Biblical Counseling Coalition | The Divine Remedy for Anxiety (2022)

Biblical Counseling Coalition | The Divine Remedy for Anxiety (1)

By: Pat Quinn

  • June 4, 2015
  • Anxiety, Biblical Counseling, Fear, Mood Disorder

A Word from Your BCC Team: You’re reading the first of a several-part Grace & Truth blog miniseries on Biblical Counseling and Anxiety. In today’s post, Pastor Pat Quinn diagnoses the spiritual root causes of anxiety and then offers God’s remedy for anxiety.

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Anxiety Is Pervasive and Complex

In my own counseling ministry, anxiety is one of the “big three” issues I deal with most frequently (along with depression and marital counseling/conflict resolution). The pervasiveness of anxiety in our country is well documented. The Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) reports that anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S. According to studies, 40 million adults over 18 are reported to suffer from anxiety disorders like Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, Panic Disorder and Agoraphobia, Posttraumatic Stress Disorder, Social Anxiety Disorder, and Specific Phobias.

Helping people who struggle with anxiety is challenging because it often develops from multiple influences such as genetic predisposition, family and social relationships, traumatic experiences, and spiritual problems. While we always need to keep biological and social influences on the table, let’s think about some possible underlying spiritual contributors to anxiety and then look at a passage that points to a divine remedy.

Level 1 Spiritual Influences on Anxiety

While the specific influences and manifestations of anxiety vary greatly from person to person, I have found a few common spiritual issues that often underlie problems with anxiety. We’ll call these three issues level one influences.

  • Idolatrous desires: As biblical counselors we are all familiar with how God-substitutes (Jeremiah 2:13; Ezekiel 14:1-6; James 4:1-10) can lure the heart away from the Living God and replace love of God and neighbor with false worship and manipulation of others. It is also true that these heart idols often fuel fear and anxiety. I have seen people shake with terror in my office or describe panic attacks because they either feared they wouldn’t attain what they craved or might lose the dream life they had.
  • Unbelief in God’s character and promises: When our hearts defect from an active trust in God’s wise and loving sovereignty over our lives, many of us become control freaks manipulating everyone and everything to seek our own “way, truth, and life.” The underlying, anxiety-fueling, false belief seems to be, “I don’t sense God doing much for me so it’s up to me to pursue my own happiness and keep all the plates spinning…but I can’t!”
  • Prideful self-righteousness: Attempts at self-justification often lead to anxious striving, fear of failure, defensiveness, inability to rest in Christ’s righteousness, and feelings of inadequacy and condemnation. Self-righteousness is the default mode of the human heart (Romans 10:1-4) and can lead to anxious questions like, “Is my faith strong enough?” “Have I done enough?” “Is God pleased or disappointed with me?” “Am I genuine or phony?” “Will all this end well?”

Counseling Question: What other underlying spiritual influences on anxiety have you discovered in yourself or others?

Level 2 Spiritual Influences on Anxiety

It’s obvious that these three level one issues are forms of false worship. And false worship inevitably leads to what I’m calling level two—the deep hidden fear of the wrath of God.

Romans 1:18-32 shows how this plays out in three parts. First, we suppress the truth about God, exchange the truth about Him for a lie, and worship God-substitutes. Second, in His wrath God gives us up to lusts of the heart, dishonorable passions, a debased mind, and evil behavior. Third (and most relevant to anxiety), Paul says we instinctively know that all this deserves death.

This means that underneath all our other fears and anxieties and all their various causes, deep down we are terrified of God’s condemnation and sentence of eternal death. Even non-religious people who don’t consciously fear God fear death. Author Jack Kerouac wrote:

“I am young now and can look upon my body and soul with pride. But it will be mangled soon, and later it will begin to disintegrate, and then I shall die, and die conclusively. How can we face such a fact, and not live in fear?”

Believers know even more terrifying truth: death is “the wages of sin,” is “the final enemy,” and leads to “the punishment of eternal destruction away from the presence of the Lord.” John summarizes this succinctly by writing, “For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love” (1 John 4:18).

Counseling Question: How can we clearly and winsomely help people see the relationship between anxiety and the fear of judgment?

The Divine Remedy in 2 Timothy 1:1-10

Now we will look 2 Timothy 1 to see God’s remedy for the misplaced desires, unbelief, self-righteousness, false worship, and fear of death that fuel anxiety.

  • Paul reveals God’s promise of life and offer of grace, mercy, and peace through the gospel (2 Timothy 1:2). The fact that God promises life through the “appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 1:10) gives good reason for counselees to fight fearful unbelief and trust in the character and promises of God, which are all “yes” in Christ (2 Corinthians 1:20). The gospel of the incarnation, life, death, resurrection, and ascension is historically reliable, theologically clear, and practically powerful. The truth that God’s sovereign care for us begins “before the ages” (2 Timothy 1:9) and leads to “immortality” (2 Timothy 1:10) give good reason to surrender control and rest in God’s steadfast love. If He is sovereign over eternity past and eternity future, He is certainly able to work all things in our present lives for good (Romans 8:28).
  • Our idolatrous desires are targeted by God saving us and calling us to “a holy calling” (2 Timothy 1:9). The connection between a holy calling and the deep satisfaction and joy we crave may not be immediately clear. Our craving for joy and life often leads us to believe we cannot be satisfied by Christ alone but need to supplement Him with various worldly pleasures. We have already seen that this often leads to anxiety about gaining and holding on to what we believe we can’t live without. This is remedied by seeing how the holiness God calls us to and our ultimate happiness in Him are related. Jonathan Edwards helps us see this connection: “He imparts of his own beauty….They are partakers of God’s holiness (Hebrews 12:10). So God communicates to his people of his own happiness(quoted by Dane Ortlund in Edwards on the Christian Life, p. 30). I love the connections between God’s holiness, beauty, and happiness and how He communicates these to us through the gospel. This means that we and our counselees can learn to be satisfied in that what we need and desire the most we can never lose—Jesus Christ. The resulting joy and security are great antidotes to anxiety.
  • Much anxiety is connected to the nervous striving of works-righteousness. We fear that our good deeds don’t outweigh the bad, that we never seem to measure up, that we’re not as spiritual or successful as others, and that our shabby lives may one day be exposed and condemned. How liberating are Paul’s words that God “saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ before the ages began” (2 Timothy 1:9). Our salvation and hope do not depend primarily on our own performance but on the grace of God’s eternal election and Christ’s perfect performance on our behalf. We can answer the anxious questions, “Have I done enough? Am I secure?” with, “No, I haven’t done enough, but Christ has—in my place. I am eternally secure in the grace, mercy, and peace of God.” Then, in the freedom of our eternal election and perfect justification, we can get on with loving God and others. And John tells us that “perfect love casts out fear” (1 John 4:18).
  • What about the final enemy—the fear of judgment and death? This rightly makes us tremble. But the trembling of fear can give way to the trembling of joy as we hear Paul tell us that by His appearing Jesus “abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel” (2 Timothy 1:10). Our worst problem—the wrath of God toward our sin—has been finally and irrevocably solved. Jesus abolished death through the cross and brought eternal life in the Spirit through His resurrection. In their song See What a Morning, Keith and Kristin Getty proclaim:

And we are raised with him,
Death is dead, love has won, Christ has conquered;
And we shall reign with him,
For he lives, Christ is risen from the dead!

So, Peter exhorts us, “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:6-7). In the light of this glorious gospel, casting all our anxieties on Him makes wonderful sense.

Counseling Questions: What other passages apply gospel grace and truth to anxiety? How do you connect remedy to reasons?

About the Author

Biblical Counseling Coalition | The Divine Remedy for Anxiety (2)

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Pat Quinn

Pat is the Director of Counseling Ministries atUniversity Reformed Churchin East Lansing, MI, where he applies his love for the gospel to counseling, training counselors, serving as an elder, and teaching. He has degrees from Michigan State University and Calvin College and received counseling training from the Christian Counseling and Educational Foundation. Pat has been married to Judie since 1976. Pat and Judie have two grown children and six grandchildren. Pat is a council member of the Biblical Counseling Coalition and a part of the blogging team.

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FAQs

What is the biblical root of anxiety? ›

The bible does not state what causes anxiety, because God considers anxiety to be a crisis of faith. The belief here is that anxiety shows that the person has not yet been able to put full trust in God, because fear itself is something that is meant to be relinquished as every person is meant to be part of God's plan.

How does the Bible treat anxiety? ›

"Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God." "When the righteous cry for help, the LORD hears and delivers them out of all their troubles." "For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control."

What is the spiritual meaning of anxiety? ›

“Sacred anxiety characterizes the dread of death, the mystery of life, and our encounter with the ultimate,” he said. “This is anxiety on a cosmic level, an existential anxiety about our place in the universe.”

What is a good prayer for anxiety? ›

Loving God, please grant me peace of mind and calm my troubled heart. My soul is like a turbulent sea. I can't seem to find my balance so I stumble and worry constantly. Give me the strength and clarity of mind to find my purpose and walk the path you've laid out for me.

How does the Bible say to overcome fear and anxiety? ›

The Bible is full of commands about anxiety:
  1. Be anxious for nothing (Philippians 4:6).
  2. Fear not (Isaiah 41:10). This is also commanded 364 other times in scripture, by the way.
  3. Let not your hearts be troubled (John 14:1).
  4. Do not be dismayed (Joshua 1:9).

What Bible scripture helps with anxiety? ›

These Bible verses are perfect for those looking to soothe anxious thoughts or find relief after an anxiety spiral, taken from the New Living Translation.
  • Proverbs 12:25. ...
  • Romans 8:38-39. ...
  • Mattews 6:27. ...
  • Psalm 34:17. ...
  • Psalm 55:22. ...
  • Psalm 91:2. ...
  • Psalm 37:5. ...
  • Ephesians 3:17.
15 Oct 2021

Is anxiety a mental illness? ›

Anxiety disorders are the most common of mental disorders and affect nearly 30% of adults at some point in their lives. But anxiety disorders are treatable and a number of effective treatments are available. Treatment helps most people lead normal productive lives.

What God says about worry and anxiety? ›

"Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

What's the root cause of anxiety? ›

There is a multitude of sources that could be triggering your anxiety, such as environmental factors like a job or personal relationship, medical conditions, traumatic past experiences – even genetics plays a role, points out Medical News Today.

How do I break the cycle of anxiety? ›

One important step in reversing the anxiety cycle is gradually confronting feared situations. If you do this, it will lead to an improved sense of confidence, which will help reduce your anxiety and allow you to go into situations that are important to you.

How does anxiety affect the spirit? ›

Anxiety can rob us of the ability to enjoy our lives, creating instead hopelessness and shame. We find it hard to stop obsessing long enough to enjoy a loving relationship, find humor in life, or enjoy peaceful moments. We cannot create, relax, or imagine a life without fear.

How do I ask God to heal anxiety? ›

Dear God, I come before You to lay my panic and anxiety at Your feet. When I'm crushed by my fears and worries, remind me of Your power and Your grace. Fill me with Your peace as I trust in You and You alone.

Can God get rid of my anxiety? ›

Belief is what helps you overcome anxiety, and strength of that trust is what allows you to feel less fear. Praying that God simply relieves your anxiety may actually make it worse, because God does believe in personal effort, and anxiety isn't something He is going to simply wash away.

How do I overcome spiritual anxiety? ›

Spiritual practices like prayer or meditation can help you quiet the mind and focus on the present so you can let go of the negative chatter that's fueling your anxiety. You'll feel a sense of purpose. Cultivating your spirituality can help you uncover what's most important in your life.

How do I give my anxiety to God? ›

How do we send our anxiety to God? First, Conclusively: “cast” refers to “once and for all, throw our burdens to Jesus!” When the worries of life press us down, we do not have to bear them! Thank God, He is willing to carry our load. Thirdly, notice “all your anxiety.” He tells us to give Him everything!

What did Jesus say about fear and anxiety? ›

“Jesus told him, 'Don't be afraid; just believe. ' “And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God's love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God's love.”

How do I cast anxiety to God? ›

We can practice casting our anxieties on the Lord by stepping away from attempts to control our worries and leaning into the reassuring words of God. Once we do this, we can see that our anxiety is not a thing on which we should focus. Instead, we are called to give it up to God.

What does the Bible say about mental health issues? ›

Regarding mental health specifically, the Bible contains no one word for mental illness. This is in part because Old Testament writers chose a variety of biblical Hebrew words to express personhood.

How can I help someone with high anxiety? ›

gently let them know that you think they might be having a panic attack and that you are there for them. encourage them to breathe slowly and deeply – it can help to do something structured or repetitive they can focus on, such as counting out loud, or asking them to watch while you gently raise your arm up and down.

How can I fully trust God? ›

Tangible Ways to Trust Him
  1. Actively cast your cares on Him. ...
  2. Plug into God's Word everyday. ...
  3. Walk in obedience to Him. ...
  4. Find security and confidence in Him alone. ...
  5. Wait on the Lord and renew your hope.
25 Jun 2020

What brain chemical causes anxiety? ›

Epinephrine/Norepinephrine Norepinephrine is responsible for many of the symptoms of anxiety. These hormones and neurotransmitters are responsible for the adrenaline and energy that is pumped through your body when you're stressed or anxious, and cause changes like rapid heartbeat, sweating, etc.

What are signs of high anxiety? ›

Symptoms
  • Feeling nervous, restless or tense.
  • Having a sense of impending danger, panic or doom.
  • Having an increased heart rate.
  • Breathing rapidly (hyperventilation)
  • Sweating.
  • Trembling.
  • Feeling weak or tired.
  • Trouble concentrating or thinking about anything other than the present worry.

How do you treat anxiety without medication? ›

Anxiety Treatment Without Medication: 7 Holistic Ways to Cope
  1. Keep Your Blood Sugar in Check. ...
  2. Avoid Stimulants. ...
  3. Get Enough Sleep. ...
  4. Just Breathe. ...
  5. Practice Mindfulness. ...
  6. Exercise. ...
  7. Do What You Enjoy. ...
  8. Where to Get Help.
6 Dec 2017

Is worry the same as anxiety? ›

Worry is temporary.

Worry prods you to use problem-solving skills to address your concerns. Anxiety is persistent, even when concerns are unrealistic. It often compromises your ability to function.

What the Bible says about thinking too much? ›

We destroy every proud obstacle that keeps people from knowing God. We capture their rebellious thoughts and teach them to obey Christ” (NLT). God has given us the power to take control of our thoughts. When overthinking becomes an obstacle to our relationship with Him, it's time to capture those thoughts!

What is the Hebrew word for anxiety? ›

Appropriately, Modern Hebrew has labeled anxiety with that Biblical-Hebrew noun, חרדה. And anxiety attacks are הֶתְקְפֵי חֲרָדָה (het-keh-FEH-ee khah-rah-DAH), or simply the plural form, חֲרָדוֹת (khah-rah-DOHT).

What is the Greek word for anxiety in the Bible? ›

The Greek word for “to worry” is merimnaō. You can find it in 17 verses of the New Testament, usually translated “to care, to be anxious, to be concerned.” Most of the time, merimnaō is bad. Jesus warned His disciples against worry.

What the Bible says about anxiety and worry? ›

"Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

What is the opposite of anxiety in the Bible? ›

The opposite of worry is peace. While worry is natural, to have peace is supernatural. Understand the peace of God is the presence of God.

What is the Greek word for anxious in Philippians 4 6? ›

μεριμνᾶτε: The Greek word μεριμνᾶτε is a second plural present active imperative from the verb μεριμνάω that means, “I am anxious, am unduly concerned” (BDAG, s.v. “μεριμνάω” 1, p. 632). Syntactically, μεριμνᾶτε functions as the main verb in the independent clause.

What does Do not be anxious about anything but in everything by prayer and petition with thanksgiving present your requests to God? ›

This encouragement reads as a command. God would not command something that was impossible for us to obey by his Spirit. We should be comforted by this fact, especially if we are anxious and in need of his help and his peace.

Where do fears stem from? ›

Fear starts in the part of the brain called the amygdala. According to Smithsonian Magazine, “A threat stimulus, such as the sight of a predator, triggers a fear response in the amygdala, which activates areas involved in preparation for motor functions involved in fight or flight.

What's mean anxiety? ›

Anxiety refers to anticipation of a future concern and is more associated with muscle tension and avoidance behavior. Fear is an emotional response to an immediate threat and is more associated with a fight or flight reaction – either staying to fight or leaving to escape danger.

What is the biblical meaning of fear? ›

The Hebrew word translated into 'awe' in the Bible is yirah (יראה, pronounced yir-ah). It often directly translates into fear, like “fear of the Lord,” but it can also mean respect, reverence, and worship. But, make no mistake about it, yirah is strongly connected to 'trembling'.

What does fear mean in the Greek? ›

In this essay, I will concentrate on three of these different Greek words translated as 'fear': noun δέος (deos), verb δείδια noun φόβος (phobos), verb φοβέομαι

Is worry the same as anxiety? ›

Worry is temporary.

Worry prods you to use problem-solving skills to address your concerns. Anxiety is persistent, even when concerns are unrealistic. It often compromises your ability to function.

What does God say about Overthinkers? ›

We destroy every proud obstacle that keeps people from knowing God. We capture their rebellious thoughts and teach them to obey Christ” (NLT). God has given us the power to take control of our thoughts. When overthinking becomes an obstacle to our relationship with Him, it's time to capture those thoughts!

How can I fully trust God? ›

Tangible Ways to Trust Him
  1. Actively cast your cares on Him. ...
  2. Plug into God's Word everyday. ...
  3. Walk in obedience to Him. ...
  4. Find security and confidence in Him alone. ...
  5. Wait on the Lord and renew your hope.
25 Jun 2020

What does the Bible say about mental health issues? ›

Regarding mental health specifically, the Bible contains no one word for mental illness. This is in part because Old Testament writers chose a variety of biblical Hebrew words to express personhood.

How can humility ease your anxiety? ›

Practicing being humble can help those who suffer from anxiety be less laser-focused on how people see them, and help them embrace their true selves as well. Often, anxiety stems from the thought that people will not like the real version of ourselves.

Videos

1. The Potter and The Clay, Jeremiah's Complaint (Jeremiah 18)
(McDermott Road)
2. God's To-Do List for Depression
(Time of Grace Ministry)
3. If People Only Knew What Was Coming (What Should You Do?)
(Three Angels Broadcasting Network (3ABN))
4. The 700 Club - August 2, 2018
(The 700 Club)
5. The Politics of Vulnerability
(Berkley Center)
6. Don't Walk In the Way of This People- II
(The Sanctuary Church of Buffalo)

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