by Alexa Hess
Living in a broken world means that death, disease, and disorder are a reality of life. All of us experience suffering in one shape or form, and for many, this suffering includes anxiety. For some, anxiety happens on and off, while for others, anxiety plagues them every day. No matter the type of anxiety, anxiety is a difficult struggle. The heaviness of anxiety can make us feel like we are unable to help someone who struggles with anxiety. Yet, as followers of Christ, we are empowered by the Spirit to enter into the struggles of others. If you know someone with anxiety, here are several ways you can help.
Affirm your care for them
One of the best ways to help someone with anxiety is to affirm your care for them. While you can verbally say words such as, “I am here for you,” often, what an anxious person needs is not words but someone’s presence. Galatians 6:2 tells us, “Carry one another’s burdens; in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.” As the body of Christ, we are to not distance ourselves from those who are suffering but are to draw near to them. We bear each other burdens by coming alongside fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, wrapping our arms around them, and sitting with them. In doing so, we reflect the love of Christ who affirmed His care for the hurting and broken by drawing near to them. Instead of feeling like we have to have the perfect words of encouragement, we can remember the power of presence and be with those who are anxious. Our presence with those with anxiety communicates, “You are not alone.”
Seek to understand their struggle
Often, when we see someone hurting or in need, our first reaction is to want to fix the problem. This is a good desire, for it reveals how God built us with an inclination for justice and harmony. However, when we try to “fix” someone with anxiety, the person can feel as if they are a problem to be cured rather than a person to be cared for. While we can certainly give encouragement to someone with anxiety to seek counseling, it is important to seek to understand what the person is struggling with before offering potential methods of help.
One of the best ways my husband has learned to help me with my anxiety is to ask questions. When I feel anxious, my husband will ask questions such as, “What is making you anxious?” or “What are you feeling right now?” By asking these questions, I feel like my husband wants to know and understand what I am experiencing, rather than assuming what I am feeling or jumping to make me better.
When someone you know is struggling with anxiety, ask them questions with the motivation to understand. Allow them to see that you want to enter into their struggle by knowing what their anxiety is like and the fears they are wrestling with. After these questions have been asked, then you can ask questions that communicate a desire to help such as, “What can I do for you?” or “What do you need right now?”
Use Scripture to provide comfort
Many believers who have struggled with anxiety have been hurt by other believers because of their response to their anxiety. Anxiety is complex, and anxiety does not look the same for every person. While anxiety can be a result of personal sin, anxiety is not always rooted in personal sin. However, some believers can treat all instances of anxiety as a sin issue. They can point to verses such as Philippians 4:7 that says, “Don’t be anxious” and use these verses to call out those struggling with anxiety. Using Scripture in this way greatly hurts those who are anxious, and can even cause believers with anxiety to feel as if they are not genuine believers. Rather than making others feel ashamed for their struggle with anxiety, use Scripture to encourage and comfort them.
God’s Word is a balm of comfort for the anxious heart. While Scripture may not cause anxiety to be eradicated, Scripture can provide peace for the anxious and serve as a reminder of God’s character and promises. Consider gifting someone with anxiety TDGC resources like the Scripture for Anxiety Journal or the Comfort for the Anxious Heart verse cards, or sending them verses such as Psalm 34:18, 1 Peter 5:7, or Isaiah 26:3.
Ultimately, it is God alone who can heal, comfort, and give complete peace to the anxious heart. And, someday, Jesus is coming back. When He does return, there will be no more struggle, pain, or anxiety. Until then, as believers, we are equipped with the Helper, the Spirit, who empowers us to help others. Helping someone with anxiety requires prayer and intentionality, but with the aid of the Spirit, we are able to move toward the anxious with love, care, and support.
Any diagnosis of clinical anxiety must come from a medical professional who is qualified to diagnose and treat such physiological symptoms. You should never attempt to self-diagnose. If you think you may be struggling with clinical anxiety, please seek the help of a qualified mental health professional. We hope that this study will be an encouragement to you regardless of the nature of your anxiety, as God and His Word speak to every condition, physical or spiritual. And we can cling to His Word even as we partake of the physical blessings of professional help and means of care that He provides to meet our specific needs.