord as Paul instructs, we are trusting in the sufficiency of Christ. The more we trust in the sufficiency of Christ over all things, we will rejoice in the Lord. Paul's teaching is not meant to be viewed in isolation, but in context. Paul's teaching about the peace of God made much more sense to me when I spent time looking at the bigger picture.
The Ministry of the Holy Spirit
In the Upper Room Discourse of John's Gospel, Jesus calls the Holy Spirit the Comforter and Counselor (John 14:16, 26; 15:26; 16:7). The Greek word is parakletos, which means "one called to the side of another," but can also mean calling alongside to support one another. The Holy Spirit, the Third Person of the Trinity, has been called to the side of the people of God.
Christians having the Holy Spirit as their Paraclete means that, as the people of God, they have God indwelling them. The Holy Spirit gives Christians peace (John 14:27); love (John 15:9-10, and joy (John 15:11). The Holy Spirit comforts Christians in a troubled world. Through the indwelling Holy Spirit, Christians can live by the Spirit so they will not "gratify the desires of the flesh" (Galatians 5:16). The Holy Spirit produces fruit in the lives of Christians (Galatians 5:22-23) to the glory of God.
The Holy Spirit also teaches Christians and guides them into the truth of the Word, and reminds them of what Jesus has done in His finished and sufficient work. In the Psalms, we frequently see David down in the dumps, and then exulting in the Lord who alone is His rock and refuge, his present help in time of need (Psalm 18:2; 46:1; 62:6; 71:3). By reading the Scriptures, we come to see that many others in the Bible have faced issues with anxiety and depression. For example,
- David (2 Samuel 12:15-23; 18:33);
- Elijah (1 Kings 19:4);
- Jonah (Jonah 4:3, 9);
- Job (Job 2:9; 3:11; 3:26; 10:1; 30:15-17);
- Moses (Exodus 32:32);
- Jeremiah (Jeremiah 20:14, 18);
- and Jesus (Mark 14:14-36; Luke 22:44).
Walking Alongside Strugglers
While the points I've mentioned so far are critical, anxiety strugglers also need fellow Christians who are willing to walk alongside them. And this is a work of the Spirit; the Holy Spirit enables the people of God to walk alongside one another as He walks alongside them. Over fifty times in the New Testament, we are taught to "one another." In Galatians 6:1, we are told to bear each other's burdens and thus fulfill the law of Christ, which is none other than the Great Commandment (Matthew 22:37-40).
As an anxiety struggler, what has been most helpful to me is a Christian who will listen first, ask questions second, and then speak from an understanding of what is happening in my life. The Holy Spirit provides comfort to Christians so that they can comfort and care for one another (2 Corinthians 1:3-5).
We walk alongside one another, ministering the love and care we've received from the Lord. In our local churches, many people are suffering in silence and are not sure they can be open and honest. I was once one of those Christians. But as one of my friends once said, when we come to Church we aren't to come with a mask, but to come as we are to worship the God of grace. Such biblical truth was a powerful reminder to me not to come to Church in disguise, but to worship God wholeheartedly and to share openly with God's people.
The Church everywhere should be a safe place, because we believe that God saves sinners and rescues them through Christ alone. Since that's true, our local churches should be havens to those who suffer, and should walk alongside them in their struggles.
Christ: Our Hope and Confidence
Wherever you are today, you have a great need for Christ. And Christ desires to meet that need, because He cares for you. As Christians, we have One who calls us His friend (John 15:15). He doesn't leave us to ourselves; instead, He promises never to forsake us, because He is our very present help in time of need (Psalm 46:1; Hebrews 13:5; 13:8).
God is with us, not against us. He cares for us, and that helps me to face each day. Such biblical truth also helps me to realize that each day is new, and each day has an end. Many years have gone by, yet the Lord continues to massage these truths deeper and deeper into my life. And the deeper they go, the more joy-inducing they are.
There is so much joy to be had in the Lord, because He loves His Beloved.
Dave Jenkins (MAR, MDiv, Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary) is the executive director of Servants of Grace Ministries, the executive editor of Theology for Life Magazine, and the host of the Equipping You in Grace Podcast and Warriors of Grace Podcast. You can follow him on Twitter (@davejjenkins), Facebook (Dave Jenkins SOG), and Instagram.
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"A Peculiar Perspective on Suffering" by Tessa Thompson
"Living with Anxiety" by Amy Mantavadi
"'Mindfulness' or the mind of Christ" by Matthew Miller
Amidst Darkness: Suffering, Solace, and the Psalms by James Boice [ Download ]
 adaa.org. 2020. Facts & Statistics | Anxiety And Depression Association Of America, ADAA. [online] Available at: https://adaa.org/about-adaa/press-room/facts-statistics [Accessed 17 March 2020].