Like most people, I wrestle with anxiety. My sinful flesh is prone to worry and be anxious about anything and everything. My sinful way of dealing with anxiety and worry is to find comfort in fleshly things like food or entertainment.
Let’s examine that last sentence carefully. Notice, the way that I deal with anxiety and worry is by doing something. The way that my flesh seeks comfort from anxiety is by action. I eat food for comfort. I watch Netflix for comfort. These are actions that I do because I believe that they will comfort me and relieve me of my anxiety and worry.
Therefore, I inherently know that I must do something in order to fight anxiety and what I do depends on what I believe.
God used the sermon of an old preacher whose name I have forgotten to illustrate this for me and it has stuck with me for many years. I was amazed to hear a man in his 80’s humbly and candidly describe his battle with anxiety. Most pastors present themselves as strong and competent. Most pastors don’t confess their weaknesses and sinful ways. As he confessed his struggles with anxiety and worry I thought, “How could this man struggle so profoundly with these things, yet endure until the end of his ministry with great faithfulness?”
He provided the answer. He said, “Many days and seasons I get down. I struggle with anxiety and depression. I struggle with insecurity and I can easily mope and feel sorry for myself. I have learned over the years that the most effective way for me to fight anxiety is to tell someone about Jesus. When I feel sorry for myself, I go to the mall. I sit on a bench until a dutiful husband, just as miserable as I am, sits next to me. Then I tell him how good and great my Jesus is. If you want to feel alive, go tell someone about Jesus.”
In other words, he fought anxiety, worry, and even depression by doing something. He acted on faith, believing that if he went and told someone about Jesus, he would find power to overcome those afflictions. The Holy Spirit has caused his wise testimony to stick with me over the years. It has become one of the most important truths I have ever heard.
Isaiah 12:3-4 says, “With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation. And you will say in that day: ‘Give thanks to the LORD, call upon his name, make known his deeds among the peoples, proclaim that his name is exalted.’”
Notice that Isaiah says that you will draw water from the well of salvation “with joy.” Knowing that I am saved by grace and knowing what it cost (Jesus’ life) is a deep source of joy for me. I can internalize that truth, hold it tight in my heart, meditate on it in my mind, pray prayers of thanksgiving for it, and sing of it on Sunday.
But the image here is not of the believer drawing water from the well of salvation and drinking it, but of drawing water from the well of salvation and serving it.
Look again in verse 4: “And,” which connects the joy of drawing water in verse 3 with what will follow in verse 4, “you will say in that day: ‘Give thanks to the LORD, call upon his name, make known his deeds among the peoples.’” So, the source of joy in verse 3 is not internalizing salvation but externalizing salvation. The joy that Isaiah is speaking of is the joy of giving the water of salvation to all people; pleading with the people to call upon his name.
There is a joy that God wants us to know that is received by actively telling others about the salvation that is found in Jesus Christ.
We fight anxiety and worry by actively seeking God’s kingdom work. “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life…. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness” (Matthew 6:25-33). Faith put into action for the sake of God’s mission is one of the most effective ways to fight anxiety, worry, depression, and to pursue joy in Christ. Let me give you 4 reasons why I think sharing the good news of the gospel is so effective at fighting anxiety:
1) Actively sharing the gospel is an exercise of faith. When we share the gospel with others, we exercise faith to overcome fear, doubts, and even anxiety! Active evangelism trains our heart to trust God when we are anxious.
2) Actively sharing the gospel causes us to take our focus off of ourselves and to put it on others. Much of our anxiety and worry stems from a focus on ourselves and our circumstances (Matthew 6:25). Focusing on others and blessing them with the gospel frees us from self-centeredness and self-absorption (Philippians 2:3).
3) Actively sharing the gospel causes us to remember and recite the good news of the gospel. Sharing the good news of salvation is not just beneficial for others, but for ourselves as well. As we verbally recall the deeds of the Lord and all his wonders in the gospel (Psalm 77:11) it will stir up faith in the promises of God.
4) Actively sharing the gospel positions us to behold God’s glory in salvation. As God uses our witness to save people, we will have a front row seat to his miraculous grace. It is a miracle when God opens people’s eyes and gives them a new heart. When we share the gospel with people, we say with Moses, “Show me your glory!” (Exodus 33:18).
To put it simply, we combat sin-based anxiety with supernatural faith in action. In my experience, nothing has enabled me to conquer anxiety and to rejoice in God than actively, intentionally, and verbally sharing the gospel to people who do not know Jesus.
Whether we do this through personal relationships, street evangelism, or we go to the mall to find miserable husbands; the promise of joy is the same. How much of our anxiety, worry, and even depression can be attributed to slothfulness, self-focus, self-indulgence, and boredom? What could be more exciting than God’s mission for his people? What could be more fulfilling than making Christ known? What could make us feel more alive than to be used by King Jesus for his glory and for the eternal good of others?
Beware of the thought, “That’s too simplistic!” Satan loves our anxiety, worry, and depression. He wants nothing more than for us to remain there, and he has many weapons designed to deceive us into despair. He also loves to complicate biblical truths that God has made clear and simple. Don’t listen to Satan, listen to God and take note of his promises.
Believer, if you find yourself anxious, worried, and/or depressed – take a step of faith and pursue the joy of serving the water of salvation to someone who needs it. You will find that your thirst will be quenched.