Fighting the Good Fight against Anxiety

When I was seven years old, my grandparents took my older brother and me on a trip to Europe. My romantic, history-loving self will never forget basking in the glory of castles in Germany and winding through the lush English countryside on a canal boat. In Spain, our last destination, we stayed for a couple of days in a beautiful monastery. One evening as we ate dinner in the large dining hall, we noticed some commotion at a table across the room. We quickly realized that one of the women at the table was having a seizure—something I’d never witnessed before. Thankfully she was okay, but witnessing the event had taken its toll on me, and I found myself experiencing what I believe was a panic attack. I was already prone to fear, but watching the event unfold solidified in my sensitive mind just how scary the world could be. 

Worry over everything from tornadoes to appendicitis became a daily companion throughout my childhood and teenage years. My parents faithfully pointed me back to Jesus, giving me
Scripture to recite and sing when the fear felt paralyzing. I fought with all my might to believe those truths, praying that the Lord would help me. Then, as I entered my twenties, the Lord began to turn on some spiritual light bulbs for me. Through various godly voices, He helped me grasp in a deeper way the idea that because of Christ, I have the ability to overcome the fear and anxiety swirling in and around me. My feeble knees gained strength as the Spirit gave me grace to live above the feelings that sought to drown me. 

Do I still wrestle with fear and anxiety? For sure. God has given me many opportunities to be tested and grow in this area through motherhood and other life circumstances. But He’s proven to me that He is faithful—that His promises are true and that He will hold me fast through every wind and wave that may come. 

Perhaps you, too, battle fear and anxiety. We live in a world full of fearful things. We dwell in broken and weak bodies. The prevalence of conditions labeled as anxiety disorders is skyrocketing as people feel the pressures and stresses of our time. We as believers have a hope to cling to—Someone to point to—that those who don’t know Christ desperately need.

But we ourselves need to understand the reality of what we’ve been given in Him before we can offer hope to others. We need to grasp the difference the gospel makes for us in the fight against fear and anxiety. Does understanding mean the fight goes away? No. But it changes everything about how we enter into the battle. 

3 Ways to Fight the Good Fight against Anxiety

1. Acknowledge anxiety for what it is.

I used to have the faulty assumption that the spiritual way of fighting anxiety was to ignore it. I thought I could shove it under the proverbial rug and walk away, as if sticking my fingers in my ears and yelling “I can’t hear you!” But I discovered that anxiety begins to sprout mold and stink if it’s left in the dark, ignored, or simply drowned out by other noise. It must be brought out into the light of Jesus, who has the grace we need in order to walk as overcomers. 

I’ll never forget an epiphany I had a few years ago as I read a verse I’ve repeated countless times. 

When I am afraid,
I will trust in you. (Psalm 56:3) 

The word “when” assumes that we will, in fact, be afraid. God knows this; He knows better than anyone just how many fearful things exist in this world due to the tragedy of sin. He will lead us to walk in His overcoming grace as we lay each and every anxious thought at His feet.

Sometimes anxiety can stem from unconfessed sin. Psalm 38:18 says, 

So I confess my iniquity;
I am anxious because of my sin.

Allowing the Lord to cleanse us from any lurking sin brings freedom and rest to our souls. It also clears our consciences to more rightly discern what circumstances might be contributing to anxiety and how to best handle them according to God’s wisdom. 

2. Look to Jesus.

Feelings of anxiety and fear aren’t sinful in themselves. It’s how we choose to handle them that makes all the difference between succumbing and overcoming. Fear and anxiety can feel completely overpowering in the moment. However, His grace is greater than any feeling we’ll ever experience, and turning our eyes to Him is the beginning of living in victory over those feelings.

Several years ago, four of my kids became seriously ill while my husband was out of town. Night after night for two weeks I was up keeping soaring fevers at bay, monitoring my kids’ labored breathing, and making urgent care and ER visits more times than I care to remember. One evening, right in the thick of it, as I was kneeling by my extremely sick daughter’s bed—sleep deprived and overcome with fear—I felt the sensations of a panic attack beginning to creep up. But I knew that my kids desperately needed me and I had a job to do. I earnestly prayed, “Lord help me!” silently, and whispered “no” out loud to the anxiety as a statement of bringing my body and mind under submission to the grace of God. In an instant the panic subsided. This happened over and over in the days to come, as each time I cried out to God and declared that I trusted Him more than my feelings. Again and again He came through. It brings tears to my eyes just to think about it. 

However, it hasn’t happened exactly like that in every fearful circumstance. Sometimes He’s allowed the feelings to remain, and I’ve simply needed to cling to Him through the crashing waves of emotion. I don’t know what you’re facing or how the Lord will choose to work in the anxious situations you’re walking through, but I know this: He will come through for you too. His grace is there, sustaining and strengthening us even when we don’t feel it. We simply have to trust God’s Word over our feelings. As Isaiah 26:3–4 says, 

You will keep the mind that is dependent on you 
in perfect peace, 
for it is trusting in you. 
Trust in the Lord forever, 
because the Lord, the Lord himself, is an everlasting rock! 

God also gives wisdom as we look to Him for any practical steps we can take that may be contributing to anxiety. Should we simplify our schedules? Focus on rest? Take a break from social media? Add some supplements? He knows what we need and will be faithful to lead us. 

3. Dwell on His Word.

The longer I’ve fought the battle with fear and anxiety, the more convinced I am of the truth found in Hebrews 4:12.

For the word of God is living and effective and sharper than any double-edged sword, penetrating as far as the separation of soul and spirit, joints and marrow. It is able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.

The Bible is not just a compilation of nice-sounding, inspirational platitudes. It is “living and effective,” used by the Holy Spirit to infuse us with truth, comfort us in trouble, ground us in the reality of who God is, and teach us how to live in light of that. God’s Word can transform us from the inside out. When we are faithful to read it, meditate on it, and speak it to ourselves and others, it will not return void. 

I keep what I call my “fighter verses” ready to help fix my mind and heart on Christ when anxiety comes knocking. They have become more precious to me than ever as I look back on the ways God has used them to minister to my heart in terrifying and dark circumstances. Consider tucking your own verses away in your heart, hanging them on your walls, and filling your ears with them through an audio Bible or Scripture-filled songs. 

The Battle Ahead

On our own, we have no hope against the worry and anxiety that overwhelm our hearts, minds, and bodies. Until the day we see Jesus face-to-face, we have a battle ahead. But we have not been left alone. Whether it’s relational struggles, persecution, physical issues, work trials, or upheaval in the world around us, God goes before us and lives within us. He will never leave us or forsake us. 

Need an extra boost to help you surrender your life (fears included) to the Lord? Facing Our Fears, a booklet by Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, can help. Through the life of Abraham, you’ll see the freedom that comes when you choose to surrender your deepest fears to God. It even includes a special section designed to put God’s Word at your fingertips when you’re afraid. Order your copy from the Revive Our Hearts store. 

About the Author

Heather Cofer

Heather Cofer

Heather Cofer is a wife and mother of six living in northern Colorado with a passion for encouraging women to love Jesus. She is the author of Expectant: Cultivating a Vision for Christ-Centered Pregnancy, and has also written for Set … read more …

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