3 Ways Worship Can Calm Your Anxiety
By Deirdre Reilly, Crosswalk.com
Martin Luther once said, “Pray, and let God worry.” How relaxing that sounds--and how hard to believe!
Human beings seem to be hard-wired for stress and anxiety, and in these modern times one has only to scroll social media, engage in conversations with others, or watch television to see anxiety in action.
The good news is that a lasting solution for anxiety is easily found--worshipping our Lord. The give-and-take of prayer and worship is a natural conduit for peace in our minds and hearts, if we trust it and take action to make it possible.
Read on to understand how worship improves our mental health!
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1. Connecting with the True Source of Peace
When we worship, whether alone or with others, we connect with the true source of all hope, peace, and certainty — which is exactly what we need during anxious times. My husband contracted the Coronavirus last summer when it was relatively new, and medical predictions about possible outcomes--including death--ran a very wide and frightening gamut. Talk about anxious!
My daily prayers increased to the point where I was talking to the Lord every minute! I also repeated this verse, which points to physical sensations including “weary” and “faint”: “But those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint” (Isaiah 40:31).
The Bible had the right verse for me, and I faced each of the very long nine days my husband was ill with assurance that the Lord was indeed watching over him.
God longs for us to bring our stress, worry, and anxiety straight to Him in worship; it is one very important way that we can show God our faith and trust in Him. You are never “bothering” Him, or over-doing your prayers and petitions. As Hebrews 11:1 reminds, “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.”
How beautiful is the experience of worshipping with others, whether in a church, on a mountaintop, or around the dining room table. Psalm 55:4 confirms, “We who had sweet fellowship together walked in the house of God in the throng.” The word “sweet” conveys the beauty created when we bow our heads together in worship.
I find that church is the best place to be when anxiety soars; on 9/11/01, when our nation was attacked, I was next door to my church at a tumbling class with my toddler. I took my little boy to church as soon as class ended, having heard about the first two planes crashing into the Twin Towers in New York City. As we sat down, I was touched to see some local workmen, dusty and dirty, tool belts still around their waists, sitting a few pews in front of me praying.
Church--and worship--draws us like a magnet because it is good and right that we take our sorrows and stresses to God, the maker of heaven and earth and Architect of our very existence. He made us, so He understands us. Psalm 99:9 explains, “Exalt the Lord our God, And worship at His holy mountain, For the Lord our God is holy.”
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2. Realizing Others Have Anxiety, Too (Including the Apostles!)
When we worship in community, our humanity is shared. Every bowed head acknowledges a far greater power than our own, a far greater Love than we can experience among ourselves only.
Worship connects us and allows us to turn together to our ultimate answer when we are anxious and worried. As human beings we long for control--and through technology and our modern way of living, for many of us the illusion of control has never been greater. We live an “on demand” lifestyle that caters to our every want and need, it seems. That is why worship is so important--it acknowledges that we actually have very little control, and that God alone has supernatural power.
It also allows us to send and receive love to the Lord, which is the healthiest thing you will ever do in your life.
It helps me to remember that even the apostles were anxious--and they knew Jesus when he was here on earth! How touching it is when Jesus must soothe their anxieties as his earthly life draws to a close.
“Do not let your hearts be troubled,” Jesus tells his worried followers in John 14:1-2. “You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.”
What is Jesus doing here? He is reassuring, with concrete examples of what is to happen--he is going away to heaven, and will prepare a place for them, and someday return for them--and us, too! How can we worry too much when we have this beautiful assurance from Jesus?
Thomas (a doubter who was probably a huge worrier) said to Jesus, “'Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?' Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.’” (John 14:5-7)
What blessed reassurance God’s own son offered those he loved so much. Can it be any less for us, also beloved by the Father and the Son?
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3. Getting Real About What Ails You
Worship allows us to lay out our stress and anxiety in a sacred space, sharing it all with God. The Lord already knows all about our lives, but wants to hear from us directly about issues large and small.
Consider the idea of knowing about someone’s problems, versus hearing it directly from them--they are two totally situations entirely! The person who tells you they are struggling invites you into their life, even the messy parts--which is what God dearly wants with us.
Sometimes it is tempting to be too “proper” in our prayers, omitting things that seem silly, horrifying, or reveal an ugly, sinful side. Nonsense! Bring it all to God in prayer.
Proverbs 3: 5-6 reminds, “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.” This is an interesting passage. “Make your paths straight” implies an initial crooked path, which can be interpreted to mean bad thoughts and/or actions--those we might be embarrassed to take to the Lord. Sometimes, knowing God’s complete goodness, it is horrifying to think about revealing our badness to Him.
Never fear; He knows our sinful natures, and just how bad we can be. After all, if we really aren’t so bad, why did Christ have to die for our sins?
So, God already knows how cruel, lustful, and selfish humanity can be. Reveal all of your sin, despair, and anxiety to Him through your prayers, and passionately worship Him as the only One who can save you.
This is what will truly relieve you of your worry and anxiety--and bring you a bright new future starting right now--one that is more happy, healthy, and fruitful than you can ever imagine!
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