Blog Academics, College Preparation

Fear, Anxiety, and Scripture

By Randy W. Nelson, Ph.D. on Friday, May 17, 2024


For the first fifty years of my life, I never experienced anxiety. But all that changed after the accumulative effect of 2 years of unexpected tragedy, in which I lost four people who were close to me. In that time, I was also faced with the decision of euthanizing my dog, who I had rescued from the human society nine years earlier. I tried everything to save the dog, but as I wrestled with that decision, I had a series of panic attacks. I wasn’t sure what was happening, but I knew that I lacked the life skills to deal with it. 

This began my quest to understand and address my anxiety, physically, spiritual, and mentally. At Northwestern, we believe in the integration of faith and learning and that the truths in the various fields of study should complement the truths found in Scripture. 

So I contacted my primary care doctor, and he prescribed Alprozolam (Xanax). This medicine took the edge off my anxiety without making me tired or loopy. I also began to see a Christian counselor and started researching anxiety in Scripture and psychology. I share more about my journey in another blog.

In midst of my hopelessness, I found hope in prayer and reading God’s Word. Numerous Bible verses address the issue of fear. One of them was Isaiah 41:10: 

“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God, I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

The World of Isaiah 

Isaiah 41:10 was originally written by the prophet Isaiah in the 8th century B.C., to confront Israel about their unfaithfulness to God. In chapter 41, Isaiah envisions an imaginary court case between God and the idols. The nations (“islands”) are to be silent before Yahweh, the judge of the universe. God raised up Cyrus, King of Persia, to impose his judgments against the nations. 

Their created idols pale in comparison to the God who controls history. Like the nations, Israel will be judged for idolatry. In exile, the people of Israel will be surrounded by their enemy. They also feared that God had permanently rejected them. But, God exhorted them not be afraid in their captivity. God promised to sustain them and eventually to restore them.

Our World

So what is the contemporary application of Isaiah 41:10? With the coming of Jesus and the New Covenant, Christians are the new people of God. Since God does not change, we can expect him to act toward us as he did toward Israel. As God’s covenant people, we believe that God loves us and cares for us. We trust that God will strengthen and sustain us even when surrounded by our enemies. Whatever difficulties we face, we must allow our faith in God to conquer our fears. 

Perspective over Positivity

Biblical faith is not the same as positive thinking. Biblical faith is a relational trust in God. It believes that God is on our side, He has our back, and He is in our corner. In spite of circumstances, biblical faith gives God the benefit of the doubt. The promise of God’s presence in the midst of danger is repeated numerous times in the Old and New Testaments. The phrase, “Do not be afraid,” occurs 365 times in Scripture. 

Max Lucado says, “Feed your fears and your faith will starve. Feed your faith, and your fears will starve.” What would happen if we meditated on God’s Word? What if our mind was so filled with memorized Scripture that we automatically reverted to thinking about God and his ways? If we did this, we would cultivate an eternal perspective where our view of God is enlarged and our view of time is lengthened. 

Chuck Swindoll says, “Nothing comes into my life that doesn’t first pass through the hand of God.” Whatever your view of divine sovereignty, danger comes into your life on God’s watch. Trust him to be present with you, to sustain you, and to even strengthen you in the midst of life’s difficulties. Believe that God is on your side, that he is in your corner, and that he has your back. This is biblical faith.

This article was previously published in 2018.