Can Fearing the Lord Reduce my Anxiety? Psalm 34b

Some families pass down an inheritance of precious jewelry while others share treasured recipes written on weathered cards. Other families gift each generation with stocks or bonds. Some families even pass the ownership of a family business to the next generation.

Sadly, my family held on to the tradition of passing down a legacy of anxiety for the last few generations. Fears about finances, betrayal, and mental health were regularly stoked in my family of origin. Each child was guided down a well-worn path of anticipating worst-case scenarios. Criticism and judgment loomed largely at any gathering. In recent years, I have pursued Christian counseling to begin to dismantle the habits of anxiety in my own life.

In the second section of Psalm 34, the Lord offers a lesson on the fear of the LORD through His servant David.  

11 Come, O children, listen to me;  I will teach you the fear of the LORD.
(Psalm 34:11 ESV)

What if cultivating the fear and reverence of the Lord is an antidote for anxiety?

In my mind’s eye, I can see the Lord inviting me to draw near to Him and sit down. He wants to gather His people close and give us a gift if we will only slow down long enough to listen to His counsel. My anxiety dissipates when I choose to fear and revere the Lord and not obsess about my worries and concerns.

12 What man is there who desires life and loves many days, that he may see good?
13 Keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking deceitfully.
14 Turn away from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it.
(Psalm 34:12-14 ESV)

He begins with rhetorical questions in verse 12.

Do you want to live a long life?  

Do you want to see good?

On any given day, everyone would likely answer yes to both questions. Even tucked into the second question is a nugget of precious guidance. Someone who wishes to live long and prosper, what does he or she see? Good

Do I look for the goodness of the Lord daily?  

What if looking for the goodness of God actually allows me to find it? What if failing to do so causes me more significant anxiety?

The second piece of wisdom is found in verse 13. Can I keep my lips from evil and lies? I might very quickly say, yes, of course. I won’t lie. However, on any given day, do I speak negatively about others who are made in His image? My words reflect my heart’s attitude. The ones I speak to others and the ones I speak over myself.

Recently, I was spending time with someone who regularly and fluently speaks about God’s goodness and His people’s goodness. I mentioned a mutual friend, and her immediate response was to say, “I just love her.” Her declaration immediately pointed the conversation in a positive direction leaving no room for criticism or complaint.

Do I speak of the goodness of the Lord and His people on a daily basis?

Verse 14 challenges me to consider where I am giving my attention. The Lord advises me to turn away from evil and do good.

In a 24-hour news-saturated society, turning away from evil becomes increasingly difficult. Stories of the evil deeds of man compete for our attention. At times, the depravity of man has become a competitive sport. News outlets compete to showcase evil on repeat.  This leaves the impression that crime rates are skyrocketing and the world is overrun with violence. Is that accurate?

Within my lifetime, I have observed a tremendous societal change. Now that news services are running at all hours of the night and day, more stories must be created to fill that air time. With increasing global connectivity, we can access reports about crime all over the world that we didn’t have access to just a few decades ago. Is there actually an increase in evil in the world today? Or are we racing to highlight it at every turn?

News headlines shared on social media are cleverly crafted to draw readers in to click on the story and learn more grisly details. I have fallen into this trap myself.

What would it look like if anytime any of us heard about evil, we chose to do something good? What if anytime I listened to a story of evil, I decided to tell a story about God’s people doing good?

Am I listening to stories of the goodness of the Lord and His work through His people, or am I focused on a showcase of evil?

Do I seek peace daily? In The Message version of verse 14, Eugene Peterson chose to use the phrase, “embracing peace.” Imagine for a moment the image of that. What would it look like to become more intimately familiar with peace? To keep company with it regularly? How could I go and spend time in peaceful places regularly? Could I sit outside for five or fifteen minutes and watch the clouds go by? Remembering the Lord is the one who moves the earth and the sky. Knowing He holds it all together ushers peace into my soul.

Do I pursue peace so I can understand the goodness of the Lord?

Spending time in peaceful places is a proven strategy to reduce anxiety. Being outside can help reset our nervous system exhausted by remaining on high alert for so long. If the weather does not permit spending time in nature, seeking out a sacred space such as a chapel would also provide a brief respite. Even a museum filled with glorious art could be a place where we can embrace peace. Sometimes a peaceful physical location is not possible, so taking a 5-minute break listening to music with your eyes closed could be an excellent opportunity to reset.

Where do you take time daily to embrace peace?

Finally, it seems that anxiety in our society may be at epidemic levels. I hear about it everywhere I go. How about you? How do you handle anxiety in yourself or others? What is the Lord revealing to you in all of this?

A Prayer for an Anxious Heart and Mind

Lord, we long to see and experience your goodness every single day. Please help us, by the power of the Holy Spirit, to cultivate reverence and worship you with our lives. Please help us to keep our tongues from speaking evil. Please help us to tell about your goodness and talk about your people in ways that build up and encourage. Please help us to turn away from evil and constantly seek to see and experience your goodness. Lord, show us how to embrace and pursue Your peace. In Jesus’ name, amen.

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