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The Human Condition was once perfect and free of adversity. But after the fall of man in the Garden of Eden the human condition became characterized by flaws and failures. We became prone to sin. And with the emergence of sin, we also saw the birth of adversity.
Adversity, which is now a part of our human condition, challenges us on mental, physical, and spiritual levels. There are many sources for the adversity that we face in our lives. These adversities could be a result of our actions. It could be an attack from the enemy. But it could also be the call of the Holy Spirit leading us towards a wilderness that draws us nearer to Him.
Our response to adversity is important. Because it's our response to adversity that determines whether or not we draw closer to God and overcome, or drift further away from him and fall to adversity.
The good news is there is an example to follow. Throughout the Bible we see numerous examples of people just like us who have faced adversity. Their struggles with adversity shed light on how we can biblically respond (or not respond) to adversity and overcome the trials and tribulations that mark our human condition.
This is the 6th week in a series I've entitled "Responding to Adversity" in which we will look at how these Biblical characters responded to adversity, and key takeaways from their struggle with adversity that we can apply to our day-to-day lives. This week's study on responding to adversity will be a look into David's response to the adversity of Anxiety (see link below for last week's devotional, Responding to Adversity - Overcoming Insecurity).
According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, anxiety disorders are the most common mental health illnesses in America. They affect ~19% of the adult American population (40 million people aged 18 or older).
The American Psychological Association defines Anxiety as follows:
"Anxiety is an emotion characterized by feelings of tension, worried thoughts, and physical changes like increased blood pressure. People with anxiety disorders usually have recurring intrusive thoughts or concerns. They may avoid certain situations out of worry. They may also have physical symptoms such as sweating, trembling, dizziness, or a rapid heartbeat. Anxiety is not the same as fear, but they are often used interchangeably. Anxiety is considered a future-oriented, long-acting response broadly focused on a diffuse threat, whereas fear is an appropriate, present-oriented, and short-lived response to a clearly identifiable and specific threat."
The definition above illustrates a few connections between fear and anxiety - 1) fear is not the same as anxiety and 2) fear is present focused, while anxiety is future focused. I believe a 3rd connection between fear and anxiety is that uncontrolled fear can result in recurring negative thought patterns that lead to the development of anxiety.
Knowing that fear is connected to anxiety is important because fear is at the center of our human condition. We see that as early as the fall of man, in the Garden of Eden, when Adam and Eve hid from God because they were afraid that He would see them in their nakedness. And so, from the time of early Creation, mankind has been plagued with the adversity of fear, which leads to other adversities such as Anxiety. It's no coincidence that most commonly stated phrase in the Bible, "Do not fear", which appears 365 times. This is the most commonly used phrase in the Bible because fear is such a common aspect of our human experience that keeps us from experiencing the joy and comfort that comes from knowing God.
The infamous King David of Israel also struggled with thoughts stemming from fear and anxiety. And through his struggles depicted in the Book of Psalms, we see that he overcame the adversity of anxiety by 1) Trusting in God 2) Praising God 3) Following the Statutes of God 4) Declaring the Works of God.
David's Struggle with Anxiety
King David is perhaps the most famous of all the kings of Israel. As the 2nd king of Israel, King David united the people of Israel and established Jerusalem as the capital by returning to it's native home the Ark of the Covenant.
But before his magnificent feats and kingly reputation, King David knew a humbler beginning. He was the son of Jesse, a farmer and shepherd, and the youngest of 8 brothers.
King David's accomplishments were not limited to just his time as king. Before becoming king, David killed a famous Philistine known as Goliath. It was his same faith and trust in God that characterized his reign as king that allowed David to defeat this Philistine giant using just a rock and sling.
But perhaps the greatest of all his accomplishments is the one we see in 1 Samuel 13, where King David was described as a man after God's own heart -
"But now your kingdom shall not continue. The Lord has sought for Himself a man after His own heart, and the Lord has commanded him to be commander over His people, because you have not kept what the Lord commanded you." 1 Samuel 13:14 NKJV
King David was humble, courageous, a father (the father of the wisest man who ever lived actually - Solomon), a king, a leader, and a godly man.
But despite his seemingly perfect track record, King David struggled behind the scenes just like we do in our day to day lives.
The accounts below are just some of many in the Book of Psalms that depict his struggles -
"Have mercy on me, O Lord, for I am in trouble; My eye wastes away with grief, Yes, my soul and my body! For my life is spent with grief, And my years with sighing; My strength fails because of my iniquity, And my bones waste away." Psalm 31:9-10 NKJV
"For my soul is full of troubles, And my life draws near to the grave. I am counted with those who go down to the pit; I am like a man who has no strength," Psalm 88:3-4 NKJV
"The pains of death surrounded me, And the pangs of Sheol laid hold of me; I found trouble and sorrow." Psalm 116:3 NKJV
King David feared things just as we do. He feared -
- the slander and oppression of those who were against him. Psalm 120:2
- death. Psalm 116:3
- sorrow. Psalm 116:3
- loneliness. Psalm 88:18
But, despite his fears, King David found hope and comfort in God. His Book of Psalm is dedicated to praising and worshipping God, which we see is one of the ways in which King David overcame the adversity of anxiety. From studying the Book of Psalms, I've also seen 3 other ways in which King David overcame his struggle with Anxiety.
King David's complete 4-part response to Anxiety can be seen in Psalm 40 -
"I waited patiently for the Lord;
And He inclined to me,
And heard my cry.
He also brought me up out of a horrible pit,
Out of the miry clay,
And set my feet upon a rock,
And established my steps.
He has put a new song in my mouth—
Praise to our God;
Many will see it and fear,
And will trust in the Lord.
Blessed is that man who makes the Lord his trust,
And does not respect the proud, nor such as turn aside to lies.
Many, O Lord my God, are Your wonderful works
Which You have done;
And Your thoughts toward us
Cannot be recounted to You in order;
If I would declare and speak of them,
They are more than can be numbered.
Sacrifice and offering You did not desire;
My ears You have opened.
Burnt offering and sin offering You did not require.
Then I said, “Behold, I come;
In the scroll of the book it is written of me.
I delight to do Your will, O my God,
And Your law is within my heart.”
I have proclaimed the good news of righteousness
In the great assembly;
Indeed, I do not restrain my lips,
O Lord, You Yourself know.
I have not hidden Your righteousness within my heart;
I have declared Your faithfulness and Your salvation;
I have not concealed Your lovingkindness and Your truth
From the great assembly.
Do not withhold Your tender mercies from me, O Lord;
Let Your lovingkindness and Your truth continually preserve me.
For innumerable evils have surrounded me;
My iniquities have overtaken me, so that I am not able to look up;
They are more than the hairs of my head;
Therefore my heart fails me.
Be pleased, O Lord, to deliver me;
O Lord, make haste to help me!
Let them be ashamed and brought to mutual confusion
Who seek to destroy my life;
Let them be driven backward and brought to dishonor
Who wish me evil.
Let them be confounded because of their shame,
Who say to me, “Aha, aha!”
Let all those who seek You rejoice and be glad in You;
Let such as love Your salvation say continually,
“The Lord be magnified!”
But I am poor and needy;
Yet the Lord thinks upon me.
You are my help and my deliverer;
Do not delay, O my God." Psalm 40 NKJV
King David's 4-part response to his fear and anxiety consists of trusting in God, praising Him, keeping God's statutes, and declaring the works of God to those around him.
How We Can Respond to Anxiety
Below is a look into how we can apply King David's 4-part response to Anxiety in our own lives -
1. We can respond to the adversity of anxiety by trusting in God.Trusting in God is definitely easier said than done. And it's because when we trust in God, we trust the following -
- God is in control, not our situation.
- God's plan for us is good, despite how we feel in the moment.
- God will be faithful to keep His promises, to love, strengthen, protect, and guide us, despite the presence of adversity in our lives.
By trusting God and the truths above that follow from trust in God, we allow ourselves to experience the comfort and joy that come from the place of refuge God prepares for us.
"The Lord is my strength and my shield;
My heart trusted in Him, and I am helped;
Therefore my heart greatly rejoices,
And with my song I will praise Him." Psalm 28:7
And so, when we trust in God and experience the comfort and joy that comes from being helped by Him, we give way to the 2nd response, which is praise.
2. We can respond to the adversity of anxiety by praising God.
King David was a man after God's own heart because he had a heart of worship. King David's heart longed for God and was filled by God. And in the abundance of his love for God, and the love He felt from God, King David overflowed this love through his praise and worship.
"Help me, O Lord my God!
Oh, save me according to Your mercy,
That they may know that this is Your hand—
That You, Lord, have done it!
Let them curse, but You bless;
When they arise, let them be ashamed,
But let Your servant rejoice.
Let my accusers be clothed with shame,
And let them cover themselves with their own disgrace as with a mantle.
I will greatly praise the Lord with my mouth;
Yes, I will praise Him among the multitude.
For He shall stand at the right hand of the poor,
To save him from those who condemn him." Psalm 109:26-31 NKJV
We see in the passage above that despite being overcome by sorrow and trials, King David make a choice to praise God. And through his praise, I believe King David released the presence and blessings of God into his life that enabled him to overcome his fear and anxiety.
3. We can respond to the adversity of anxiety by keeping God's statutes.
Another way in which King David was a man after God's own heart was because he delighted in the law of God.
The Book of Psalms uses several words that interchangeable to describe the law of God (these are laws, testimonies, ways, commandments, word, precepts, judgements, truth, and ordinances).
"The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul;
The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple;
The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart;
The commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes;" Psalm 19:7-8 NKJV
Psalm 19:7-8 illustrates how King David was able to overcome anxiety by keeping the truth of God's word.
The law of the Lord converts the soul.
- David knew that by keeping the law of God He was able to find redemption through the promise of God that those who love Him and follow Him will be saved from eternal punishment. He no longer had to fear for his soul.
The testimony of the Lord gives wisdom.
- As a King, I'm sure David highly treasured this benefit. No doubt, King David was in search of wisdom to know how he should rightly rule. And he found that the truth of God's word was the truest source of wisdom. And by acquiring the truest wisdom, I believe this helped him to overcome the fear of not being able to rule his people well.
The statutes of the Lord enable the heart to rejoice.
- By following what is right, King David felt the peace of a clean conscience. His heart was able to rejoice (not fear) by keeping the statutes of God, which were right.
The commandments of the Lord bring enlightenment.
- Beyond the wisdom King David sought to be an effective leader, I believe he found divine inspiration and knowledge from following the commandments of the Lord. And through this revelation, he found additional security in knowing that God was with him and for him.
4. We can respond to the adversity of anxiety by declaring God's works.
This 4th response to anxiety illustrates the power of speech and validates the saying of King David's son, Solomon, in Proverbs 18:21 - "Death and life are in the power of the tongue."
King David spoke victory, and therefore spoke life, over his struggle with anxiety by declaring the works of God.
"O God, You have taught me from my youth;
And to this day I declare Your wondrous works.
Now also when I am old and grayheaded,
O God, do not forsake me,
Until I declare Your strength to this generation,
Your power to everyone who is to come." Psalm 71:17-18 NKJV
As King David spoke victory over his fear, we can also speak victory over our own fears and anxieties by declaring the wondrous works of God in our lives and the lives of others.