Listen to this devotional
Writing about worry is difficult for me. Over the years, I’ve spent more time succumbing to the numbing paralysis of anxious thinking and self-indulgent fretting than I have walking with God through the situations in life that make me afraid.
When confronted with a problem that feels daunting to me, my first instinct is almost always to run. But as has been the case with so many other topics I’ve written about on our site, this presented me with an opportunity to study the scriptures, make decisions to change, and share about the experience.
Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.  And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.Philippians 4:6-7 NASB
Anxiety is defined as “experiencing worry, unease, or nervousness, typically about an imminent event or something with an uncertain outcome.” The most challenging part of this scripture to me is the idea that there is action I can take to not give in to that unease. I like feeling like a victim, and if I can convince myself that my nervousness and worry is too strong, then I can successfully excuse myself from doing anything that pushes me out of my comfort zone.
Philippians 4:6-7 debunks this notion for me. It’s challenging, but it’s also inspiring and relieving. So while my anxiety has so often been the reason I’ve given for neglecting the needs of people around me, I am starting to learn about and believe in the power of prayer. Not merely for personal improvement (i.e. mitigating my loud and stressful emotions), but by believing in and seeing how God hears my prayers, and makes things happen.
These 15 tips on beating anxiety I believe are helpful for applying to many life situations. However, it’s important to understand before diving in that the Bible is not a self-help book, and shouldn’t be used as such. This is a mistake I often make – finding scriptures in an attempt to calm my heart and mind, without embracing the transformative change of my will, character and desires that comes from a personal walk with God. God changes lives, he doesn’t merely improve them.
This Bible study on anxiety and fear will give you practical tips to help you start worrying less, and relying on God more. Check out these 15 ways you can use God’s Word to start beating fear and anxiety.
Table of Contents
- Stop waiting for the world to help you
- Stop trying to impress everyone
- Let yourself hope (in God)
- Identify your life needs, and focus on what really matters
- Deal with distress
- Question yourself
- Get advice when you’re stuck
- Be aware of what’s happening around you
- Be humble (not humiliated)
- Stop pretending you’re happy when you’re not
- Get some encouragement
- Get your thoughts under control
- Be patient and stop comparing yourself to others
- Forget the past…
- …embrace the future
Stop waiting for the world to help you
A lot of my stress and worry has been exacerbated by my expectation that there’s a solution around the corner for my problems that doesn’t involve God.
“I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.John 14:27 NLT
There are many instances of the term “the world” in the Bible. The category we typically focus on is the “Moral World” – the God-hostile environment we currently live in, occupied by people who are being delivered false promises of security and satisfaction.
Perhaps you’ve had similar thoughts cross your mind:
- “If I get this promotion, we can finally get out from under this debt.”
- “Things will settle down once the kids get through this phase.”
- “Two more weeks until vacation…”
These thought processes aren’t inherently flawed, but they do believe the underlying spiritual issues at work in each scenario. In these examples, on display is the anxiety we experience about common (but stressful) life situations, and how we seek human solutions instead of believing God can bring peace while we’re going through them.
Situational changes are fine, but they don’t address the condition of your heart.
If you’re stressed about your finances now, you’ll be stressed again once the next unexpected bill hits your inbox. How do you actually grow so that your emotions aren’t dictated by what’s happening in your life at any given moment?
John 14:27 is a great starting point. Address the ways you’re looking to the world to cure you of your worries, and start looking to the Bible and prayer to help you grow stronger internally to handle more.
Stop trying to impress everyone
As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him.  She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said.  But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!” “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things,  but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”Luke 10:38-42 NIV
Trying to make everyone happy with you is an empty pursuit. It’s a great source of anxiety for a lot of people because no matter how great a job you do at any given task, there will most likely be someone who’s unhappy with your performance (just ask any politician or entertainer).
The best way to drop this bad habit is by actively trying to win God’s approval. And since we know that we all fall short all the time (Romans 3:23), we can be confident in the fact that despite our imperfections, we can still have peace before God regardless of how guilty we feel (1 John 3:19-20).
Let yourself hope (in God)
Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall;  but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.Isaiah 40:30-31 NIV
On a recent episode of a political podcast I listen to, the host said, “you can’t live on hope, but you can’t live without it.” This was a particularly cynical program so I was surprised to hear even a glimpse of positivity in regards to our current state of affairs. But it struck me that he had to make a conscious effort to strike down the part of him that wanted to believe change could happen, for fear that he would be let down again.
It reminded me that all of us really want to believe that good can happen, but are afraid to hope for it. As a result, we often protect ourselves by preparing for worst case scenarios, and refusing to entertain the idea that our situations can improve, our loved ones can change, or that healing can come to those who are suffering. This process creates a level of stress and anxiety, as we are constantly struggling internally with discouragement and mulling over negative thoughts.
To hope in God is to believe in spiritual power. When we hope for the economy or our political system to come through for us, we’re putting our faith in human institutions which will inevitably let us down. When we hope that God will deliver on his promises to satisfy our deepest, most intimate needs, then we can trust that no person or system can get in the way of him making that happen. Putting our faith in God will never steer us wrong.
Identify your life needs, and focus on what really matters
 Jesus taught his disciples, saying, “Listen to me. Never let anxiety enter your hearts. Never worry about any of your needs, such as food or clothing.  For your life is infinitely more than just food or the clothing you wear.Luke 12:22-23 TPT
I wanted to call this point “Don’t sweat the small stuff,” but it felt cliche. At the risk of stating the obvious, our worries increase not only when we experience sudden or tragic events, but when the daily burdens of life pile up over time. Our basic needs can weigh us down if we’re not fortunate enough to be completely secure financially.
I’ve read this scripture a lot of times and it’s always tempting to fixate on verse 22, and neglect to consider verse 23. To me, it’s teaching us that God will take care of our needs and burdens, so we don’t have to focus so much on them. It helps us to reflect on what really matters: our lives, and everything God gave us to make them worth living.
Our health, bank accounts and pantries will fluctuate over time. But they shouldn’t get in the way of us enjoying our relationships with God and the people he’s put in our lives.
Deal with distress
I mentioned tragic life events in the previous point. It’s worth mentioning that we all have encountered or will encounter challenges that are difficult beyond what we experience on a day to day basis. The Bible refers to these as storms, and they push us to the limits in terms of what we can handle physically, emotionally and spiritually. It’s during these times of distress when we need to turn to God in a way that’s more serious and earnest than we may be used to.
Listen to my testimony: I cried to God in my distress and he answered me. He freed me from all my fears!Psalm 34:4 TPT
God shines during trials and tribulations, because it’s only then can we truly understand just how deep and powerful his love is. If you’re experiencing anxiety associated with distress in your life, take time to cry out to God in a way that you haven’t before; be ok with being messy, because only then can God help you be free from the fears that may be holding you hostage during this difficult time.
Your situation may not change immediately after your prayer, but God’s peace can help you make it through one day at a time by easing your mind and heart as you move forward.
Trust in the LORD with all your heart. Never rely on what you think you know.  Remember the LORD in everything you do, and he will show you the right way.Proverbs 3:5-6 GNT
The longer we’re Christians and the older we get, the easier it becomes to rely on our experiences over the simple truths of the Bible. Who hasn’t responded to a friend asking for advice by sharing our favorite tactic or personal success story?
When we aren’t reading the Bible every day looking for ways to apply it to our lives, we get dull. And over time, this increases our anxiety. Why? Because at the end of the day, we don’t really know what life is going to throw at us, and God does.
Eventually, we’re going to run into a situation that stumps us, or gets worse after we apply our know-how and don’t get the results we were expecting. Take time every day to look for ways God is trying to lead you, and let this spiritual approach guide you to your next destination.
Get advice when you’re stuck
Without good direction, people lose their way; the more wise counsel you follow, the better your chances.Proverbs 11:14 MSG
Making decisions is incredibly stressful. Anyone who’s worked any kind of job can tell you that. Whether you’re trying to make a big decision (picking a school for your kid, deciding where to live) or a small one (weekend plans, what kind of phone to buy), it will always be less stressful when you pull in an appropriate amount of trusted advisors.
I say appropriate amount because it’s relative to the person making the decision, and the nature of the decision itself. Sometimes having too many people throwing opinions at you can be counterproductive, and even compound your anxiety when you become overloaded with options to consider.
But generally speaking, by bringing more people into your decision-making process you increase the likelihood that you’ll make the choice that will be the right one for your life and relationship with God. And this happens when we choose to seek advice from spiritually-minded people who give you biblical input, rather than just practical life advice. Making decisions in a vacuum is very rarely ever a good idea.
Be aware of what’s happening around you
“Watch out! Don’t let your hearts be dulled by carousing and drunkenness, and by the worries of this life. Don’t let that day catch you unaware,  like a trap. For that day will come upon everyone living on the earth.  Keep alert at all times. And pray that you might be strong enough to escape these coming horrors and stand before the Son of Man.”Luke 21:34-36 NLT
Understanding the times we live in is key to keeping anxiety to a minimum. When we are spiritually ignorant (unaware of the spiritual forces at play all around us), it’s stressful because we are constantly getting taken advantage of by the traps laid out for us by the world.
This passage lays out two categories of heart-dulling activities: carousing and drunkenness, and worries of this life. We stay alert by examining ourselves daily to identify how we may be dulling ourselves, and what matters of the heart we are neglecting to address.
The best example I can think of to illustrate this point is when I was in college, and I saw countless friends get their stomachs pumped or be resuscitated because they drank too much alcohol. In those moments, I was able to comprehend that there was a lot going on in these people’s lives, and it put things into perspective because they were all going to the wrong places to find relief.
Be humble (not humiliated)
Humility is an underrated and often mischaracterized quality. A 2002 study by Julie Juola Exline & Anne L Geyer note that the reality of people’s experiences with humility is different than what the textbook definitions would lead us to believe:
“Contrary to common dictionary definitions of humility, which often emphasize its association with self-abasement, participants reported consistently positive views of humility.
When recalling situations in which they felt humble, they typically reported success experiences associated with positive emotion. Participants clearly associated humility with good psychological adjustment…”Julie Juola Exline & Anne L Geyer, Perceptions of Humility: A Preliminary Study
Humility is not the same as humiliation. It’s not uncommon for people to confuse the two, especially when trying to apply scriptures that call us to humble ourselves. Humility according to the Bible is supposed to be a freeing feeling, because we let go of our pride and accept help from God and others.
Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.  Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.1 Peter 5:6-7 NIV
In this passage, casting anxiety on God is preceded by the call to humble ourselves, which makes sense now considering how we’ve defined humility. When we admit our weaknesses and need for help, God is able to work with us, and we can start letting go of the things that are out of our control and stressing us out.
Stop pretending you’re happy when you’re not
Quartz writer Susanna Cornelius, in her article Being told to feel happy is making us miserable details the destructive effects of trying to abide by the social pressures that make us feel like we need to feel happy, all the time:
“Depression rates are higher in countries that place a premium on happiness,” says social psychologist Brock Bastian. “Rather than being the by-product of a life well-lived, feeling happy has become a goal in itself.
Smiling faces beam at us from social media and happiness gurus flog their latest emotional quick fixes, reinforcing the message that we should aim to maximize our positive emotions and avoid our negative ones.Susanna Cornelius, Quartz
“Happiness as a goal” is a fallacy, and is at odds with how the Bible describes the path to calmness and joy. Instead of forcing ourselves to smile, God wants us to be honest with everything going on inside of us – the good, bad and the ugly.
Oh, what joy for those whose disobedience is forgiven, whose sin is put out of sight! 2Yes, what joy for those whose record the LORD has cleared of guilt, whose lives are lived in complete honesty!Psalm 32:1-2 (NLT)
It may feel counterintuitive to us who live in this culture of consumption, but taking the time to identify our sins so we can experience mercy from God is the only true way to lasting happiness. Guilt is an incredible amplifier of anxiety; clearing it up will pave the way to joy and de-stressing.
Get some encouragement
Anxiety weighs down the heart, but a kind word cheers it up.Proverbs 12:25 NIV
This one’s simple: if you’re feeling anxious, talk to a friend. Sometimes a kind word of encouragement from someone we care about (or don’t care too much for!) can help calm us down and get perspective on our troubles. At the very least, a confidence boost from a friend may be what we need to get through the worrisome situation at hand.
Kind words can be affirmation, acknowledgement of talent or ability, or even something lighthearted to help you relax. Either way, I anticipate #11 will probably be a favorite for people reading this list.
Get your thoughts under control
Brothers and sisters, continue to think about what is good and worthy of praise. Think about what is true and honorable and right and pure and beautiful and respected.  And do what you learned and received from me—what I told you and what you saw me do. And the God who gives peace will be with you.Philippians 4:8-9 ERV
Believe it or not, we can get our thoughts under control by exercising a little spiritual muscle. It is possible to decrease our fear and worry by choosing to focus our minds on the positive things God’s put in our lives.
Keeping in front of you, for example, the ways God has kept blessing my life after years of “Lost Son” level detachedness and debauchery helps me remember that no matter what I’m worried about today, I know that God still loves me and want to be with me. This process of remembering and expressing gratitude is how I’ve learned to apply this scripture to my life whenever my worries are threatening to take over my thoughts and actions.
Be patient and stop comparing yourself to others
Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him; do not fret when people succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes.Psalm 37:7 NIV
Patience is a spiritual quality that is a must for those seeking to beat anxiety. God works on a timetable that we won’t ever understand until we’re up there with him, so it’s up to us to acknowledge in prayer that God is always working for our good, even if we aren’t seeing yet (at least, not in the way we are expecting).
What’s interesting about this scripture is the focus on comparing ourselves to successful people. Nothing triggers anxiety quite like the realization that we’re behind or missing out (FOMO, anyone?).
Patience is the ability to look at what others have and trust that what you have right now is exactly what God knows you need, and that your future will bring only what will help you grow closer to him and the people you care about. You don’t need that Tesla right now, is what I’m saying.
Forget the past…
Being stuck in the past is stressful, because everyday is a constant reminder that we’re failing or not living up to whatever impossible standard we’ve set for ourselves. This can go both ways – distress over not being able to relive our glory days, or discouragement over past failures that we just can’t shake.
I don’t mean that I am exactly what God wants me to be. I have not yet reached that goal. But I continue trying to reach it and make it mine. That’s what Christ Jesus wants me to do. It is the reason he made me his. Brothers and sisters, I know that I still have a long way to go. But there is one thing I do: I forget what is in the past and try as hard as I can to reach the goal before me.Philippians 3:12-13 ERV
Whichever end of the spectrum we find ourselves on, it’s liberating to learn from the scriptures that our story is not over as long as we’re alive. If we grew up experiencing a lot of success, God still wants to develop our character and heart to love others.
If we are hung up over a life that did not go according to plan, we can be assured that we will have opportunities ahead of us to do something amazing for God, no matter how devastating the defeat.
…embrace the future
I keep running hard toward the finish line to get the prize that is mine because God has called me through Christ Jesus to life up there in heaven.Philippians 3:14 ERV
It’s harder to be overcome by anxiety when you’re loving others. According to a 2000 study by the Social Capital Community Benchmark Survey, people who volunteer are 42% more likely to be very happy than non-volunteers. God’s plan for each one of us is to find ways unique to us to make an impact in someone’s life. When God uses us to change lives, ours get renewed in the process.
Philippians 3:14 is a call to stay focused on what God is helping us become. If getting stuck on the past is an anxiety virus, then focusing on spiritual vision and purpose is its vaccine.
If you take nothing else away from this devotional for anxiety, let it be this – using the Bible equips us to overcome the worries that stops us from living out the purposes God has for our lives. And becoming people who are loving, selfless people is the best remedy for anxiety because it takes the focus off of ourselves.
Think about why you’re here, what God can do with your talents, and who you’re meant to reach, and there’s a good chance that the things burdening you will start to feel a bit lighter before you know it. It’s a fitting last step in this series about how to stop worrying and start trusting God.
This devotional is part of a collection of studies about turning to God with our anxiety and worry. View the entire selection for a deeper dive.