Ancient Anxiety: A Perspective from the Past

This morning I came across a quote in the Bible that really struck me. It is found in Psalm 94:19 and it says, “When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought me joy.” It was already highlighted in my Bible when I read it this morning, meaning that I had definitely read and appreciated it before. But something about it struck a different chord with me today.

I think what hit me was just the notion that anxiety is not a new battle. While it certainly seems to be on the rise today, it was also talked about in the psalms thousands of years ago. The book of Psalms includes poetic writings from a variety of authors, and the dates of their authorship are not precisely known. But only a little bit of research will show you that these Psalms were written hundreds of years before the dawn of the Common Era. So whether you believe in the message of the Bible or not, you can probably agree that it is a compilation of ancient texts that have been around for a very long time.

The only point I am trying to make here is simply the fact that anxiety has been a part of life for thousands of years. The fact that this psalmist wrote about his experience with anxiety points me to the idea that it is not something unique to our time.

I don’t know if this matters to you at all, but for some reason it gives me a small bit of comfort. I think it is just another aspect of knowing that I am not alone in this battle. There are many who have gone before me—for decades, centuries, even millennia—who have battled with this beast and come out victorious.

Take the author of Psalm 94, for example. He found a way to experience joy, even in the midst of his anxiety. Have a look at what he wrote in verse 18: “When I said, ‘My foot is slipping,’ your unfailing love, Lord, supported me.” Then he goes on to say what we read previously: “When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought me joy.”

This writer found consolation in the unfailing love of God. He had faith in a God who walked with him through thick and thin. In verse 22 the psalmist writes, “the Lord has become my fortress, and my God the rock in whom I take refuge.” This is not the writing of someone who is floundering around, wondering where to find hope. This is an author who, though he struggles with anxiety, has built a solid foundation on the ultimate source of hope.

I find this really inspiring. As I shared in The Blanket Diaries, there are times when I get so confused by my intrusive and obsessive thoughts that I struggle to navigate between what is real and what is imagined. This condition can produce such overwhelming moments for me as I try to understand what is actually going on in my brain. But I have realized lately that in these moments, I simply need some kind of truth to stand on—something that I couldn’t possibly have imagined, and something that I can rely on despite my own confusion. For me, that truth is the Bible.

And so, I am learning to approach my anxiety in a manner similar to the way the writer of Psalm 94 did. I am learning to find joy in the consolation that God’s words bring to my heart. I am learning that His unfailing love can support me when I feel myself slipping out of control. I am learning that when the battle rages around me, I can take refuge in Him. And through it all, I am learning to be grateful for the discoveries I am making along the journey.

How about you? Where do you find your footing? If you are not someone who believes in the Bible, what are the truths that help you navigate confusion and anxiety? I would love to hear from you!

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