The following is an excerpt from Brannon's new book, What Every Christian Should Know: Understanding and Defending Biblical Truths. For full details and to order please click here:
Through my books and Worldview Weekend programs, I often present information that could cause people to worry about disturbing realities growing in the world around us. My intent, though, certainly is not to introduce anxiety into the lives of my readers and listeners. Jesus Himself points out that in the world we will have troubles (John 16:33). Yet as Christians, we are not supposed to have anxiety over the difficulties we see around us or even about those things that press upon us personally.
Perhaps you don’t struggle with anxiety, but you may know a fellow believer who does. Whether you or someone else, though, Scripture has an amazing capacity to put our minds at ease if we understand the truth about how God wants us to handle our anxieties. As I’ve researched this issue in Scripture, I’ve distilled the biblical teaching about worry into 18 key points from the Bible as to how Christians should deal with fear, anxiety, and worry.
1. Anxiety causes depression.
Have you ever noticed how many television commercials you see these days for people dealing with depression? Whether from counseling services or medications, we’re bombarded with “professional solutions” to the problem of depression. Another measure of how widespread the problem of depression has become is the internet. Try a web search on “depression” or “anxiety,” and you’ll find millions of pages of results.
The Bible tells us that anxiety causes depression. Proverbs 12:25 is straightforward in its assessment: “Anxiety in the heart of a man causes depression.” So, one reason so many people suffer with depression is that they allow anxiety to overtake them.
It is easy to understand why an unbeliever might become anxious. Unbelievers don’t have access to the peace that surpasses all understanding (Philippians 4:7). Without a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, they have no guarantee of eternal life, the reality of the Holy Spirit helping them, or understanding of the Word of God to help gain peace and calmness. To help a non-believer cope with depression can be an opportunity to share the Gospel.
It’s different, though, with believers. Sometimes we struggle with anxiety as well, but Scripture offers us an opportunity to be free of it if we simply accept what is set before us. If you’re a believer struggling with depression, you might ask yourself, “Am I struggling with depression because I have anxiety?” That’s the biblical diagnosis for someone who is depressed, and releasing the anxiety is a potential solution.
2. Worry brings anxiety.
You may see a connection with point #1. If anxiety is the source of depression, then it’s helpful to know where the anxiety comes from. As you worry, that brings anxiety. Jesus addresses this head-on with His disciples in Luke 12:22-31 where He explains to them all the reasons they do not need to be anxious:
He [Jesus] said to His disciples, “Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; nor about the body, what you will put on. Life is more than food, and the body is more than clothing. Consider the ravens, for they neither sow nor reap, which have neither storehouse nor barn; and God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds? And which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature? If you then, are not able to do the least, why are you anxious for the rest? Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; and yet I say to you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. If then God so clothes the grass, which today is in the field and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will He clothe you, O you of little faith?
“And do not seek what you should eat or what you should drink, nor have an anxious mind. For all these things the nations of the world seek after, and your Father knows that you need these things. But seek the kingdom of God, and all these things shall be added unto you.”
Jesus makes a number of fascinating statements in this passage. In asking if a person can add a cubit to his stature, He appears to be posing a question about whether or not worrying can add to a person’s height. The context, though, tells us that He is actually asking if a person can add one day to his or her life through worry. It’s rhetorical, of course, because the obvious answer is that we cannot add more days to our lives by worrying.
Jesus also reveals in these verses that worrying is a sin. I’ll examine that claim in more depth later in this chapter, but first it’s important to get a handle on the truth that if we can stop ourselves from worrying, we can reduce the anxiety we might have. The solution Jesus points to is to “seek the kingdom of God.” The implication of the original language here is that we’re told to “seek heaven.” It means that if we pursue what is really important—not the temporal things of this life—we will have a perspective that brings us peace.
3. Wrong priorities bring despair.
The point Jesus makes after the teaching on worry that we looked at in point #2 is revealed in Luke 12:34: “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” A lot of people set their hearts on pursuing the things of this world. And some actually obtain them, thinking it will be the sweetest life possible. After working hard—perhaps for many years—to obtain them, they discover that worldly things don’t bring the joy they thought they would.
If you pour your life into securing material things as the center of your life, you’re going to be very disappointed. Even Christians can fall into this trap. I know some who are not happy people because they have allowed wrong priorities into their lives. Sometimes Christians wrongly focus their time and attention on things that are temporal, not eternal.
I have experienced an affirmation of this biblical truth of the reward of having your heart set on the right priorities. As I concentrate more on eternal things—the work of the Lord, ministry, studying the Bible, my relationships with family and friends, working to fulfill the Great Commission—I receive great satisfaction and contentment. As 1 Timothy 6:6 says, “[G]odliness with contentment is great gain.”
4. Peace is lost through a quarrelsome home.
If you struggle with not having much inner peace, it may be because of what’s going on in your home. Nothing is worse than friction in a marriage. Not getting along with your spouse is a sure peace thief.
For over 25 years, I have been blessed with a wonderful marriage. I regard my wife as “beyond me” in many ways, but we are also excellent complements to one another. As with even the best of marriages, though, we have had quarrels. And I’ve come to see that the very worst times in life are when you’re not getting along with your spouse, even if it is only for a few hours. During the few times my wife and I have quarreled or gone to bed upset with each other, it’s miserable. I can hardly imagine living that way day in and day out. It would certainly destroy any hope of real peace in your heart or home.
The Bible speaks specifically to this domestic issue. Proverbs 17:1 says, “Better is a dry morsel with quietness than a house full of feasting with strife.” And Proverbs 15:17 is similar: “Better is a dinner of herbs where love is than a fatted calf with hatred.”
Children sometimes present another sort of problem at home. You may have a really good marriage but struggle with a quarrelsome or contentious teenager. So, as believers, we have to understand the biblical principles for marriage, for raising our children, and for dealing with anger to help us get under control the quarreling that might remove peace from our homes. Getting this fixed may be a necessary first step for peace in your life.
5. God gives peace to those who seek Him.
Another reason believers sometimes lack peace is that they are not truly seeking the Lord. And how do we seek the Lord? Through the study of His Word and through prayer. Study of Scripture reveals the character and nature of God because the Bible reflects His character and nature. The Bible promises that God gives peace to those who seek Him. As Psalm 34:4 says, “I sought the Lord, and He heard me, and He delivered me from all my fears.” If we seek Him, we will find peace.
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