When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought me joy.
Psalms 94:19 NIV
Many years ago, I discovered that I get very antsy in crowds. The first time I encountered this was in New York City on a Saturday afternoon. I was fine, and then suddenly, seemingly out of nowhere, hundreds of people surrounded me with no regard for personal space; I was pressed on all sides by a hoard of folks I had never met. As unease settled over me, my heart raced, every nerve screaming, and all I wanted to do was flee. I desperately needed some distance between me and the hoard.
I know I am not alone in this anxiety; if not this, then there are a host of other things; fear of spiders and snakes (remember the song?), dogs, heights (another one of mine), flying, social, germs -- this is not an exhaustive list, but you get the idea. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, approximately 10% of people in the U.S. have some phobia. Given the events of the last nearly two years, I’m surprised it’s not higher.
The author of Psalm 94 has some excellent advice for us anxiety sufferers -- look to God for consolation. I truly understand in that moment of panic; the first instinct is to take flight. But once we are in that safe place, stop and center ourselves in Christ -- breathe (not to be overrated) and give thanks -- rejoice -- for our deliverance and His peace that surrounds us. Recall the words of Paul, “‘Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:4,6-7)
Gracious God of consolation, thank you for your comfort in our most anxious moments. We confess that fear sometimes seizes us, and we panic despite the fact you are with us. Please help us in those times to remember you are there, you haven’t forgotten or neglected us, but you are with us at that moment, and we rejoice in the comfort you bring. Amen.