Using the Word of God to Combat Anxiety: Learning From John Piper


We welcomed a darling baby girl into our family this past May. All the cliché things about babies you could possibly say are true about this little girl: she has completely captured our hearts, and we can’t imagine life without her.

However, though we are enamored with this little chubby-cheeked cherub, I am going to be real with you: three kids is uber-tough to handle on some days. Afternoons and evenings are particularly stressful when my oldest two get home from school, and I am chasing after a mobile, squealing infant; helping my oldest two with homework; getting dinner on the table; and ensuring all three of my kids get into bed with bodies bathed and teeth brushed. Because my husband is a head coach of two sports, most of my evenings are spent doing this alone.

Usually, the day ends with me standing in the shower escaping for a few moments of alone time to ease the tension that never has really left my upper shoulders since we had a third one. My stress exists because of the number of things I have to do during the day in taking care of three young kids — but in the midst of this kid chaos, I have been attempting to work on a project that I fear will not get done. And that low-grade fear is permeating my days and causing me anxiety.

I read an article recently by John Piper of that stated that anxiety is a state of unbelief. I’ve written about how anxiety is caused by fear, but I believe Piper was able to zoom out the lens even further and accurately assess not only the role of fear but the role of unbelief in anxiety.

What is unbelief? Unbelief is essentially not believing in or trusting God and what He says. Fear is unbelief. Behind the fear I am experiencing lies unbelief in the promises God has in His Word concerning the work He has given me. Most of us would say we believe in God and want to follow His ways, but we have trouble trusting His sovereignty and ability to help us in the midst of trying situations where the demands on us are great and our strength feels small.

What Does the Word of God Say About Combatting Anxiety?

To combat the turbulence of this season, I have felt led to turn to Isaiah 26:3. The passage says this: “You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on you. Because he trusts in you.” Certainly, we find a measure of comfort in the reading of the words. But if we dig into this passage a little, we discover further help for fretful thoughts and unbelief.

The verse points out that the mind that is “stayed” on Christ will be in perfect peace. It’s important to look at what a mind “stayed” on Christ looks like. I thought before I did any research on the wording in this passage that a mind “stayed” on Christ was fixed on Him. Certainly, that seems logical doesn’t it? If we’re always thinking about God and “stayed” on Him then we won’t succumb to our anxious thoughts, right?

Well, that is not exactly what I found. Certainly, God wants us to think about Him, pray to Him, and meditate on Him. All of those things are good and will help us when we feel anxious. However, when it says here that the mind is stayed on God, the word “stayed” in the Hebrew means “supported by God.” The Hebrew word is “sāmūḵ” and means “upheld” or “established.”

To have a mind that is stayed on God isn’t just to think about God. To have a mind stayed on God is to be supported, established in God’s truth to the point that my mind is literally held up by God. In other words, just as a house sits firmly on a foundation, so my mind needs to be rooted in the things of God. And the verse makes an important connection between the mind at peace and the person that trusts. As the Keil and Delitszch Commentary on the Old Testament says, “Such a mind is thus kept by Jehovah, because its trust is placed in Jehovah.”

What we can conclude is that when we cling to God and what His Word says and ground ourselves in Him, this secures stability and peace in our minds.

Piper advocates this same idea in his article (although he uses different Scripture references). Instead of fixing to that which produces anxious thoughts, we can hang onto God’s truth. For instance, in my current scenario, I can switch out thoughts like, “I can’t take this. The kids are driving me crazy. I’ll never get my work done!” In their place, I can say, “I can do all this through Christ who strengthens me (Philippians 4:13). God will help me get this impossible workload done (Philippians 1:6). God has equipped me with all I need to do His work (Hebrews 13:21).” We stabilize our runaway thoughts with truth much like an ancient sagging floor is stabilized by a hefty crossbeam.

An Offensive Strategy to Fight Against Anxiety

So, what if we have spoken all of the right verses and we still have anxiety? We keep speaking them, and we keep seeking the Lord. As Piper explains beautifully in his article, we overcome our struggles not just by speaking truth but by the help of the Spirit who lives inside us. Additionally, he points out that just because we have anxiety doesn’t mean that we should quit the race or think we don’t have the faith of other Christians. It means that Satan has targeted us and thrown “mud on our windshield.” We need to fight back with our “windshield wipers.” We need to fight back with the Word of God and the help of His Spirit. Note what Piper says:

When anxiety strikes and blurs our vision of God’s glory and the greatness of the future that he plans for us, this does not mean that we are faithless, or that we will not make it to heaven. It means our faith is being attacked. At first blow our belief in God’s promises may sputter and swerve. But whether we stay on track and make it to the finish line depends on whether we set in motion a process of resistance. Will we turn on the windshield wipers and will we use our windshield washer? … You deal with anxieties by battling unbelief. And you battle unbelief by meditating on God’s Word and asking for the help of his Spirit. The windshield wipers are the promises of God that clear away the mud of unbelief. And the windshield washer fluid is the help of the Holy Spirit.

Christians are not exempt from anxiety. We will feel anxious, fearful, panicked in reaction to certain scenarios. However, when we feel anxiety, we have prescription in the Word of God to begin speaking that Word over us and our situation. But simply speaking verses over ourselves won’t necessarily make our anxiety go away.

There are times when we won’t be sure what specific verse speaks to our situation because we are not in touch with the lies getting us off track. Whenever we feel fear that won’t subside, then, we need to pray and ask God for His help and wisdom (James 1:5).

Truly, we don’t need to fixate on feeling bad about ourselves when we feel anxiety. We need to attach ourselves to truth that we can speak to the lies and doubts coming against us. And the more we are in the truth, the more we will be able to discern the lies that show up on our doorstep.


I wish that I never had to feel anxiety again. I have been freed from certain bouts of anxiety at particular intervals for long periods of time, but it often finds its way back. There have been moments when I’ve wondered: Is this anxiety ever going to stop coming around?

Well, probably not as long as I am living on this planet. However, God has given us an offensive strategy, so when fear comes, we can stabilize unhealthy thoughts with God’s truth. My anxiety has evaporated in this season as I have replaced my worries with His assurances found in Scripture. And — I have let go of my timetable for the project and instead embraced the idea that God’s timing for its completion may be different than I originally envisioned.

What about you? Do you struggle with anxiety? Has there been a time when God gave you a particular verse to cling to that helped you? Share with us in the comments!

Carol Whitaker

Carol Whitaker is a coach's wife, mom, writer, and singer. She left a career in teaching in 2011 to pursue a different path at God's prompting. While she thought that the path would lead straight to music ministry, God had different plans -- and Carol found herself in a crisis of spirituality and identity. Out of that place, Carol began writing about the lessons God was teaching her in her desert place and how God was teaching her what it meant to be healed from a painful past and find her identity in Him rather than a title, a relationship, a career, or a ministry. These days, Carol spends her time shuttling her little ones back and forth from school, supporting her coach-husband on the sidelines, and writing posts. Carol also continues to love music and hopes to pick up piano playing again. Carol is a self-proclaimed blog junkie and iced-coffee lover. She resides in Georgia with her husband and three children.

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To the Overburdened Woman: A Lesson in God’s Expectations

To the Overburdened Woman Wondering What God Expects of You

I am a church member, a wife, a daughter, a sister, an aunt, and a teacher. I’m sure you fit many of those roles as well, and the expectations we put on ourselves and expect from others to fulfill any of those positions is mind-boggling. I’m sure you don’t want to read paragraphs of what I do related to each of those, but you can read an article about being spread thin that I wrote for Beulah Girl earlier if you want the juicy details.

For now, let’s just focus on the last few weeks of my life as a teacher. Early this year, I added another credential to my resume. Mind you, it doesn’t pay anything, I already have a million badges on my signature line of my email, and I am not changing jobs any time soon. I signed up for this certification because I wanted to. As my husband says, I crave chaos.

The certification requires monthly webinars that are supplemented by an overwhelming group chat and social media involvement. The culminating activity of this certification is the ability to earn a trip. I earned that trip to Denver (yay!), but I volunteered (how shocking!) to develop a breakout session in addition to preparing for the trip itself and bringing materials to present a required science-fair-type board. That’s a lot, so my summer has consisted of one week of preparation for that trip and one week of being on the trip itself. The trip was a wonderful experience, but I am exhausted!

Don’t we do that to ourselves as women? We are asked to bring a dish to a party, so we have to bring the best dish. We need an outfit to attend a women’s event, and we have to nail every accessory just to impress other women. It’s VBS time, and even though we don’t have time to think, we volunteer for the biggest, best-decorated room. It’s time for the chaos to stop! God doesn’t expect all the things we put on ourselves. Despite all our ever-running, in Micah 6:8, God tells the prophet that He only has three expectations for him. Maybe we women would do well to take note of these three commandments and center our lives on them instead.

God’s Three Expectations Women Can Learn From Micah

Do justly. As compassionate women, it is easy for us to cry. Or at least it is for me. I can cry over a commercial, a movie, a dream, or a memory. But I don’t often act on that compassionate cry. The key word in this segment of God’s admonition to Micah is the word do. My favorite book in the Bible, James, says that we must be “doers of the word and not hearers only, deceiving [ourselves].”

It’s only justice when we do it, not just think about it or cry over it. What is God calling your woman’s heart to do? Fight against human trafficking? Fight for the unborn? Fight for your marriage and honor the vows that you know are the right way? Whatever it is, God’s call for justice is an opportunity to align ourselves with the beat of His heart. Let’s do it, whatever it is.

Love mercy. I am currently reading almost a 20-year-old book by Philip Yancey, What’s So Amazing about Grace?, where the author gives outrageous examples of God’s grace and juxtaposes them with calls for humanity to show that same grace in the face of horrible evil. I’ve made the point that God doesn’t expect very much of us, but what He does expect can be really hard.

Grace has often been defined as God giving us something we didn’t deserve. Mercy works in tandem with such extravagant love — it is when the consequences we do deserve are withheld from us. I can only skim the surface of how many times I’ve broken God’s heart or spit in His face by my actions and yet how many times He has withheld his wrath. Yes, I’ve had to deal with the fallout of my sin, but not to the degree I could have.

Our response to God’s many acts of mercy are at the crux of what God expects of women. We are to be the embodiment of mercy. When our children disrespect us, we could yell and reject them, especially if the disrespect becomes a pattern. Mercy says to love them anyway. When friends fail on their end of a bargain, we might feel the need to find new friends. Mercy says to live the golden rule and love the way we wish they could. Will we ever need to dole out punishment? Certainly we will, but greater mercy should be our life’s aim, since it is what will draw people to the cross.

Walk humbly with your God. Oh my, so many times in my life I’ve shown false humility on the outside — refusing to pose for pictures, singing quietly or not at all when asked, or playing down my academic achievements. All the while, on the inside, I was fighting thoughts of my own pride, pride in my appearance, my talents, or my intelligence. God knows the difference. I wrote a whole post for Beulah Girl about humility that I encourage you to read, but let me sum it up with this. God wants all the glory, and He won’t share it with us.

If we are doing tasks “for God” but secretly doing them so that we can get approval from our husbands, our churches, or the PTA board, they don’t count. If God expects only the three items He outlines through Micah, He expects us to do them well. Let us fall prostrate at the feet of our King and ask Him to take those aspects of our personality or behavior that rise up as competitive idols and help us restore them to their rightful places, at the foot of His cross and recognized as gifts from Him.

Listen, ladies, if you are struggling with the busyness of life and overwhelmed by your own expectations, it’s time to pick up God’s goals for you instead. And you know what? I’ve heard He has a pretty easy burden, one that’s worth the trade for our impossible one. If we will just fall in love with Jesus, we will naturally embrace justice, adore mercy, and humble ourselves. Because we always become like the ones with whom we spend our time.

Would you like prayer about God’s expectations of you? Do you feel overwhelmed? Feel free to leave a comment below, and this team will hold you up to the Lord.

Suzy Lolley

Suzy Lolley

Suzy Lolley taught both middle school and high English for many years, and is currently an Instructional Technology Specialist for the public school system, a wife, and a workaholic. She loves nothing more than a clean, organized house, but her house is rarely that way. She enjoys being healthy but just can’t resist those mashed potatoes (with gravy) sometimes. When she cooks, she uses every dish in the house, and she adores a good tea party. She loves Jesus and is spending the next year documenting her journey to a less independent, more Jesus-dependent life on her blog.

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