Combating Our Anxiety in a Time of War
As we watch Russia’s war on Ukraine, it’s natural and common for our hearts to become anxious. Therefore, we need the Word of God to recenter our thoughts and emotions. Psalm 27, a military psalm, is an ideal place to turn for help.
The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? . . . One thing have I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to inquire in his temple.Psalm 27:1, 4
Escalating anxiety sometimes makes it seem impossible for us to respond in a righteous way. Pastor and author Brian Borgman explains, “Worry is a crippling emotion that paralyzes us. It bogs us down emotionally, making us virtually useless for anything else. In addition, it leads to other sins. ‘Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil’ (Ps. 37:8b). . . . Fear leads to lying, forgetting God, not trusting God, and not fearing God.”1 We don’t always recognize this tendency and, if we do, don’t always admit it. But anxiety can lead to other sins, as we saw in part 1 of this devotional.
That’s why there is much to learn from Psalm 27. Conflict induces some of the highest levels of anxiety you will ever experience. As King David’s enemies increased, so did his anxiety. Three times in the opening verses of this psalm he confesses to being afraid (see vv. 1–3). At least six times in the whole of the psalm he identifies the basis of his fear: evildoers, adversaries, armies at war, enemies, and false witnesses (see vv. 2, 3, 6, 12). Yet rather than responding with sin, David responds in a righteous manner, with a heart that is strengthened by God-centered faith. He turns to his only help and cries out to God (see v. 7). He fights fear with confidence in God as his defender.
How did he do this? What can we learn from his example?
Faith cripples the power of fear by reminding us of the right-now presence of the Lord (v. 1). David reminds himself that “the Lord is my light and my salvation” and that “the Lord is the stronghold of my life.” In fear’s grip, biblical faith doesn’t look only to promises of future deliverance but to assurances of present protection. While being persecuted by enemies, David says, “God is here with me. In him I will put my trust. He is my protection.”
Faith cripples the power of our fear when our focus and affection become singular in the Lord (v. 4). David deliberately turns the eyes of his heart away from real-life fears and toward his one, undying passion—to live in the real-time presence of the Lord. David seeks, “all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord.” As it was with David, so it can be with us. Gazing on the beauty of the Lord will rightly align our affections, enliven our faith, and alleviate our fears. Do you have that same singular longing—to seek after the Lord? Or does anxiety distract you from the Lord?
Faith is powerful, isn’t it? It helps us to fight our fears as we find our confidence in the Lord.
- Reflect: Do you, like David, have confidence that God is on your side?
- Reflect: In what ways do you experience the crippling effects of fear? Do you see any tendencies in yourself to allow anxiety to lead you to sin in other ways? If so, are you ever tempted to excuse this?
- Act: The second half of Psalm 27 (vv. 8–14) is an anxious prayer that expresses David’s hope to see his longings of verses 1–7 come to final fruition as he sees “the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living” (v. 13). Can you pray this prayer and make it your own?
*This post is a one-day excerpt from the 31-day devotional, Anxiety: Knowing God’s Peace. Available from P&R Books, Westminster Books, Amazon and ChristianBook.com