10 Key Bible Verses on Anxiety and Worry

This article is part of the Key Bible Verses series.

Cast Your Cares

God tells us over and over in Scripture to lean on him for what our human strength and ingenuity cannot achieve. When overwhelmed by life and its woes, be encouraged by these passages of Scripture with commentary from the ESV Study Bible.

Matthew 6:25–34

“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.”

If one makes the right choices (see Mat. 6:19–24), there is (“therefore”) no reason that one should be anxious. Jesus gives two a fortiori (“how much more”) examples—“look at the birds” (Matt. 6:26), “consider the lilies” (Matt. 6:28)—to show that, since God cares even for the birds and the lilies, how much more will he care for his own. To be anxious, then, demonstrates a lack of trust in God, who promises that he will graciously care for “all these things” (Matt. 6:33; cf. Rom. 8:32). See also Philippians 4:5–6.

Human beings are of more value than animals (Matt. 10:31; Matt. 12:12) because only humans, out of all God’s creatures, are created “in the image of God” (Gen. 1:27), because God gave the human race dominion over all the earth and all its creatures (Gen. 1:28), and because God loved human beings so much “that he gave his only Son” to die for our sins (John 3:16).

Grass was a natural source of fuel for fire and a common biblical metaphor for human frailty (e.g., Ps. 37:2; 102:4). Little faith implies a deficiency rather than an absence of faith (cf. Matt. 8:26).

1 Peter 5:6–7

Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.

In their suffering, God’s people are to give themselves entirely to him, submitting to his wise ordering of their lives. “Mighty hand of God” brings to mind the exodus, where the Lord delivered Israel from Egypt “by a mighty hand” (e.g., Ex. 3:19; 32:11; Deut. 4:34; 5:15; Dan. 9:15). Those who suffer can likewise be confident that the day of humiliation will not last forever. Whether later in this earthly life or on the last day, God will exalt his people at the proper time.

The participle “casting” modifies the main verbal phrase “humble yourselves” from 1 Peter 5:6. Worry is a form of pride because it involves taking concerns upon oneself instead of entrusting them to God. Believers can trust God because, as their Father, he cares for them.

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Matthew 11:28–30

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

“Come to me” is an invitation to trust Jesus personally, not merely to believe historical facts about him. “All who labor and are heavy laden” refers in the immediate context to those oppressed by the burden of religious legalism imposed on people by the scribes and Pharisees. But the wider application is that Jesus provides “rest for your souls” (Matt. 11:29)—that is, eternal rest for all who seek forgiveness of their sins and freedom from the crushing legalistic burden and guilt of trying to earn salvation by good works.

A yoke is a the wooden frame joining two animals (usually oxen) for pulling heavy loads was a metaphor for one person’s subjection to another, and a common metaphor in Judaism for the law. The Pharisaic interpretation of the law, with its extensive list of proscriptions, had become a crushing burden (Matt. 23:4) but was believed by the people to be of divine origin. Jesus’ yoke of discipleship, on the other hand, brings rest through simple commitment to him (cf. 1 John 5:3).

Psalm 55:22

Cast your burden on the LORD,
and he will sustain you;
he will never permit
the righteous to be moved.

The psalmist addresses each of his fellow singers (your, Psa. 55:22), and then God (you, O God, Psalm 55:23). The reason the faithful can cast their burden on the LORD is that he can be trusted to bring judgment upon the evildoers. The psalms do not say when God will cast them down; the faithful will wait for God’s own good timing.

“Cast your burden.” The Septuagint renders this “cast your anxieties,” and 1 Peter 5:7 urges Christians to a similar faith in the face of persecution. moved.

Philippians 4:6–7

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Paul echoes Jesus’ teaching in the Sermon on the Mount (see Matt. 6:25–34) that believers are not to be anxious but are to entrust themselves into the hands of their loving heavenly Father, whose peace will guard them in Christ Jesus. Paul’s use of “guard” may reflect his own imprisonment or the status of Philippi as a Roman colony with a military garrison. In either case, it is not Roman soldiers who guard believers—it is the peace of God Almighty. Because God is sovereign and in control, Christians can entrust all their difficulties to him, who rules over all creation and who is wise and loving in all his ways (Rom. 8:31–39). An attitude of thanksgiving contributes directly to this inward peace.

Psalm 23:4

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.

The shadow of death may be the shadow that death casts, or it may be, as the ESV footnote has it, “deep darkness.” Perhaps the idea is that in a valley in the desert (or wadi) in Judah one can encounter deep shadows, and cannot know for sure who (bandits) or what (animals, flash floods) lurks in them; even in such periods of suspense and danger, the faithful find assurance that God is with them, and thus they need not fear.

Proverbs 3:5–8

Trust in the LORD with all your heart,
and do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge him,
and he will make straight your paths.
Be not wise in your own eyes;
fear the LORD, and turn away from evil.
It will be healing to your flesh
and refreshment to your bones.

Trust in the LORD is necessary for fulfilling any of the wise ways of life taught in Proverbs; trusting the Lord is closely connected to “fearing” him (cf. Prov. 3:1:7; Prov. 2:5; Prov. 9:10; Prov. 15:33; Prov. 19:23; etc.). “With all your heart” indicates that trust goes beyond intellectual assent to a deep reliance on the Lord, a settled confidence in his care and his faithfulness to his Word. Do not lean on your own understanding further explains trusting in the Lord. One’s “understanding” in Proverbs is his perception of the right course of action. The wise will govern themselves by what the Lord himself declares, and will not set their own finite and often-mistaken understanding against his.

To make straight a person’s paths means to make the course of the person’s life one that continually progresses toward a goal. In Proverbs, the emphasis is on the moral quality of one’s life path (here, its moral “straightness”).

Luke 12:22–26

And he said to his disciples, “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat, nor about your body, what you will put on. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds! And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? If then you are not able to do as small a thing as that, why are you anxious about the rest?”

The first reason why believers should not be anxious is given in Luke 12:23 (for life is more than . . . ); the second in Luke 12:24 (of how much more value are you; cf. note on Matt. 6:26); and the third in Luke 12:25 (because no one has enough control over his own life even to add a single hour to his span of life). Life (or “soul”; Gk. psychē) and body refer to the whole person. (Regarding “add a single hour to his span of life,” see ESV footnote; “hour” is literally “cubit” [Gk. pēchys], and most commentators take it to be a metaphor for adding a standard unit of measure to the length of one’s life.)

Jeremiah 17:7–8

“Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD,
whose trust is the LORD.
He is like a tree planted by water,
that sends out its roots by the stream,
and does not fear when heat comes,
for its leaves remain green,
and is not anxious in the year of drought,
for it does not cease to bear fruit.”

Filled with God-defined benefits. Only trust in God motivates confident obedience in times of crisis. A tree planted by water is settled with resources no matter what happens. A perfect contrast to the “shrub in the desert” (Jer.17:6; cf. Ps. 1:3).

Isaiah 41:10

Fear not, for I am with you;
be not dismayed, for I am your God;
I will strengthen you, I will help you,
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

“You” here is the people as a whole (called “Jacob” in Isa. 41:8). Unlike the terrified nations of Isa. 41:5, the people of God have in him reason to be fearless (cf. Isa. 41:13–14). Unlike the gods of the nations, which must be strengthened and secured (Isa. 41:7), the God of Israel secures his people.

All commentary sections adapted from the ESV Study Bible.


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