This question pushes us to consider two things. It pushes us to consider how anxiety works, so that, the nature of anxiety, and it also pushes us to consider how having a personal relationship with the personal God changes our interaction with anxiety.
And now we see both of these things, both of these considerations at play in Psalm 56 verses 3–4. And I'm gonna read that. “When I am afraid, I put my trust in you, in God, whose word I praise; in God I trust, I shall not be afraid. What can flesh do to me?”
So first, what we see here in verse 3 is it captures the way anxiety works. You see the psalmist speak, “When I feel afraid.” So it's not “If I feel afraid.” It's “When I feel afraid.” Anxiety is gonna be a constant in our lives. And the reality is that the way anxiety works, it doesn't just resolve on its own.
In fact, it just tends to persist and become more and more entrenched and even left to itself, it multiplies. So that's the first thing we see in verse 3, the nature of anxiety.
And then this second thing, this important reality, these two verses capture how a personal relationship with the personal God makes a profound difference in our relationship to anxiety. The psalmist says, “In God I trust, and I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?” This is the psalmist's theological logic. It's sort of divine calculation here. It's as if he's saying, “Because I trust in a trustworthy God, and therefore there's nothing that man can do to me, I am not going to be afraid. Fear will not rule over me.” So you can see the progression in these two verses. There’s the movement from being afraid to entrusting himself to God to then courageous action, not being ruled by fear.
So let’s come back to the question at hand, and let me reframe it again: so “How do I get over certain anxiety triggers.” I want to reframe it in that it’s less about getting over anxiety and it’s more about overcoming anxiety. And we do this as we follow Psalm 56 and this progress from fear to faithfully facing our anxieties. So let’s take an example of social anxiety. We know that many people experience anxiety regarding large social gatherings, and if we take something like Psalm 56 and this pattern, this progression, it reminds us first and foremost that feeling anxious about these things is inevitable. We’re going to feel dread, and we’re going to be tempted to run and avoid. As the psalmist says, “When I feel afraid.” It’s inevitable. It’s going to happen. You’re going to feel it in your stomach. Your mind’s going to race. The room may start to spin and close in, you may vet weak in the knees.
But remember the goal here is not to eradicate anxiety, but rather the goal is to not be ruled by anxiety and fear. So to overcome our social anxiety, we’re going to use the same logic as the logic in Psalm 56. Our logic is this: “Because I trust God, and he has my soul, he has my future, he has my reputation, he has my identity, what can man or woman do to me? I don’t have to be ruled by fear, and I have what I need to courageously venture into these intimidating and challenging and uncomfortable, even out of control, social situations.”
This is the pathway—Psalm 56 presents us the pathway to overcoming anxiety and its triggers. And lastly, just because we can map out the path, it doesn’t mean that the road is an easy one. Overcoming anxiety is likely to be a long and hard battle. But we’re not without hope, and we’re not without help. Overcoming anxiety is possible in light of who God is for us.