Count It All Joy: Living Amidst Anxiety

As terrible as it sounds to admit, I have found that in the midst of suffocating anxiety, Bible verses don’t help me much. When I feel my world is caving in around me, verses that tell me to trust that God has it under control feel like empty promises; in the thick of it, anxiety feels pretty contrary to that, like maybe He’s anywhere but by my side, that perhaps He doesn’t have it all under control. That’s the scary thing about anxiety: it makes everything you thought was real feel fleeting. It makes you feel alone, and it makes God seem very, very distant. James 1:2 calls us to “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds” (ESV). Count it all joy.

Proverbs 3:5-6 promises us that God will make our paths straight if we replace our human understanding with trust in Him. Matthew 6:27 asks, “Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?” while Romans 8:18 assures that this dreadful pain we feel can’t compare in any way to the joy that is in our future. But when I feel like life is coming at me full force from every direction, reading these verses is not constructive. I don’t read the verses and then stand up, brush my anxiety off and continue with my day, delighted that great joy lingers in my future. Anxiety is debilitating. I know that God knows that, so why on earth does He tell us to “count it all joy”?

In life’s trials, to be a good friend, you must meet people where they are, not show them how far they remain from where they “should” be. You should do the same thing for yourself. If it feels like nobody else is going to be there for you, be there for yourself. You must meet yourself where you are, with information that will comfort you and not fuel your anxiety. I thought I was supposed to get infinite comfort from Bible verses. After all, that’s what happens when you’re a Christian, right? The Bible holds in it the most comforting promises. But I was always either numb to them, or they made me feel angry and broken and lost, because I was showing myself where I thought I needed to be, and seeing how far I’d fallen simply scared me more.

I recently read a description of what anxiety feels like: “The outside world crashes into my consciousness. Even with my eyes shut and my head in my hands, every perception is completely overwhelming. There are entirely too many things happening all at once. Every thought is pervaded by an overwhelming feeling of failure. At the bottom, I can’t see outside the panic, and the panic seems to last for an eternity. But then slowly, very slowly, everything recedes, and I’m left dreading the next attack.”

This description meets me where I am. It reminds me that these feelings of loneliness, of helplessness, of defeat – they’re complete bogus. Reading that someone else feels the way I feel assures me that I am not broken, that I can in fact stand, and that there is a God who has spoken promises sure to fill me with joy.

I believe that the Bible can heal by revealing God’s Word. But I don’t believe that you can simply look up whatever trial you’re facing in the index of your Bible to find the solution. Christ provided His Word for us to live in and live through, not to simply quote. So in order to receive the comfort that God’s Word offers, we must immerse ourselves in it daily and base our lives on it, so when trials hit (and they will hit) we can meet ourselves where we are with Christ’s Word and breathe again, held securely in His loving arms.


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