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.
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.
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.