I bless God every chance I get; my lungs expand with his praise.

I live and breathe God; if things aren’t going well, hear this and be happy:

Join me in spreading the news; together let’s get the word out.

God met me more than halfway, he freed me from my anxious fears.

Psalm 34:1-4, The Message

As the daughter of an English teacher, I developed a love for words at an early age. I’ve always admired how poets can weave their phrases into melody and how storytellers can create worlds with words that seem as real as our own. But most of all, I’ve discovered a love for the history, or etymology, of words. It’s a bit “word nerdy,” but the story behind the words we use every day rarely disappoints.

Reading the last verse in today’s passage, David buried the lead (IMHO). God freed him from the anxious fears mentioned in the last verse. This explains his desire to praise God every chance he had.

Anxious fears.” Let’s explore these words. What did God really free him from?

Looking into the etymology of “anxious” its history is Latin and means “to choke, to squeeze” or “to torment, to cause distress.” As someone who has battled anxiety, I’d say this root definition fits the bill. Anxiety is insidious and can feel like a trap one worries they can’t escape.

But how about “fear?” What is its root origin and definition? “Fear” is Old English and means “to terrify, frighten.” There was also an Old Norse origin that means “to taunt.” Wow.

So, to (respectfully) use the root definitions to rephrase that final verse: God met me more than halfway; he freed me from that which tormented and taunted me.

No wonder David blessed God every chance he had! No wonder his lungs expanded with praise! No wonder he lived and breathed God!

The picture of David’s worship here is practically palpable. I can imagine the freedom, lightness, and overwhelming gratitude he felt, which brings tears to my eyes. And yet, his story is not unique. In a world that can be wild, worrisome, and weird, anxiety and fear start to feel natural and normal. Something we just have to live with. No escape.

However, this is not true! This Advent season represents the freedom God provided from that which wants to torment and taunt. Did you know the root origin of “Advent” is Old English, meaning “important arrival?”

Important arrival of what? Could it be the important arrival of what takes the place of anxiety and fear in our hearts? To explore these questions, thinking about David’s exuberant worship and gratitude, I put on my “word nerd” hat again and asked myself, “What are the opposites, or antonyms, of those words?”

Wait for it.

The antonyms of “anxiety” and “fear” are peace, joy, blessing, and courage. All words used to describe the Advent season, the important arrival of Jesus into the world.

Stepping back and pondering these words, they paint a picture of… hope. Torment and torture melt away in the presence of the peace, hope, and joy that God’s important arrival brings.

Lord, thank you so much for how you love us. Thank you for banishing anxiety and fear, bringing hope, peace, and blessing to replace them. Like David, I worship you for this freedom! Amen.

Reflect on this:
Are there any anxieties or fears in your life that haven’t been banished yet? Consider talking to God about them by name, asking him to banish them in this season.

Ginny Townsend lives in Goshen, NY

I’m grateful to live in the Hudson Valley with my husband and daughter, where we spend as much time outside as possible. While indoors, though, I enjoy podcasting, cooking, and reading. 

12 replies
  1. lgahm22
    lgahm22 says:

    God’s timing is always perfect. Before reading this I just wrote in my journal about the anxiety and fear I was having this week. Thank you for this blessing that I get to breathe into my lungs and give praise.

  2. Debbie Nahodil
    Debbie Nahodil says:

    What a blessing we have in Christ, that we can be free from all of our anxiety if we just accept this gift! The challenge for me is to remember that every time anxious feelings creep back in. I try to pray in that instant my fears come back, that Jesus will restore my joy. Thank you for this beautiful reminder of the peace and hope we have in this season and every season 🙂

    • Ginny Townsend
      Ginny Townsend says:

      Yes and amen! That which seeks to taunt and torment has no authority in his presence! Enjoy his joy and peace this season.

  3. Julie Kurz
    Julie Kurz says:

    Loved your ‘word nerdy’ thoughts! Having battled with anxiety all my life, replacing those taunting and tormenting fears with my hope in Jesus is truly the answer to peace!

  4. judymikes
    judymikes says:

    More than once I have let fear take over my thoughts to the point of inventing a future which was not even happening. Learning to give it directly to God when that happens gives me instant peace. Sometimes it takes me a while before I stop and realize what I am carrying around! Thank you for your “word nerd” mind. I love it!

  5. Laurie Sykes
    Laurie Sykes says:

    I am a ‘word nerd’ myself, and am struggling with anxiety because of a life change and a death. Your words have inspired me to walk a new path, out of anxiety and into hope. Thank you so much.

  6. Leeta Mackey
    Leeta Mackey says:

    Your words are such an inspiration not only for this Advent Season but for life in general. It’s all too easy for me to fall into anxious thinking. Yet each time I pause and reflect, I realize Jesus is there to take away all my anxiety. He wants only peace, joy and hope for me, for all of us. Thank you, Jesus!


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