This series has been looking at the turmoil of abuse and leaving abuse. In that mess, it’s common for a Christian person to wonder, “Am I losing my faith?” Others might have the opposite experience.

Yesterday we had a brief look at depression. That is, we merely glanced at one possible effect that one symptom of depression might have on a person’s Christian experience.

In the same vein, what about anxiety?


Having an anxiety condition is different from feeling anxious

There is a kind of anxiety that everyone feels from time to time. It’s generally in response to a specific situation or issue.

One of my real regrets about my youth work practice is that when young people talked about anxiety or even panic attacks, I tended to imagine something like a strong experience of this type of anxiety. That misconception meant I didn’t care for those young people the way they deserved.

If I had listened better, more carefully, I would have done better. (Steve Wade)

Having an anxiety condition is different from those common anxious feelings, and while there could be a number of causes for the condition, those who have suffered from abuse could be very familiar with it. It’s a very difficult mental health issue.

Anxiety disorders are very common, and there are quite a number of them. The 2007 National Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing1 found that over 14% of Australians had experienced an anxiety disorder over the course of 12 months2.


How does the Bible treat intense fear and distress?

There are situations where fear is informed, and wise. One fascinating example is Samuel’s response when God asked him to go and anoint David. Samuel said,

“How can I go? If Saul hears about it, he will kill me.”

And God replied, “Take a heifer with you and say, ‘I have come to sacrifice to Yahweh.’”3

What we don’t see here is God criticising Samuel. He seems to affirm that the fear is valid and recommends using misdirection. That’s pretty interesting in itself, and I believe affirms the value God placed on Samuel staying safe. That’s encouraging for those who need to avoid dangers in their own lives.


Am I losing my faith? Even Jesus felt intense distress

What about Jesus? He’s such a great example! The same scriptures that state he was without sin also describe his journey. Back in the Garden of Gethsemane again, we know he was “deeply distressed and troubled”,4 and in “anguish”.5

What was God’s response? We see this from Luke:

An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.6

Let’s just pause and check – this is Jesus. Son of God. Literally the morally perfect human. And when he was in deep distress – knowing the danger ahead – God sent an actual, physical, angel to help him and give him strength. No accusation here. No sin is involved. Just help given.

This is what we need when people are struggling with the impact of trauma, and part of what we would love those who struggle to know is: they deserve our help. Just imagine if such a traumatised person had human angels – like couriers of God’s character – coming alongside to help and lend strength. That kind of response would deeply affirm continued membership in God’s family. Assuming the “help” was informed and helpful, rather than simply well-intentioned.

Meanwhile, what happened for Jesus when the angel appeared and strengthened him? His anguish did not disappear. Even Jesus, Son of God, with help, did not suddenly feel better. He could not flip it off like a switch. It helped him when someone stood with him.

It is clear that Jesus, “the author and perfecter of our faith”,7 was not immune to these strong, anguished feelings because of his ethics or his walk with God. That’s affirming. Even Jesus felt intense turmoil. He’s been through trauma, and he’s our advocate.


Just imagine if a traumatised person had human angels – like couriers of God’s character – coming alongside to help and lend strength. Click To Tweet



  1. 2007 National Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing
  2. Beyond Blue’s guide to anxiety is here
  3. 1 Samuel 16:2
  4. Mark 14:33
  5. Luke 22:44
  6. Luke 22:43-44
  7. Hebrews 12:12


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