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Understanding Anxiety

Anxiety is a secret weapon God gives us, and if used correctly, can benefit us.
Read Time: 9 minutes

Anxiety, oh anxiety, can you please just go away? We anxiously look ahead at the looming mountain. We do not know whether to turn around or start climbing. There is no good way around this situation that is causing us anxiety. We are wide awake in the middle of the night, overthinking all that could go wrong.

There is potential for a variety of complexities, whatever direction we take. Our stomach is in knots, nerves on edge, and adrenals in overdrive. Anxious thoughts may affect not only our sleep schedule but also our eating habits, relationships, and even our faith.

This article will consider the anxiety common to everyone and not trauma-induced anxiety or clinically diagnosed anxiety disorders. Much strength is found when we demystify the purpose of anxiety and learn to flip it on its head and use it to our advantage. There are also natural ways to minimize anxiety. We will find it is a secret weapon God gives us, and if used correctly, it can benefit us.

What Is Anxiety?

What exactly is anxiety? We toss this word around a lot these days. We use it interchangeably with worry, fear, and stress. Anxiety is the anticipation of something bad that could happen, a blend of fear and uncertainty. It may be triggered by an upcoming doctor’s appointment, a conflict with a loved one or even a work deadline.

Author Chris Bailey explains, “Anxiety is a normal response to a stressful situation, especially one we interpret as threatening.”1 When we experience anxiety, we shift from seeing how things really are to perceiving them from the unstable state we are in. For some, anxiety does just come out of the blue. Perhaps we are unsure why we are anxious. We may wonder if there is any way to escape the occasional or constant experience of exhausting anxiety.

What if feeling anxious is not the problem, but how we cope with it?

When we read Scripture, we realize how many circumstances would have induced anxiety. Put yourself in the sandals of any Bible character, and you can empathize with the distress of their troubles. Noah’s ark bobbed in the water day after day. Jacob faced Esau and his four hundred men. David fled cave to cave from King Saul. The list goes on and on. The mountains faced by believers down through the ages seem insurmountable. The million-dollar question was, and still is: Has God given us the ability to experience anxiety for our own good? What if feeling anxious is not the problem, but how we cope with it?

Natural Responses to Anxiety

We automatically want to avoid anything uncomfortable. We cry out with David, “My heart is sore pained within me… fearfulness and trembling are come upon me… And I said, Oh that I had wings like a dove! for then would I fly away, and be at rest.” (Psa 55:4-6).2

We may instantly take a wrong stance and deal with our situation badly or try to run from it. This reaction is called the fight-or-flight response. Our body releases hormones as an acute stress response. They prepare us to stay or run to safety. In this moment, blood going to the brain is restricted, and our thoughts get muddled. This natural reaction is meant to be unpleasant because our brains rely on stress responses to stay alive by taking appropriate action. The good news is, if channeled well, anxiety can drive us to make adjustments that improve our lives and refine our characters.

God designed the brain to constantly keep the body in homeostasis, the body’s comfort zone. When overheated, we instinctively sweat. We continually regulate. Our guard is up when there is a threat to our equilibrium. We can choose to avoid thoughts about what’s causing our anxiety if we engage in a myriad of modern-day distractions. Or we can allow it to stimulate us to make beneficial changes. This result leads to positive results.

We learn early in life how to cope negatively by escape or avoidance. Our homeostasis draws us towards the immediate relief of anything painful that comes our way. We may find ourselves repetitively overindulging in alcohol, shopping, eating, gaming, or other addictive behaviors. We may throw ourselves deeper into careers, service, or exercise. We try to numb ourselves and just want to feel successful at “something.” A relentless pursuit of perfection in one area of our lives often leads to harsh self-criticism and neglect of other responsibilities. Busyness for the sake of busyness is never healthy.

Or perhaps we have learned to shift the blame or manipulate others to ease our pain. We make excuses and complicate matters. We may turn to mindless entertainment or obsess over the news. When we catch up on Facebook posts and the news, it gives us the momentary satisfaction of certainty because we know what has happened and is happening. However, passively watching and scrolling can lead to “a cycle of distress.”3

God desires to be our refuge.

On top of that, if we have not dealt directly with the root of our anxiety, we will find ourselves in a worse state after we have indulged! The pursuit of self-gratifying relief is the opposite of yielding ourselves to the Potter’s hands as vessels being molded for His glory and instruments of His righteousness (Isa 64:8, Rom 6:13). God desires to be our refuge. (Psa 57:1; 61:4, 62:8).

Positive Responses to Anxiety

Anxiety is powerful because it is a full brain-body experience, ready to propel us into action. It is a built-in alarm that says, “Hey, wake up! There is something that needs immediate attention! Find a solution!” As we begin to listen to our inner alarm, we understand anxiety is a God-given energy to manage negative emotions, process them, and respond to the challenges they present. We cannot live on autopilot. Life’s disturbances are meant to shape and transform us positively. We need to be self-aware and make an effort to navigate anxiety in a constructive direction.

As we learn to cope with stress in the moment, we may beat full-blown anxiety to the punch. There are ways to cut down on the amount and intensity of anxiety drastically. We know we are not our own when we enter a relationship with God and His Son. Our hearts, minds, and bodies belong to the LORD. As we change ourselves for God’s glory, He will bless us for our efforts.

When anxiety sets in, it is helpful to pause, explore why we are uncomfortable, and pray for direction. These moments allow us to draw near to God and seek answers from His words of wisdom. We can ask for guidance from fellow believers. Our Father uses life’s uncertainties to build our reliance on His care and belief in His promises, but when we are guilty of a fault and need repentance (e.g., Psalm 32).

Do we immediately ask God for help?

When we work through anxiety, we build resilience and character and may even depart from evil or ill choices to increase obedience and shalom (peace). “The righteous are bold as a lion.” (Prov 28:1). We need to remind ourselves that life is composed of a series of events that prompt us to seek the truth about God and make higher, Christ-like responses to them.

God wants all our hearts.

“Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your discernment. Through all your ways know Him, and He will make your paths straight.” (Prov 3:5-6 Alter’s Hebrew Bible).4

What is the status of our relationship with God? Do we immediately ask God for help? How attached are we to His promises so that we can keep our eternal perspective when in the throes of a trial? How bright is our vision of the Kingdom Age so that we put more weight on the spiritual than the temporal?

When we set our hopes rightly in God’s love, we can experience shalom despite our present struggles (Isa 26:3, Phil 4:6-7). We may need to resubmit and become more dependent on God to bring calm into the circumstance. It is helpful to realize that we often achieve more in our state of weakness, knowing Jesus’ strength is “made perfect in weakness.” (2 Cor 12:9). “I will go in the strength of the Lord GOD.” (Psa 71:16). Faith does not know how God will provide solutions, but that He definitely will.

Authentic fellowship with others relieves anxiety. Bonding and connecting with others in person or on the phone lowers cortisol (stress) levels.5 Eye contact especially provides much-needed consolation. We are doing ourselves no favor when we decline an invitation to dinner or skip a Bible class because we would rather hunker down alone and self-medicate.

Distraction often produces more negative emotions, moodiness, and the desire to isolate more. We may think we will not do anyone any good, or it could not possibly do us any good to be with others when we are so out of sorts. Yet our Creator designed us to thrive in a community of believers. Getting together with others can “build our stress tolerance and buffer against bad anxiety.”6

We can pray He will supply trustworthy, loving brothers and sisters to surround us. The Apostle Paul often wrote how the coming of this or that brother or sister greatly strengthened and comforted him (Acts 28:14-15; 2 Cor 7:4-6). Let’s cultivate strong relationships in the LORD.

If God is for us, who can be against us?

There are a lot of things we can leave in God’s care while we focus on how to conquer what is in our control. This decision helps us to transform our what-if list into a productive and goal-oriented to-do list. We stimulate new habits and add focus on Christ. When we decide to go forward in the strength of our Savior, we are more open to new experiences and have a grander purpose and freedom from unnecessary burdens.

The other side of the anxiety coin is courage. Our giants become grasshoppers! Goliath is just another bear or lion. The angels are encamped around us. We can triumphantly declare, “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Rom 8:31 NKJV). God wants us to have courage in Him! (Josh 1:9). Our labors in the LORD courageously free us from feeling small and caught. When we take up our slingshot and five smooth stones, anxiety naturally diminishes and drives us to take wise action.

Let’s touch briefly on the physical level. It is helpful to realize that the modern lifestyle is often artificial, unnatural, and overstimulating. It robs us of a sense of calm. God created people to spend most of their time out-of-doors and to eat whole, unprocessed foods, soak up the sunshine, work manually, and then sleep soundly.

Anxiety is amplified when our blood sugar gets out of balance. When we cut back on sugar and caffeine, it can drastically reduce anxiety. Deep breathing exercises are beneficial. Moderate to vigorous exercise supplies a unique benefit. “Brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) acts like a fertilizer that promotes the growth, function, and survival of brain cells, including those that turn off the stress response. Immediately after exercising, our brain cells are bathed in BDNF.”7

God designed our brains to repair automatically. We must train ourselves to enjoy the right foods, get up and move physically, and slow down and rest soundly in Jesus.


Anxiety may not feel good, but it helps if we remember it is not supposed to because it has a powerful purpose. Our anxiety demands our thoughts, informs us of what could happen, and hopefully motivates us to respond spiritually. If we are tired of the anxiety loop, let’s earnestly draw nigh to God. Open our whole hearts and minds to Him, allow Him to search us, and reveal what He wants us to do to change. God is not limited. As our late Bro. Harry Tennant once said, “God has no problems, only solutions.”

If we are tired of the anxiety loop, let’s earnestly draw nigh to God.

The next time anxiety pulls us into a state of panic, breathe deeply and help it along to do its work. We can confidently say, “I am driven to trust in God when I am fearful and life seems uncertain. God was faithful to me in the past, and His faithfulness will sustain me now. This looming mountain is difficult to climb, but I know God is with me. What I can do now, I will. I will feel better to do the next thing and commit the rest to God. With Jesus, I can figure out the next steps as they come. In faith, I can move mountains!”  (If you are unable to get out of the anxiety loop, you may want to find a Biblical counselor to assist.)

Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee, yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness. (Isa 41:10).

Leslie Wood,
Richmond Hall Unamended Ecclesia, VA

  1. Bailey, Chris. How to calm your mind: Finding presence and productivity in anxious times. New York: Penguin Life, 2022. p24.
  2. All Scriptural citations are taken from the King James Version, unless specifically noted.
  3. Bailey, Chris. How to calm your mind: Finding presence and productivity in anxious times. New York: Penguin Life, 2022. p23.
  4. Alter, Robert. The Hebrew Bible: A translation with commentary. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2019. p360.
  5. Dennis-Tiwary, T. (2002) Future tense: Why anxiety is good for you (even though it feels bad). New York: Harper Wave, 2022. p111.
  6. Suzuki, Wendy and Fitzpatrick, Billie. Good anxiety: Harnessing the power of the most misunderstood emotion. New York: Atria Books, 2022.
  7. Heisz, Jennifer. Move the body, heal the mind: Overcome anxiety, depression, and dementia and improve focus, creativity, and sleep. New York: Harvest Publications, 2022. p15.
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