“He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the LORD, He is my refuge and my fortress: my God; in him will I trust. Surely he shall deliver thee from the snare of the fowler, and from the noisome pestilence. He shall cover thee with his feathers, and under his wings shalt thou trust: his truth shall be thy shield and buckler. Thou shalt not be afraid for the terror by night; nor for the arrow that flieth by day; Nor for the pestilence that walketh in darkness; nor for the destruction that wasteth at noonday. . . . Because thou hast made the LORD, which is my refuge, even the most High, thy habitation.” — Psalm 91:1-5, 9 (KJV)
“If you are depressed, you are living in the past. If you are anxious, you are living in the future. If you are at peace, you are living in the present.” — Anonymous
Americans are anxious. According to some studies, we might actually be the most anxious people on planet Earth.
“The United States is now the most anxious nation in the world… Stress-related ailments cost the nation $300 billion every year in medical bills and lost productivity, while our usage of sedative drugs keeps skyrocketing; just between 1997 and 2004, Americans more than doubled their spending on anti-anxiety medications like Xanax and Valium, from $900 million to $2.1 billion.” — Taylor Clark, “It’s Not the Job Market: The Three Real Reasons Why Americans Are More Anxious”
In fact, anxiety disorders are the “number one mental health problem among [American] women and are second only to alcohol and drug abuse among men.” —Edmund J. Bourne, The Anxiety and Phobia Workbook
Yet, perhaps even more concerning is that our children are suffering from anxiety at a higher rate than any previous generation. Sociologists are referring to this anxious generation following the Millennials, as “Generation Z.”
“Gen Z is nervous. They are experiencing more anxiety, depression and pressure than ever before. Studies show that today’s kids are 6 times more likely to have anxiety and depression than their grandparents did at their age. Anxiety is the leading mental health issue among American children and continues to rise. The latest study from the Journal of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics shows that, in recent years, there has been a 20% increase in anxiety diagnoses for children ages 6 to 17.” — Dale Hudson, “Why Gen Z Is Nervous.”
There are many reasons given for this increase of anxiousness in our society by the various studies. In his book, Goliath Must Fall, Louie Giglio offers “three causes” for our anxiety. He identifies fear and anxiety as one of the “giants that we battle.” He says anxiety is a symptom of three deeper “C” causes. The first is “Conditioning” (i.e., “You were born into a family of worriers.”). The second is “Concealing.” (i.e., “Any time we conceal something major under the hood of our lives, fear is allowed to flourish.”). And the third is “Controlling.” (i.e., “Some people want to control everything. They soon realize that much of life can’t be controlled—particularly how other people act. So fear, stress, worry, and anxiety are born.”).” — Louie Giglio, Goliath Must Fall: Winning the Battle Against Your Giants
Whatever the root causes for anxiety, I believe that God’s Word offers a healing answer. I’ve noticed that the Psalms are a kind of balm for our troubled souls. When we pray the Psalms to the Lord, letting Him apply His Word to our hurts and fears, we experience relief from anxiety and peace in its place. We will alway face trouble and therefore anxiety in this world. But there is help in the Lord and His Word.
In Psalm 91, the Psalmist wrote that those experiencing fearful anxiety could find relief by abiding in the Lord. How? The text offers three ways. Look at Psalm 91:2 again,
“I will say of the LORD, He is my refuge and my fortress: my God; in him will I trust.”
Notice the all caps in the word, “LORD?” In modern English translations, that’s how they translate the Hebrew covenantal name of God, “Yahweh.” This is the name of God, which means, “I AM,” that was revealed to Moses at the burning bush (Ez. 3:14). It has been observed that God’s covenantal name, “I AM,” speaks of His being eternally present and self-existent. His name is not, “I WAS,” nor “I WILL BE,” but “I AM.” He is the God of the present.
As we mentioned in the anonymous quote above, It has been observed that if you are depressed, you are living in the past and if you are anxious, you are living in the future. But if you are at peace, you are living in the present. Perhaps this saying is true because the only way to truly live in the present is to “abide in the LORD.”
Three ways to experience relief from anxiety by abiding in the LORD:
1. Look to the LORD as your refuge. When the psalmist was worried about tomorrow, he hid in the eternal “I AM as his refuge. A refuge is a place of retreat and rest. He said, “The LORD is my refuge!” We can look to the LORD as our refuge.
2. Look to the LORD as your fortress. When the psalmist felt under attack, either by real or imagined threats, he looked to the LORD as his “fortress.” When panic attacks swept over him like a flood, he called on the “Almighty” God (Hebrew: El Shaddai) as his “shield and buckler,” his mighty warrior and defender. The great “I AM” is always present to defend us. We can look to the LORD as our fortress, our place of safety.
3. Look to the LORD as your Creator. The psalmist called on the LORD saying, “He is my God; in him I will trust.” He had a personal relationship with God. Here he used the Hebrew word, “Elohim,” for “God.” This is the first name of God revealed in the Bible. In Genesis 1:1 we read, “In the beginning God (Elohim) created the heavens and the earth.” The name “Elohim” is the name of the Creator-God. We can pray to the One who made us. He knows what makes us tick. He knows us better than we know ourselves. We can trust Him. Give God your worries and concerns. He is the Creator-God. He can do all things.
All three ways listed above begin as prayers. Turn your worries into prayers. Stop your self-talk, which only increases your anxiety. Start talking to God, which leads to peace. Give the Lord your past, trust Him with your future, and ask Him to be with you in the present.
As the apostle Paul wrote, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:6-7).
We can learn to abide in the “I AM” to find relief from our anxiety.