Woman looking out at the ocean view

In these social media dominated driven days, anxiety is an ever-growing ill – but it is nothing new.

The Bible has a great deal to say about anxiety, depression and despair and many of the heroes and heroines of Scripture suffered from any or all of these afflictions to some extent at some point.

Elijah was so terrified by Jezebel’s threat in 1 Kings 19 that he fled and asked God to take his life. Jonah was so daunted at the thought of going to Nineveh as instructed that he took off in entirely the opposite direction. And those of us who suffer anxiety and stress could do a lot worse than to look at David’s honesty before his God in the Psalms, where he routinely talks of fear and despair.

These were not emotions unknown to Jesus. In chapter 14 of his Gospel, Mark talks of Jesus being ‘deeply distressed and troubled’ while in Gethsemane (v33)

Hebrews 4:15 reminds us that, in Jesus, we have a high priest who understands us and who empathises with us. In the Message version of the same verse, Eugene Peterson writes that Jesus is not ‘out of touch with our reality’. We are in good company and yet, many Christians still deny feelings of anxiety, fear and depression, regarding them as sinful and ungrateful in the face of God’s generosity to us.

As we read Philippians 4:6 we must strive to hear the voice of gentle encouragement rather than any tone of impatient instruction.

Be anxious about nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.

God is a loving Father whose arms are open to us even in all our flawed humanity.

Since childhood I have been an avid reader and have read widely, and yet, the older I get, the more I realise all there is to read, to learn and to revel in. Similarly, the longer we walk with Jesus, the greater our understanding can be of those wonderful words in Ephesians 3: 17 – 19.

I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power…to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know that this love surpasses knowledge.

I am always comforted by Psalm 139: ‘You have searched me Lord, and you know me’. He knows me and yet He still loves me!

And finally, in times of tiredness, anxiety and sadness I turn to Psalm 51, particularly in musical form. Gregorio Allegri, the 17th century Italian composer, set this psalm to music in his Miserere,  which to my mind is one of the most beautiful pieces of music ever written.

God’s antidote to our anxiety is everywhere: in His word of course, but also in the beauty of Nature, the solace of music and the kindness of others.

We can trust Him.

His love for us is unending and unfailing.

 

Carol Foster
Kingdom Vineyard, St Andrews