There’s a verse that I’ve found myself praying when I struggle with anxiety, which has been pretty often for the past couple weeks. It comes from Paul’s second letter to Timothy in which he assured the young man that “God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind” (2 Tim. 1:7, KJV).
I don’t want to speak for everyone’s anxiety, but for me at least I do feel like it’s often tied to a lack or imbalance of the three things mentioned here. I’m scared when I feel I have no power or others have too much power. My anxiety spikes when I’m not felling loved and looked out for, as well as when I spend too much time turned in on myself instead of actively loving others. And my mind seems unsound or undisciplined when it spins elaborate worst-case scenarios to worry about, or tells me things like “you’re broken and worthless.”
This verse says that I don’t have to stay stuck there. When we have God’s spirit in us, we have access to a part of Him that can replace fear with power, love, and sound mindedness.
There are a few different Greek words that could be translated “power.” The one here is dunamis. Like other words that come from duna it carries “the meaning of being able, capable.” Specifically, dunamis speaks of inherent strength and power (Zodhiates’ and Thayre’s dictionaries, entry on G1411).
We see this power demonstrated when Jesus performed miracles. “All the multitude sought to touch him, for power came out of him and healed them all” (Luke 6:19, WEB). When we’re given God’s holy spirit, this same sort of power that resides in God is put inside of us (Luke 24:49; Acts 1:8). The power doesn’t belong to us (Acts 3:12; 2 Cor. 4:7), but it is available to us.
He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Most gladly therefore I will rather glory in my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may rest on me. (2 Cor. 12:9, WEB)
Whenever scripture talks about dunamis in us it comes directly from God. There is “exceeding greatness of his power toward us who believe” (Eph. 1:19, WEB). The Lord can strengthen you “with power through His spirit in the inner person” (Eph. 3:16, WEB). We’re made capable of knowing Christ and His power (Phil. 3:10). When we walk in the Lord we’re “strengthened with all power” (Col. 1:10-11). We are kept by this power and given all things pertaining to life and godliness (1 Pet. 1:5; 2 Pet 1:3).
There are four major words for love in Greek, and two are commonly used in the Bible. The one in 2 Timothy 1:7 is agape. It’s “affectionate regard, goodwill, benevolence.” This love seeks good things for those loved. It is the type of love “which the Lord Jesus commands and inspires” (Zodhiates on G26).
Love is listed first in the attributes of the fruit of the spirit (Gal. 5:22). Because God is love (1 John 4:8, 16), the spirit that comes from God is one of love (Rom. 15:30). When we have the spirit of love in us, God is filling us with His love and giving us what we need to love others in the way He does.
Beloved, if God loved us in this way, we also ought to love one another. No one has seen God at any time. If we love one another, God remains in us, and his love has been perfected in us. By this we know that we remain in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. (1 John 4:11-13, WEB)
To dwell, abide, or remain in God we need to be filled with His spirit of love. It is not a spirit of fear, because “perfect love casts out fear” (1 John 4:18, WEB). The closer we get to God, the less we should fear anything other than God (Matt. 10:28).
The Greek word translated “sound mind” is sophronismos. Its root is sophron, which is formed from the words soos (sound) and phren (understanding). Sophronismos, then, means soundness of mind, judgement, and understanding. It also means the self-discipline necessary to have a mind that is trained “to think and act soberly, discreetly, and in moderation” (Zodhiates on G4995, G4995, and G4998).
These words only appear in Paul’s pastoral epistles. They’re used when Paul says the older men and woman are to be “sober minded” and “temperate,” and teach those disciplines to the younger people. A sound mind is also one of the qualifications for bishops (1 Tim. 3:2; Tit. 1:7-8; 2:2-5). Though these particular words don’t appear in the Bible often, there are other passages that talk about what a mind touched by God’s spirit looks like.
For who among men knows the things of a man, except the spirit of the man, which is in him? Even so, no one knows the things of God, except God’s Spirit. But we received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit which is from God, that we might know the things that were freely given to us by God. … But he who is spiritual discerns all things, and he himself is judged by no one. “For who has known the mind of the Lord, that he should instruct him?” But we have Christ’s mind. (1 Cor. 2:11-12, 15-16, WEB)
God’s spirit inside us transforms our minds to we can think, understand, perceive, feel, and judge the same way Christ does. Through his power, you can “be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and put on the new man, who in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of truth” (Eph. 4:23-24, WEB).
Conquering Through The Spirit
Whatever the source of your anxieties and fears, you don’t have to be controlled by them. God’s spirit working inside us can replace fear with power, love, and sound mindedness.
I don’t want to make it sound like “poof! you’re a Christian and your anxieties all go away.” That isn’t what has happened for me or a lot of other Christians I know who struggle with anxiety. But God does give us a way to work through our anxieties and take control over them through Him.
God is more than enough to handle anything life (or even our own minds) can throw at us. He shares the power, love, and sound mindedness that is inherent in His spirit with us as He indwells us. He can take the lies of fear and anxiety and replace them with His truth. And because He is loving and kind, He’ll keep doing that for us whenever we struggle with fear as we continue to walk with Him.
Music is one way that the Lord speaks encouragement to my heart, so I’ll leave you with a song that I’ve found very comforting when I’m fighting anxiety. I hope it (and this post) encourage you as well. God bless you, dear readers.