Sweaty palms, incessant worrying and sleepless nights have all characterized my actions on more than one occasion. In fact, sometimes life can leave us with a lingering, uneasy feeling: questioning how, if, and when situations will work out. In these moments joy eludes us for an extended period of time while fear holds us hostage. We may even find ourselves paralyzed and unable to make a decision. When this happens we are likely dealing with anxiety.
This feeling, rooted in fear, happens to all of us. Brought on by the uncertainties of this life, anxiety creeps into our hearts and minds, making it difficult to function. When we find ourselves in this place we can glean encouragement for our hearts in the pages of scripture. Below are four verses to calm your anxious heart.
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“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30
Here in this section of scripture, Jesus was speaking to a crowd of people. He revealed himself as God’s son and said those whom the Son chose to reveal Himself to could also know the Father. He culminated this passage with the above invitation for weary and tired men and women. The supernatural rest Christ offered was not dependent on ideal circumstances or an absence of life’s difficulties.
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"Take my yoke upon you."
That is because Jesus was presenting His audience with a new paradigm. He was shifting their thinking from reliance on self to relying on Him. He was giving them an opportunity to exchange their fatigue for His rest. He further reiterated this invitation by saying, “Take my yoke upon you.” The word “yoke” in the Greek translates as zugos and means a heavy burden or a wooden bar placed on the neck of an animal. Here Christ uses imagery the Jewish people could relate to in order to contrast the weight of their burdens with the ease and rest of His yoke.
Although He invited them to place His yoke upon them, it was not to be an additional weight but to relieve the burdens they were experiencing in life. He extends the same invitation to us today. Although it seems paradoxical that taking Christ’s yoke upon us could offer rest from the fatigue of anxiety, this is what Christ offers in this passage of Scripture. If our hearts are anxious we can take up His yoke and He will give us rest.
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“Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” Psalm 23:4
David knew God to be a shepherd in his life. From his days of fighting bears and lions to protect his sheep, to being on the run for his life, God directed his footsteps. For this reason he could confidently pen the familiar opening lines of Psalm 23, “The Lord is my shepherd.” God was David’s shepherd. David knew what it meant to physically, emotionally and mentally depend on God.
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"Although our circumstances may not change, God is unchanging and can be trusted."
Several times in his life David found himself in danger or in a “dark valley.” Without knowing how his circumstances would end, David put his trust in God who continued to bring him victoriously through his difficulties. This is why David said, “I will fear no evil.” He had witnessed the faithfulness of God. We can learn a great deal from David’s dependence on God no matter what we are experiencing in this life.
In times of uncertain circumstances, we can place our trust in God who is our Good Shepherd. He is capable of guiding us through every possible crisis we might face in this life. This does not mean we will experience the outcome we desire. It does, however, mean we can trust that in times of tremendous fear, God will not only be with us, but He will direct our path. Although our circumstances may not change, God is unchanging and can be trusted.
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“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” John 14:27
If you were preparing to leave your closest friends and relatives, what would your final words be? In His last few moments leading up to His crucifixion Jesus chose to offer His disciples peace.
He had walked closely with His disciples, performed many miracles, and shared several teachings. They had grown accustomed to His presence and the security it afforded them. Jesus knew that the days leading up to and immediately following his death would be traumatizing, intense, and downright scary for the disciples. For this reason, He left them with the lasting security He knew they would need.
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"God leaves us with an unshakable peace we can cling to when our hearts are anxious."
In preparation for what was to come, Jesus told his disciples that He was leaving his peace with them. It was not a peace offered by the world: inconsistent and dependent on external circumstances. Instead, Christ’s peace would sustain and keep them in the coming days.
Jesus was confident that this peace, coupled with the gift of the Holy Spirit, would comfort and strengthen His disciples. Because of this, He could boldly command them not to let their hearts be troubled or afraid. A relationship with Jesus Christ promises this same peace in the life of every believer. Though our world, like that of the disciples, may be turned upside-down, God leaves us with an unshakable peace we can cling to when our hearts are anxious.
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“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.” Philippians 4:6-7
Paul, who experienced rejection from his fellow Jews, suffered imprisonment and even a shipwreck, encouraged the Christians in Philippi not to be anxious. As a result of his overwhelming difficulties, Paul’s words carried a tremendous weight. He didn’t tell them to not be anxious because he believed it to be a helpful suggestion or something they might benefit from. He said this because it was a way of life for him.
He had learned to place his complete trust in the sovereignty of God because he had nothing else he could fully trust in. After having several near-death experiences and unfavorable outcomes, Paul learned how to put his hope in God no matter what he faced. He not only told the Philippians what to do, but how to do it.
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"In every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving present your request to God."
Paul’s guidance answers the question so many of us have asked: “How am I supposed to ‘not be anxious’?” Paul answered this by saying “in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving present your request to God.” Whether our problems are relational, financial, or pertaining to our health, we can talk to our Heavenly Father about it. We can offer Him thanksgiving, not for the obtaining the results we desire, but because we ultimately know God is sovereign, loving, and always has a plan.
If we are attempting to control the outcomes of our lives we will constantly experience anxiety because we are not in control; God is. The moment we surrender to God and make a conscious decision to pray and trust Him, we open the door to the gift of peace Jesus gave the disciples. If we are dealing with anxiety today, strength, encouragement and calm for our anxious hearts are as near as our closest Bible.
Kia Stephens is a wife and homeschooling mama of two who is passionate about helping women know God as Father. For this reason, she created The Father Swap Blog to be a source of encouragement, healing, and practical wisdom for women dealing with the effects of a physically or emotionally absent father. Each week through practical and biblically sound teaching she encourages women to exchange father wounds for the love of God the Father. For more encouragement download Kia's free ebooks, Hope for the Woman With Father Wounds and Forgiveness Hacks: 5 Strategies to Help You Forgive. Additionally, you can connect with Kia on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest.
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Originally published Wednesday, 16 January 2019.