It's a great question: Can we really find freedom from our anxiety and fears? Some would say it is not really possible. Others would argue that it is.
Fear and anxiety are real challenges for all of us, if we can be honest. These are universal emotions that all of us experience as human beings.
Wherever you find yourself as you answer the question, I was greatly helped as I read two posts on The Gospel Coalition – one by Sophie McDonald, and the other by Mike Pohlman. I have merged them together in this post. May the Lord help all of us find freedom from our anxiety and fears as we renew our minds with His Word and His Truth. In the Name of Jesus!
Imagine the original Eden. Animals roam freely and peacefully. A mist goes up from the earth, watering the green land and blooming flowers. There’s a chorus of chirping birds, and fish dance in the glistening water. Trees offer their fruits for savoring, while flowers delight with sweet fragrances and vibrant colors. Each day the sky’s aglow with handcrafted sunsets and shimmering constellations.
With a whisper, the scene changes. Dissonance builds. Fruit from the forbidden tree is rebelliously ingested and, as promised, the eyes of the first man and woman open. Their bones quake with foreign feelings of shame, humiliation, and overpowering panic. We disobeyed the God who made us. We’re going to die.
They heard the sound of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God among the trees of the garden. But the LORD God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?” And he said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.” (Gen. 3:8–10)
Just like that, fear entered the world.
Hide and Seek
What did this fear compel Adam and Eve to do? Hide. And don’t we still?
We hide in our fig leaves of false security, our caves of over-scrutinized caution, and our self-made dams of disbelief, terrified someone might see us for who we really are: dirty, insecure, and weak. Fears flare in our souls like fireworks across a dark sky and rattle us to the core, against all rationale. It should come as no surprise that our default setting is fear.
Like Adam and Eve, we hide. We bury pain and protect ourselves from feeling it ever again. We cover the blemishes. Gloss over the less-than-desirable parts. Avoid the shame-inducing. Guard our hearts. Whatever we may do, on our own we cannot escape our fears. We need rescue.
At the core, beyond the rising blood pressure, increased heart rate, and heightened awareness, fear tells us we need a Savior. Whether it’s a fear of failure, rejection, death, or the dark, fear sends a signal to our souls that we cannot be the center of the universe. There is more to life than us. Fear whispers of our brokenness and cries for security, for refuge, for something (Someone) bigger to protect us.
Every fear can be traced back to Genesis 3, which tells us that fear is universal because sin is universal. The antidote to sin must be the antidote to fear.
Our Fear Fighter
Fear prompts us to run. To hide from God, vulnerability, confession, and from other people. But for those who are in Christ, we are just that—in Christ. We don’t have to hide because we’ve been hidden in the wounds of the suffering Savior.
God curses the serpent, the man, and the woman, but he’s not finished with them: “And the LORD God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them” (Gen. 3:21).
Take in the magnitude of this action. Where did the skins come from? In order to cover the nakedness of the rebels, one of the animals—some imagine it was a lamb—had to die. The first sacrifice was made, garments of grace given. Hints of the ultimate sacrifice played in the shadows.
Those shadows were illuminated as the Light of the world took on flesh and dwelt among us, waging war on the kingdom of darkness. Through Jesus’s life, death, and resurrection, restoration to life as it was before sin and fear slithered in is granted to all who come in faith.
At the bloody, beautiful cross, we find the antidote to our sin and the perfect love that stops us in our tracks as we run to hide. Perfect Love swallowed the wrath of God on our behalf and now sits at the Father’s right hand offering reconciliation, freedom, joy, and peace to any who approach.
Not only that, our excessively merciful Creator gives us a new wardrobe. Just as he graciously made Adam and Eve garments of animal skin, God clothes all who repent and believe in the garment of the ultimate sacrifice, our propitiation.
Found and Fearless
This is how we fight the soldiers of fear—we fight them with the gospel. We have a Savior who pursues us, who makes an excruciating sacrifice, and who covers us in robes of righteousness, presenting us faultless before his throne.
We no longer need to hide from God; we can run to God. He’s our shield, defense, and fortress of protection (Ps. 18:2). He’s the One who guards our hearts (Phil. 4:6–7). We don’t have to hide ourselves with garments of self-protection, because he hides us in the shadow of his wings (Ps. 17:8).
The gospel is the answer to insecurities, paralyzing anxiety, and life-sucking fear. The blessed reality of Christ in us, the hope of glory, tenderly blasts the brick and mortar around our hearts like dynamite. He loves us too much to let any walls remain that keep us from believing we’re safe apart from his protection.
We can let go of fear and joyfully accept the love of our God. He wants all of us; he died to purchase every speck of our dirt in order to display his heart-cleansing, wardrobe-giving, fear-destroying grace.
Suggested Next Steps:
Remind Yourself That God Is In Control: When you convince yourself that your world is out of control, you are on the verge of paralysis. Watch your self-talk. Are you saying to yourself: “God is in control of this circumstance, He is my Father, and He is ruling this for my benefit”?
Accept Confusion: Believing in God’s sovereignty doesn’t mean life will make sense. Believing in God’s sovereignty is needed because life doesn’t make sense. Your rest is not in figuring out your circumstances–your rest is in the God behind the circumstances.
Don’t Allow Emotions To Rule: As much as the emotions you experience will be right, good, and appropriate, don’t let them set the agenda. There is a temptation to do that, but allowing yourself to be pulled away by the emotions of the moment could cause you to regret your decisions later.
Distinguish Needs From Wants: Be very careful what you put in your catalog of “need.” The minute you tell yourself something is a need, you’re saying it is essential for life. Then you are going to determine that you can’t live without it. It’s easy to attach yourself and your sense of security to the gift rather than to the Giver.
Know Your Job Description: God promises to provide. Your job is to live the way God has called you to live. Instead of giving way to discouragement, look for ways you can contribute to God’s people at the moment.
Run To God, Not Away From Him: God’s promise to us is not first the relief of the suffering–His promise is to give us Himself. He will never turn a deaf ear to the natural cries of a person of faith when life doesn’t make sense. God hears and answers and works and comforts.
Sophie McDonald is a writer, Bible teacher, and the assistant editor of RTM Magazine. She’s a fan of blue ink pens, theology, books, coffee, and journals. Her primary aim is the fulfillment of the Great Commission and a life drenched in holiness. You can read more of her writing on her blog, and follow her on Twitter and Instagram.
Mike Pohlman is senior pastor at Immanuel Bible Church in Bellingham, Washington. His post was on TGC was Tullian Tchividjian (via Susan Fiske) summary of Paul Tripp’s six action steps for combating anxiety.