Written by Associate Pastor: Hannah Day
A subject we regularly talk about at our church is Anxiety. Anxiety feels like an epidemic gripping everyone these days, including the Christian world. There are many times when we feel like we’ve lost all control of the world around us, and it seems like our worst fears are often printed in the headlines. The world is in turmoil.
In the past Christians were told that Anxiety was the Holy Spirit telling us about the “wrongdoings” in our life, it was a way to highlight our stresses as ways for us to “get right with God.”
As God has continued to speak to his body we’ve been more aware that God isn’t condemning us when we have stress, in fact God sees us as his perfect creations, and loves us. (Hebrews 10:14) In fact, we know that the Holy Spirit does work through crippling fear and gut-wrenching anxiety because we know that perfect love casts out all fear. (1 John 4:7-21)
So if we know that God’s not punishing us for fear and that anxiety is oftentimes just a part of life how do we deal with it?
Last night our service was a small group, and we decided to take some time to just fellowship with one another and connect. We shared our hearts with one another, our triumphs, our prayer requests, and yes, of course, our anxieties.
In this time of fellowship Pastor Selena brought up what I thought was an interesting point. David (the only man in the Bible called the friend of God) wrote Psalm after Psalm about lamenting in his anxiety.
Largely we know the Pslams as the hymnal of the Bible. There are songs, poems and long dissertations about praising God. David was unabashedly ashamed of where God had brought him from, the good and the bad times. This is why I don’t think it’s a mistake that the Pslams (largely about praise) also deal A LOT about anxiety.
When you are studying the Bible you know that the words we see in English are often oversimplified versions of words used by the original authors. In fact, many times we know that Hebrew words which often had five or six words for one concept were translated into two or three languages who had fewer complex vocabularies before they got to English. This means that when we read a word like Worship or Praise which in English has very triumphant and joyous meanings we lose the fact that praise and worship were often more complex processes that were an answer to the problems biblical men and women experienced.
As someone who has suffered from anxiety turning to the scriptures often made me feel like I was doing something wrong. Or, that scriptures was patronizing. “Consider the lilies of the valley” isn’t as comforting when you’ve got no money, you’re facing eviction, and your love life is in shambles.
However, as trite as it felt sometimes I did study the Bible and listen to teachings looking for answers. One of those answers came to me when learning about the fact that the Hebrews had seven different words for praise. SEVEN! Digging into each meaning you learn that God had answers for us about how to deal with our problems through praise and worship. For anxiety, he gave us YADAH.
Yadah is a verb, and it means the action of throwing out your hands. According to the lexicon, it means “to bemoan the wringing of hands” or “to cease the wringing of hands”.
I inherited my anxiety from my grandmother, a short little Pentecostal preacher who I can remember from my early childhood wringing her hands in worry. Many people who experience anxiety have a tick like this, biting their lips, picking at their fingernails, or wringing their hands. Wringing of hands is so common it’s almost universally known as a sign of anxiousness.
God established the act of worship through Yadah to give us a way to distract our racing minds and focus on the heart of our issues. Yadah means to throw out your hands, so it isn’t simply raising your hands in a worship service it means literally letting lose everything you’re holding and raising your hands. When I’m anxious I am holding onto the thing that is outside or inside of my control so tightly that it fills me with fear and dread. “What if this” and “what if that” become so overpowering that “What IS” ceases to be important.
Psychologist teach us that when dealing with anxiety it’s important to focus on what is inside of our control. To put our minds in a place where we don’t let our thoughts control us. The Bible teaches us the same thing (2 Corinthians 10:5). We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.
Thoughts that are obedient to Christ take control of a situation and teach it the ways of God. Every time Jesus came in contact with an obstacle he offered a solution that was either earthly or supernatural. If something was beyond his control he put it in God’s control.
As Christians we often deal with anxiety, we fear we aren’t enough for God or our families. We fear that we won’t be taken care of and our needs won’t be met. We fear for our jobs, our romance, and our own selves. But remember perfect love casts out all fear. When we deal with anxiety we’ve been given ways by God to handle it.
Step 1: Yadah: Literally throw out your hands and let go of the things causing you anxiety.
Step 2: Take captive your thoughts, focus on what is good about where you are right now.
Step 3: Make every thought/fear obedient to Christ. If it is outside of your control make it obey the laws of God. (All things work together for the good of those who serve God and are called according to His purposes).
Hopefully, these steps will help you with your anxiety as they have helped me.