Do you have a favorite list of Bible verses about anxiety and OCD? Are there verses that you cling to for consolation in your darkest hours? In this post, I’d like to share my own list of favorites. However, you’ll find that the following Bible verses about anxiety aren’t what you might expect.
Because I’m not just sharing verses that will make you feel better.
I’m sharing verses that will help you get better.
For those of you who are part of the Scrupulosity Academy or have followed my blog for awhile, you know that three of the critical areas we focus on in the process of OCD and anxiety recovery include the following:
- Letting go of control
- Calming our emotions
- Moving through uncertainty
Therefore, the list of Bible verses for anxiety that I’d like to share are passages that will soothe your soul but also challenge you to keep striving for long-term healing.
So without further introduction, let’s get started.
Bible Verses About Anxiety: Letting Go of Control
All anxiety–of any kind–has roots in the human desire to control.
Even a very timid, shy person may have deep roots of control issues. Not the “alpha dog” control and manipulation that you usually think of when you hear the word “control,” but a subtle, anxiety-based desire to make sure outcomes will be safe and healthy.
Introverted wallflower Anne has never held a leadership position in her life. She wears ruffled blouses in muted colors, has never had a boyfriend, and speaks in a near-whisper. She is submissive and says “yes” to anything her friends and family wish.
And yet, wallflower Anne has hidden control addictions. One evidence for this is the fact that she has anxiety-related compulsions.
If you have even one compulsion (mental compulsions included), you can be sure that “control” is one of the ingredients used in your anxiety cake.
What’s the Connection Between Control and Anxiety?
Anxiety-based control is an attempt to manage and manipulate events to prevent catastrophe.
This kind of control often goes unnoticed, because we aren’t trying to control or manipulate people. But we are trying to control nonetheless.
Anne tried to control her environment through fastidious cleaning and arrangement of household articles. If anything felt out of place, she experienced distressing anxiety that something bad might happen. She also hyper-analyzed her moral behavior, concerned that if she didn’t manage herself properly (that is, confessing every sin and taking communion only when she “felt” right with God), her soul would be in eternal danger.
Anxiety provoked a flash of self-protective action, which we can only describe as “control.”
Thankfully, the Bible tells us that we don’t need to control everything. God will do infinitely more for us than our own works can accomplish. The following verses are reminders that no, you do not need to fix this. You do not need to be in control. You do not need to find closure.
Let’s look at some powerful Bible verses about anxiety that can turn us in a better direction.
Bible Verses About Control
Fear not, for I am with you,Isaiah 41:10
be not dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you.
Yes, I will help you,
I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.
Strength and solutions do not come from within. Stop introverting. There are no fixes inside.
Your strength comes from without. Look up, not in.
A man’s heart plans his way,Proverbs 16:9
But the Lord directs his steps.
There are many plans in a man’s heart,Proverbs 19:21
Nevertheless the Lord’s counsel—that will stand.
All your best controlling is kind of pointless anyways. Rest in the fact that He promised to direct your steps. You don’t need to figure out every little thing.
Casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.1 Peter 5:7
Cast your burden on the Lord,Psalm 55:22
And He shall sustain you;
He shall never permit the righteous to be moved.
God invites us to give Him the burden of our problems. It doesn’t bother Him. He welcomes our trust and dependence. Which brings us to our next verse:
Then little children were brought to Him that He might put His hands on them and pray, but the disciples rebuked them. But Jesus said, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of heaven.”Matthew 19:13-14
Little children personify the prototype of a believer. Why? Because they show us how to wait trustingly on their parents, the way we must wait on God. Little children (in general) don’t get anxious about the bank statements and whether there will be enough money to put food on the table. They just trust that when evening comes, there will be dinner on the table. They have very little concept of how much Mom and Dad are worrying and working to provide, and most parents try to keep it that way.
Because it’s never the child’s job to worry or fix. Their job is to enjoy being a child and let Mom and Dad do the heavy lifting.
Of such is the kingdom of heaven.
The Lord will fight for you, and you shall hold your peace.”Exodus 14:14
Here’s an example of letting go and letting God work for us. In Exodus 14, we see that God opened the Red Sea for the Israelites. It’s not an isolated instance. All throughout the Bible, we find case after case in which God said, “Hey, stop trying to fix everything. You can’t. Just be still and let me work.”
Here are a few more.
And he said, “Listen, all you of Judah and you inhabitants of Jerusalem, and you, King Jehoshaphat! Thus says the Lord to you: ‘Do not be afraid nor dismayed because of this great multitude, for the battle is not yours, but God’s. Tomorrow go down against them. They will surely come up by the Ascent of Ziz, and you will find them at the end of the brook before the Wilderness of Jeruel. You will not need to fight in this battle. Position yourselves, stand still and see the salvation of the Lord, who is with you, O Judah and Jerusalem!’ Do not fear or be dismayed; tomorrow go out against them, for the Lord is with you.”
And Jehoshaphat bowed his head with his face to the ground, and all Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem bowed before the Lord, worshiping the Lord.2 Chronicles 20:15-18
Then He arose and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace, be still!” And the wind ceased and there was a great calm.Mark 4:39
Be still, and know that I am God;Psalm 46:10
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth!
Here’s another one that always encourages me when I feel the need to fix and control circumstances that are causing anxiety:
And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.Romans 8:28
If we truly believe this verse, it means that there is nothing, nothing, that can happen to us outside of the Father’s will.
Now, I differentiate between futile mistakes and redemptive mistakes. I do believe there are some mistakes that people make which are completely vain, empty, meaningless, and futile. They get hurt, someone else gets hurt, and there is no real benefit that comes from the situation.
As far as I can tell from Scripture, these kinds of futile situations do not happen to God’s people.
Certainly, we make mistakes and do dumb stuff, but even our mistakes and illnesses and losses have redemptive qualities. We learn something, we help someone, we understand God or ourselves better, or we suffer a small setback which prevents a great disaster. I could tell you story after story of how I’ve seen this incredible drama of Providence unfolding in my life, and although I used to brush off this verse, I now consider it part of the bedrock of my relationship with Christ.
I can give up my anxiety-driven need for control because God won’t let anything bad happen to me. That is, nothing that is truly futile, something that is worthlessly bad, something that has no redemptive qualities that make me look backward one day and say, “I’m so glad that happened.” I can face personal tragedies with dignity because deep down in my heart of hearts, I know nothing bad is ever truly bad.
The Lord is my light and my salvation;Psalm 27:1
Whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the strength of my life;
Of whom shall I be afraid?
Here’s another one of my bedrock Bible verses for anxiety and OCD.
I don’t need to be afraid. I don’t need to dance the control-and-manipulation-of-my-environment dance. God’s got me.
I have always been afraid of the dark, ever since I was in boarding academy. Every student had a few hours of work each day, and for a time I was part of the breakfast team in the cafeteria. I had to walk to the cafeteria at 5:30 in the morning when it was still pitch black, and there was a rumor going around about mountain lions (my boarding academy had a sprawling rural campus in the mountains of Tennessee). I’d get spooked by the forest noises and often would sprint to the cafeteria building, breathless and afraid.
I hated the dark–and what was in the dark that I couldn’t see.
During my time in Bible college, while engaging in some community projects that would keep us students out after dark, the anxiety returned. One of the theology students who was leading the group gave me an index card with the above verse on it. The Lord is my light and my salvation…
I began collecting verses about light. The darkness became synonymous with anxiety and fear.
I received a postcard with a lovely picture of Jesus holding out a light, and I carried this image in my Bible for years.
See, here’s the thing with light: you don’t have to do anything to experience its blessing. You don’t need to control or manipulate events. You don’t need to persuade the light to shine. It casts out the darkness on your behalf.
For me, verses about light are an implicit reminder to sit down, be still, and let God work.
These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”John 16:33
Notice who overcomes–me or Jesus?
Oh, that’s right. He’s the overcomer. I’m His child, His sheep, swept along in His glorious victory.
He works, I lean.
He fights, I hide behind His cross.
He triumphs, I drink the sweetness of the cup.
Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.Matthew 6:34
Here’s a verse that seems to personify “tomorrow” as the one who has the responsibility to worry about life issues. But again, we see that God never gave us the responsibility of worrying about how things will go.
Not in the family, not in the job, and not even in our own salvation.
I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.John 15:5
Did you ever hear a little cluster of baby grapes holding a committee to figure out what the vine wanted them to do or become?
“Shall we become red grapes or green grapes? Shall we be sweet or sour? Does the vine expect us to grow fast or slow?”
That never happens. The life-giving syrup flows from the vine into the grapes. They don’t need to control their own destiny. Connected to the vine, they are secure. His DNA is their DNA. Everything happens naturally and unfolds softly, according to everything the vine provides.
This is why we do not need to control.
Comfort Point: God is in control, so you don’t need to be.
Growth Point: When you’re anxious, try to let go of the need to “fix” circumstances or emotions. Lean into God like a small, dependent child. Bring your trouble to Him and leave it there. Redirect your attention to another task as an act of faith, showing that you believe He’s picked up your trouble and is caring for it right now.
Bible Verses About Anxiety: Putting Emotions into Perspective
The next part of our list of Bible verses about anxiety deals with emotions.
In the Scrupulosity Academy, we talk about something called “emotional reasoning,” a sort of fallacy in which the importance of emotions get highly inflated. With emotional reasoning, it is no longer the unchanging Word of God that is authoritative, but our feelings.
God’s Word says A, but I feel B, therefore B must be true.
This contributes to feelings of anxiety because we might be worrying about things that feel true but are not.
Here are some Bible verses about anxiety that speak to this unique slant of the OCD/anxiety experience.
For we walk by faith, not by sight.2 Corinthians 5:7
Faith means we step out when we can’t see the ground beneath our feet. Sight involves human sensory input. We want to see before we step. We want to feel before we allow ourselves to be comforted.
But faith and feelings have almost no connection with each other.
Some of the most devoted followers of God have long seasons in which they feel lost. It doesn’t mean they are.
The heart is deceitful above all things,Jeremiah 17:9
And desperately wicked;
Who can know it?
My heart can lie to me, that pesky little thing. By nature it is deceitful.
That’s why when the world tells you to “follow your heart,” your first reaction should be “why in the world would I want to do that?”
The good news here is that the horrible emotions that tell you you’re lost, doom is upon you, and you’ve really blown it are usually lies. They aren’t true.
For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.2 Timothy 1:7
God didn’t intend for us to lead from our emotions. He gives us a sound mind, one that uses logic, rationality, and common sense to apply God’s Word in our lives.
For God is not the author of confusion but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints.1 Corinthians 14:33
Confused emotions aren’t from God. He’s not testing you or pulling you on a string to see if you’ll perform. If we’re feeling emotionally haywire and think that this static tells us anything true about ourselves or our relationship with God, we’ve just fallen into the fallacy of emotional reasoning.
For if our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and knows all things.1 John 3:20
The Apostle John reminds us that sometimes, our heart can condemn us unjustly. And yet, in these moments, we have the assurance that God is greater than all our complicated emotions. He knows the truth about us, even when we can’t see it for ourselves.
Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.Matthew 11:28
In our list of Bible verses for anxiety, let us look at some particularly comforting passages. Here in Matthew 11, Jesus assumes that we are going to be heavy burdened. He assumes that there will be those of us who worry, fret, obsession, and try to control more than others. And He invites us to come to Him for rest.
Notice He doesn’t invite us to come for a spiritual inspection. Just rest.
Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.John 14:27
The ability to give up our emotional reactivity to life is sourced in the Person of Jesus. He didn’t promise to give us peace, merely–but HIS peace. True peace increases and deepens the more we know Jesus. Trouble and fear decreases in His presence. It is not a magic pill, it is a relational merging of two distinct selves until we reflect His image and He manages our problems.
For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.John 3:16
God never told us we have to feel the right way. He asked us to believe–a hearty, healthy belief that has more to do with loyalty and action than it does with cognition (because let’s face it, most of us will feel perplexed about what we believe at various points during our faith journey–so faith can’t mean we’ve got it all figured out and believe “hard” enough).
By believing we are saved. Not by feeling. What a joyous relief for those of us whose feelings don’t always add up!
Bible Verses About Anxiety: What to Do with Doubt
Chronic doubt is the foundation of OCD. We struggle with our anxiety and obsessions because of an underlying intolerance for uncertainty. But Scripture reminds us that knowledge will always be partial and incomplete; that we cannot know everything, and are not expected to; and that our safest path is to rely on the almighty arm of God’s wisdom to know what we cannot.
Although mentioned previously, it’s good to mention it again:
For we walk by faith, not by sight.2 Corinthians 5:7
The partial and incomplete nature of knowledge is echoed in 1 Corinthians 13:
For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known.1 Corinthians 13:12
Don’t fall for “toxic certainty,” or any preacher that makes you feel less-than for not knowing everything. God doesn’t expect you to know it all, or to “feel” certain all the time. Admitting we don’t know “for sure” is not a lack of faith–it’s intellectual humility.
Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ. For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily; and you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power.Colossians 2:8-10
This might seem like an off-topic verse to include, but I’ve added it to this list of Bible verses about anxiety and OCD for a reason.
Before I realized I had religious OCD, I spent a lot of time obsessing and ruminating about my faith. I felt that I needed to be absolutely certain about all aspects of my belief system. I got especially entangled in debates about the existence of God–many of which relied on logical proofs and philosophical arguments.
It was simultaneously addictive and anxiety-inducing. Every time I dove into the philosophical arguments, I always felt like I was on the cusp of finding the absolute certainty I craved. But each time, the good answers failed to satisfy. (If only I would have known the difference between healthy inquiry and obsessive-compulsive disorder.)
But this passage in Colossians helped me. Paul warns us not to be cheated by “philosophy” and “empty deceit.”
Long before I saw an OCD specialist who explained why ruminating is not helpful, I learned this principle from the Word of God: don’t get stuck in philosophizing. God is not there.
The passage goes on to emphasize a mystical, glorious, impossible-to-explain reality of Jesus being the absolute embodiment of the fullness of the Godhead–a reality which we can share through abiding in Christ.
I realized that it’s not about philosophizing and ruminating and “figuring things out.” It’s about having a relational, abiding connection with the Person of Jesus Christ.
Lord, my heart is not haughty,
Nor my eyes lofty.
Neither do I concern myself with great matters,
Nor with things too profound for me.
Surely I have calmed and quieted my soul,
Like a weaned child with his mother;
Like a weaned child is my soul within me.
O Israel, hope in the LordPsalm 131
From this time forth and forever.
I have preached and spoken and written on this passage so many times that I feel like apologizing for including it again.
But this little psalm, just three verses long, catapulted me on my way to OCD recovery. (We each have our light bulb verses; this was mine.)
David says that he has given up the need to know things that are unknowable (perhaps he also obsessed about his eternal destiny, about whether he had forgotten to confess an unknown sin, or about the intricacies of his moral decisions). We can’t always know the answer immediately and need to trust in God, not in our own intellectual abilities.
David compared his quieted soul to a weaned child. Have you ever seen a child being weaned? They holler and cry because they think they need that milk. But they don’t. They are maturing and need to exist on mature food. For us, we are growing up and need to rely on faith and not sight.
That’s why we can give up our toxic, never-ending spiritual rumination.
Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind, and said:
“Who is this who darkens counsel
By words without knowledge?
Now prepare yourself like a man;
I will question you, and you shall answer Me.
“Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth?Job 38:1-5
Tell Me, if you have understanding.
Who determined its measurements?
Surely you know!
Here’s a great devotional exercise: read God’s speech in the book of Job–the longest verbatim speech recorded by God in the Old Testament. Read it through the lens of uncertainty and the limitations of human knowledge, and see what conclusions you reach.
Jesus said to him, “Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”John 20:29
Jesus was so kind and gentle with Thomas.
Yes, he doubted. He showed an immature faith. But Jesus did not respond with censure any more than a parent would censure a toddler for tripping as he learns to walk. He drew Thomas to Himself and allowed him to satisfy his doubt. But then he turned Thomas’ mind to the mature ideal: being able to believe even without a demonstration.
I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come.John 16:12-13
We don’t know everything now–that’s why we have the promise of the Holy Spirit, who will guide us into all truth.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
And lean not on your own understanding;
In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He shall direct your paths.
Do not be wise in your own eyes;Proverbs 3:5-8
Fear the Lord and depart from evil.
It will be health to your flesh,
And strength to your bones.
Look away from self. Look to God, and be ok with saying “I don’t know.”
And have mercy on those who doubt…Jude 1:22, ESV
If Jude tells us to have mercy on those who doubt, shouldn’t we also have mercy on ourselves?
Now as they said these things, Jesus Himself stood in the midst of them, and said to them, “Peace to you.” But they were terrified and frightened, and supposed they had seen a spirit. And He said to them, “Why are you troubled? And why do doubts arise in your hearts? Behold My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself. Handle Me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see I have.”
When He had said this, He showed them His hands and His feet. But while they still did not believe for joy, and marveled, He said to them, “Have you any food here?” So they gave Him a piece of a broiled fish and some honeycomb. And He took it and ate in their presence.Luke 24:36-43
This passage reminds me that Jesus will not allow me to experience so much doubt and uncertainty that it overwhelms or destroys me. Yes, He allows me to face uncertainties in order to deepen and mature my faith–but it will never be so bad that I will be deceived.
Jesus appeared to His disciples after His resurrection. He knew they were doubting, and He asked them to touch Him and know that He was real. He ate in His presence. This was because in the first century, there were heresies such as Gnosticism and Docetism that denied Jesus had actually come in the flesh.
Jesus was not answering 100% of their questions and uncertainties, but He was answering enough for them to make a faith commitment.
Remember, it’s about having an unyielding commitment, not having an invincible body of knowledge. Nobody knows everything, except God!
Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.Hebrews 11:1
Another great passage for our list of Bible verses for anxiety. We believe in things we cannot see, and it’s ok to not see them clearly now.
You’ll notice that I haven’t written a list of verses about forgiveness and salvation. That’s because this isn’t about “reassurance-seeking,” a phrase I’m sure you’re familiar with if you are on the OCD recovery journey.
Yes, God loves us. He loves us unconditionally. When we sin and struggle, He moves towards us, not away from us. But we can read comforting verses all day long, and they won’t benefit us unless we learn how to receive them.
That’s what this list is about: how to receive God’s love and release our anxiety.
To do that, we must learn to let go of control, put our emotions in the right place, and move gracefully through our periods of uncertainty. Then, when we read about God’s love and compassion, it will sink down deep and stay.
I hope this list of Bible verses about anxiety has been helpful in some way. Please comment below if there are more verses that have been helpful in your recovery!
Keep looking up, keeping looking away from self, keep trusting.