By Josh Buttram —
If you’ve ever been lost in the woods, then you know what it feels like to be anxious. The trees are exactly the same no matter where you look. All sense of direction is confused and you don’t know where to go. You also know the sense of relief when you see a path. Nevermind where the path leads, it leads somewhere else and that’s such a relief. It tells you that someone else has been here before and that person made it out of the woods. All you need to do is follow the path.
In anxious moments, I feel just like this—lost in the woods, panicking with no way out. And when I feel anxious, I often feel stuck. How can I stop being anxious? Of course I know I’m sinning when I stay anxious, but this only adds to my anxiety. I don’t want to stay this way, but how do I trust God? I want tobut don’t know how. One tried and true method that never seems to work is telling myself, “Don’t be anxious! Don’t be anxious!! Don’t be anxious!!!”
The psalms resonate with me when I’m feeling anxious. They start in familiar places – in the middle of anxiety, fear, guilt, shame, confusion, loneliness, or depression. On the flip side, they can also start from a place of exuberance, wonder, delight, joy, expectant longing, or excitement.
That being said, getting on the pathwhen you’re stuck in the woodsis easier said than done. It’s not enough to just read through a psalm when I feel anxious. I need to slow down and really think and pray my way through it. Sometimes I pray through it a few times and each pass brings me closer to Jesus. It’s also helpful to rephrase the psalm, asking the question, “If I were talking to my dad, how would I say this?” The psalms are poeticso they give us vivid, vibrant word pictures of what we’re trying to say. When I’m feeling anxious, three of my favorite go-to passages are Psalm 23, Psalm 121, and Psalm 131.
One morning I was in the grip of anxiety. I was praying through Psalm 121 and decided to write it out using my own words. Here is what I wrote:
My eyes scan the horizon looking for help. Where will it come from? My help comes from the Lord, who made Heaven and Earth. He will not let me slip. My protector will not nod off. Think about it: He will not doze off or go to sleep. The Lord is my protector and provider. He is my dependable shade. The sun will not harm me during the daytime, nor even the moon at nighttime. The Lord will protect me from all evil people and beings. He will preserve my life. The Lord will provide for and protect me at every turn, both today and every day for the rest of eternity.
As I prayed through this psalm, I found myself drawing closer and closer to Jesus until I was taking refuge in His arms. The psalms are reliable paths because they lead us straight to Jesus. The Lord has many purposes for bringing stressors into our livesand one consistent reason is that He’s drawing us to Himself. He combines difficult situations with His living Word to draw us like a magnet into His arms.
If you find yourself lost in the woods of anxiety, seek the path that will lead you to your Savior. Thank you, Jesus, for using your Word and stressful situations to gently and constantly pull us into your care.