10 Psalms to bring your peace when you’re anxious
Of all the people in the Bible, I have most related to David in the Psalms for many, many years. We certainly haven’t had the exact same life experiences, but David goes from grief to joy to everything in between within a chapter. And that’s how life is for me. I get David. He’s real to me in that way.
I also feel like David’s thoughts could get carried away and overdramatic sometimes. Anxiety rears its ugly head like that in my life. I completely trust God, but I have also learned that anxiety and faith can co-exist. So when I think of looking in the Bible for verses of comfort, it makes sense to start with Psalms for anxiety.
Did David struggle with anxiety? It’s quite possible! In 2004, History of Psychiatry researched whether David had a mental disorder and concluded that it’s highly likely he did. Major depression seems to be the most likely candidate. Depression and anxiety often go hand-in-hand. So maybe that’s why I relate to David.
Whether David had a mental disorder doesn’t matter as much as knowing that God is behind all the words he wrote. And we can draw comfort in the book of Psalms for anxiety. Read these verses and let them minister to your heart today.
(All Scripture is taken from the NIV Bible unless otherwise noted.)
The Lord is my light and my salvation—
whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life—
of whom shall I be afraid?
When the wicked advance against me
to devour me,
it is my enemies and my foes
who will stumble and fall.
Though an army besiege me,
my heart will not fear;
though war break out against me,
even then I will be confident.
These verses are awesome reminders of God’s power and faithfulness. He will protect us, so we don’t have to be afraid. I’ve been afraid so many times in my life. I recently heard someone say fear is at the root of anxiety. While I’m not sure that’s completely true, I do find great comfort in knowing God is in control and on His throne, so I don’t have to be afraid.
Hear my cry, O God;
listen to my prayer.
From the ends of the earth I call to you,
I call as my heart grows faint;
lead me to the rock that is higher than I.
For you have been my refuge,
a strong tower against the foe.
The New King James version of the Bible says instead that “my heart is overwhelmed” rather than “my heart grows faint.” I like that even more. Because, I get overwhelmed. Life is full of so many responsibilities and tasks. As a mom, it’s easy for me to get overwhelmed thinking of all the things I’m juggling mentally at any given time. But, God is there to listen to my prayer. He hears me and sustains me. He shelters me when I grow weak. Thank you, God!
Create in me a pure heart, O God,
and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Do not cast me from your presence
or take your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation
and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.
Of the Psalms for anxiety, this one is one that makes an especially great prayer. I want God to purify my heart so that I’m not distracted by the wrong things. There are times I desperately need a steadfast spirit and willing spirit to sustain me and keep me going. I also want to always be in God’s presence and never forget the joy of His salvation.
I will always remember going to church one Sunday after one of the very worst weeks of my life. My heart was broken and I was feeling low. During the sermon, I got distracted by the cross. God reminded me that in the end, what matters most is how much He loves me that He sent His Son for me. It soothed my soul that day in a way nothing else could.
I lift up my eyes to the mountains—
where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord,
the Maker of heaven and earth.
He will not let your foot slip—
he who watches over you will not slumber;
indeed, he who watches over Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.
The Lord watches over you.
When I was in college, a member of my Bible study group shared that she used to feel bad about falling asleep while she was praying. But then she just imagined that God was holding onto her like a parent does a child and letting her sleep. That image has stuck with me. In my hardest nights, I have prayed for God to surround me and hold me tight. I love knowing that He doesn’t ever sleep. He watches over us day and night. In my head, I feel like that gives me permission to let down my guard and trust that He is completely in control. That’s a relief when I’m struggling with anxiety.
Why, my soul, are you downcast?
Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God,
for I will yet praise him,
my Savior and my God.
In the four verses before this one, David talks about how he has been consumed by tears day and night. He remembers the good times with God, but he feels far apart from them at this moment. But then this verse is his pep talk. We all need pep talks sometimes. When we are depressed or anxious, David reminds us that we can put our hope in God. We can praise Him in the storm and trust He is there even when He feels far away.
I will remember the deeds of the Lord;
yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago.
I will consider all your works
and meditate on all your mighty deeds.”
David spends the first 10 verses of this Psalm talking about how he felt God had rejected him. He was grieving the silence of God and feeling heartbroken. But then he stops to remember the good things God has done in the past. I have learned to do this very same thing when I start getting anxious. I go back in my head to all the times God has been working for my good when I couldn’t see it. And I know that God won’t fail me now. Sometimes the best thing I can do is think about my history with God’s faithfulness and focus on the blessings He’s given me in the present.
I love the Lord, for he heard my voice;
he heard my cry for mercy.
Because he turned his ear to me,
I will call on him as long as I live.
The cords of death entangled me,
the anguish of the grave came over me;
I was overcome by distress and sorrow.
Then I called on the name of the Lord:
“Lord, save me!”
The Lord is gracious and righteous;
our God is full of compassion.
The Lord protects the unwary;
when I was brought low, he saved me.
Return to your rest, my soul,
for the Lord has been good to you.
God hears our pleas and cries for mercy. He is there and listening, even when it feels like He is not. David talks about seeing that happen in his life. I’ve seen it happen in mine. So now I find this one of the Psalms for anxiety that brings me comfort. I can be reminded that God will see me through time and again.
I also especially love verse 7: “Return to your rest, my soul, for the Lord has been good to you.” This is a verse to memorize and hold close for the dark nights when anxiety is high and life is hard. God is good all the time.
Do not withhold your mercy from me, Lord;
may your love and faithfulness always protect me.
For troubles without number surround me;
my sins have overtaken me, and I cannot see.
They are more than the hairs of my head,
and my heart fails within me.
Be pleased to save me, Lord;
come quickly, Lord, to help me.
The Bible tells us that Jacob physically wrestled with God, but David does some of his own wrestling in an emotional way. If you read the entirety of Psalm 40, David is at a low point but also asking God to bless those who trust in Him. Verses 11-13 really stuck out to me as being a sincere prayer to God for times when we are overwhelmed by our circumstances. We can call out to God: save me, come quickly and help me. And we can remember the times God has protected us by His love and faithfulness before to keep us going as we wait.
Yes, my soul, find rest in God;
my hope comes from him.
Truly he is my rock and my salvation;
he is my fortress, I will not be shaken.
My salvation and my honor depend on God;
he is my mighty rock, my refuge.
Trust in him at all times, you people;
pour out your hearts to him,
for God is our refuge.
This is a great Psalm for anxiety. It reminds us that we can find rest and have hope in God. With God as our protector, we can withstand the storms of life. We weren’t made to go through life alone and God will hold us through all of it. If we allow Him, He will be our rock in whom we can trust at all times. I love the idea of God being our refuge. A refuge is somewhere you run to when you’re in trouble or in distress. And that’s exactly what God is for us. We can run to Him and know He will hold us tight through everything.
God is our refuge and strength,
an ever-present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam
and the mountains quake with their surging.
Again, David refers to God as our refuge. When we are anxious and overwhelmed, a refuge is what we need. We need a break and peace. There are moments when God truly gives us peace beyond understanding. He can calm our anxieties and fears, even if just for a few moments, as we fully rest in Him.