Health

How to Help Ease Anxiety (When Bible Verses Aren’t Enough)

Those stuck in this cycle of anxiety may begin to wonder what’s wrong with them, or worse, even question their faith. How can they help their anxiety when Bible verses alone don’t seem to be enough?

By Christine McParland

It’s normal to feel anxious sometimes, but due to current events, most of us are feeling more anxious than usual. While factors such as getting enough sleep and exercise, eating healthy, and, if necessary, talking to a doctor are helpful, addressing the spiritual side of anxiety is essential.

A typical Christian response is to quote Bible verses about anxiety to encourage those who struggle with it. This is a well-meaning response; after all, if we believe the Bible is true, then reaffirming its messages of peace in stressful situations should be a comfort, right? But depending on the person, sometimes this approach can make anxiety worse if reading or meditating on Scripture doesn’t provide immediate relief. Especially with verses such as Philippians 4:6—“Do not be anxious about anything”—those who struggle with anxiety may even wonder if they are sinning by being anxious, which can further contribute to the harmful cycle of anxious thoughts.

Those stuck in this cycle of anxiety may begin to wonder what’s wrong with them, or worse, even question their faith. How can they help their anxiety when Bible verses alone don’t seem to be enough?

While Scripture is an excellent place to start, Bible verses shouldn’t be treated like magic pills that instantly cure any spiritual ailment. Though sometimes God chooses to use Scripture in miraculously healing ways, often it is part of a longer process of emotional, mental, and even spiritual healing.

When Bible verses alone aren’t helping you or a friend overcome anxiety, the deficiency isn’t in the Scriptures themselves but can come from how we approach or use them. (Even Satan quoted Scripture to Jesus in Matthew 4, but he twisted individual verses for his own purposes to try to tempt Jesus to abandon God’s will!) If you’re struggling to apply Scripture to help you cope with anxiety or any other issue, here are some ideas to help you engage with God’s Word in a more helpful and healing way!

Imaginative Prayer

Imaginative prayer or contemplation is a centuries-old spiritual practice that was developed by Ignatius of Loyola to help people engage with Jesus through the Scriptures. While intended primarily for meditating on the Gospels, this could be applied to any Bible passage you want to engage more deeply.

Begin with asking the Holy Spirit to guide your imagination. As you read the Scripture passage, put yourself in the text. For example, if you’re reading John 4, imagine yourself as the woman at the well, talking with the Savior who knows all your sins. How would it feel to make eye contact with Jesus and see not condemnation but infinite love? How would you respond?

Or imagine yourself as a member of the church in Philippi when Paul’s letter was being read aloud. How would it feel to hear those words for the first time? What if Jesus were to speak them directly to you?

It’s important to discern where your imagination takes you in this kind of prayer. Discouraging or defeating thoughts of desolation— or anything that makes you feel distant from God— is from the enemy and should be resisted. Any thoughts of consolation—that which draws you closer to God— is the work of the Holy Spirit.

Imaginative prayer can be a powerful way to address anxiety by helping you go “beneath the surface” of individual Bible verses in order to encounter the source of all healing: the Word of God himself (see John 1:1).

Taking a Break

Stepping away from the Scriptures doesn’t seem like a way of engaging with God’s Word, but hang with me here! Instead of providing comfort and healing, repeatedly turning to the same Bible verses can sometimes have the opposite effect for those who struggle with anxiety. If you’re not getting anything out of the Scriptures because your mind is stuck in a negative or anxious cycle, it can sometimes be more beneficial to take a break and get your mind to a healthier place before re-engaging with God’s Word.

Taking a break can be something as simple as going for a walk or listening to uplifting music—whatever is healthy, safe, and helps put your mind in a more positive place! Once you’re there, you may be surprised at how much better you’re able to engage with the same Scriptures you were struggling with earlier.

One note of caution: don’t let the enemy take advantage of a mental break to keep you away from God’s Word for extended periods of time. Prayerfully “check in” with God’s Word daily to help keep yourself close to the only one who can heal your anxiety!

How about you? What has helped you engage with God’s Word or manage anxiety? Share your insight in the comments below!

Looking for resources to help with anxiety? Check out some of our favorite titles on NavPress.com.

Christine loves how stories open our imaginations to God and His work in our lives. As a marketing coordinator at Tyndale, she is excited to help readers connect to life-changing stories through books, Bibles, and blog articles. In her free time, Christine enjoys reading, swing dancing, and writing about the spiritual lessons she learns on the dance floor.

2 Comments

  • This lesson jives perfectly with my experiences a few years back. I was in chronic, intense pain every day then my husband was diagnosed with cancer. His treatments did not go well and one crisis piled on top of another. I reached my limit after he was hospitalized in isolation for a week with viral meningitis. He survived but my anxiety built up to the point of a full emotional collapse. The Word seemed to convict me of being a failure as a wife, mother and Christian. The enemy was hard at work in my mind. I prayed for hours often laying on the floor in anguish. It took a long time to quiet my mind enough to hear God’s voice again. He speaks in a still small voice, but he repeatedly implanted in my mind the words “All is well.” I knew it was Him because it didn’t look or feel very well! That was the beginning of healing for me. I now KNOW all is well. He is in control at ALL times. He is worthy of our trust!!! I’m healthy again (my husband is too) and deeply grateful! Praise the Lord!!!

    Reply
    • Thank you so much for sharing your story with us, Janet! Praise God for you and your husband’s healing! What a beautiful reminder that indeed all is well, even when it doesn’t seem like it, because God is always in control.

      Reply

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