A photo capturing Job's distraught expression as he sits on a pile of ashes, symbolizing his inner turmoil and anguish, depicting a biblical character wrestling with anxiety.

Bible Characters Who Struggled With Anxiety

Anxiety is a common struggle that many people face today. Even biblical figures grappled with worry, fear, and anxiety throughout Scripture. In this article, we will explore the stories of several prominent Bible characters who wrestled with anxiety and see what we can learn from their experiences.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: Many major figures in the Bible dealt with anxiety, including King David, the prophet Elijah, the apostle Paul, and even Jesus himself. Their stories reveal that anxiety has been a universal human problem throughout history.

However, Scripture also shows how faith in God can help provide peace and overcome anxiety.

We will examine the stories of five bible characters who faced anxiety at different points in their lives. Through exploring their narratives in depth, we will uncover the sources of their anxiety and the lessons we can glean about managing anxiety from a biblical perspective.

King David’s Anxiety

David’s Fear of Saul

As a young man, David was anointed by Samuel to be the next king of Israel. However, Saul was still on the throne and grew jealous and suspicious of David’s growing popularity. Saul made multiple attempts on David’s life, causing David to flee into the wilderness where he lived as a fugitive for several years.

David was constantly on the run and hiding in caves to escape Saul’s murderous rage (1 Samuel 18-26). This caused tremendous anxiety and fear in David’s life as he had to be constantly looking over his shoulder, never sure when Saul might find him and try to kill him again.

David expressed his anxious thoughts in many of the Psalms he wrote during this time period.

David’s Anxiety Over Sin

Later in his reign as king, David committed grievous sins by committing adultery with Bathsheba and then having her husband Uriah killed (2 Samuel 11-12). When the prophet Nathan confronted David about his sins, David was stricken with anxiety and guilt.

He cried out to God, “My sin is always before me” (Psalm 51:3). David worried about the consequences of his sins, including how they affected his closeness with God and his ability to rule Israel. He prayed earnestly for forgiveness.

Even after being forgiven, David continued to feel remorse over his failures. His anxiety caused him physical sickness until he fully repented (Psalm 32:3-5). Throughout the rest of his reign, David was mindful of his moral failures and diligent to walk in obedience to God’s laws.

Elijah’s Anxiety and Depression

Elijah’s Fear of Jezebel

After his dramatic victory over the prophets of Baal at Mount Carmel, Elijah was threatened by Queen Jezebel and overtaken by fear. Jezebel sent a messenger telling Elijah that she planned to kill him just as he had killed her prophets (1 Kings 19:2).

This threat triggered anxiety and despair in Elijah, despite having recently witnessed God’s power.

Elijah became afraid that Jezebel would make good on her threat to take his life. Rather than trusting in divine protection, extreme panic set in. Overwhelmed by dread, Elijah fled for his life deep into the Wilderness of Beersheba—a long, exhausting journey through the desert (1 Kings 19:3-4).

His terror and anxiety were so intense that he became desperate to die.

Elijah’s Despair in the Wilderness

Alone in the wilderness, Elijah was utterly depleted—physically, mentally, and spiritually. He sat down under a broom bush, praying that he might die. He lamented, “It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life, for I am no better than my fathers” (1 Kings 19:4).

Elijah felt hopeless and profoundly depressed, no longer seeing purpose in his life.

In this desperate state, Elijah lay down and fell asleep all alone in the wilderness. Yet God in His mercy sent an angel to minister to Elijah, providing food and water to strengthen him. The angel came to Elijah twice with nourishment, urging him to eat and drink to sustain himself for the journey ahead (1 Kings 19:5-8).

Even in Elijah’s darkest despair, God had not abandoned him.

After being refreshed by the food and rest, Elijah traveled for forty days and nights to Horeb, the mount of God (1 Kings 19:8). There God met him, not in the wind, earthquake or fire, but with a gentle whisper, offering comfort, reassurance, and guidance (1 Kings 19:11-12).

Even Elijah, a great prophet of God, struggled deeply with anxiety and depression when faced with dire threats. Yet in his brokenness he experienced God’s gentle restoration.

The Apostle Paul’s Anxiety

Paul’s Thorn in the Flesh

The apostle Paul was one of the most influential figures in the early Christian church. However, he struggled with anxiety and other challenges throughout his ministry. One of Paul’s struggles was what he called a “thorn in the flesh” (2 Corinthians 12:7).

There has been much speculation about what exactly Paul’s thorn was. Many scholars believe it was some sort of physical affliction, perhaps an illness or disability. Others think it may have been some type of spiritual temptation or harassment from religious opponents.

Whatever it was, this thorn was a source of anxiety and discouragement for Paul. He pleaded with God three times to take it away, but God refused. Instead, God told Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9).

Though painful, this thorn kept Paul dependent on God’s strength rather than his own. It taught him that God’s power shows up most clearly in the midst of human weakness and limitation.

Paul’s Concern for the Churches

In addition to his personal struggles, the apostle Paul experienced anxiety and concern for the churches he established across the Roman Empire. As an apostle and church planter, Paul felt responsible for the spiritual welfare of new believers in places like Corinth, Galatia, Thessalonica, and Philippi.

For example, in 2 Corinthians 11:28, Paul wrote, “Apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches.” Paul worried about false teachers misleading church members and immorality creeping into the church.

He also feared that persecution would cause believers to abandon their faith. In his letters, Paul offered much encouragement, instruction and correction to address concerns and build up the churches in troubling times.

Though anxious, Paul continued praying diligently for the churches and relying on the strength of the Holy Spirit to sustain the new Christian communities.

Paul’s struggles with anxiety as an early church leader can encourage believers today who also battle worry, fear and concern while seeking to serve the Lord. Paul’s writings emphasize bringing all anxieties to God in prayer (Philippians 4:6-7) and recognizing Christ’s power and presence within our weaknesses (2 Corinthians 12:9-10).

With compassion, patience and God’s help, believers can persevere through mental health challenges as they walk in faith.

Jesus’ Anxiety in Gethsemane

Jesus experienced intense emotional distress and anxiety in the Garden of Gethsemane shortly before his arrest and crucifixion (Matthew 26:36-46; Mark 14:32-42; Luke 22:39-46). He knew his suffering and death on the cross was imminent, and the heavy weight of the world’s sins he would bear was almost unimaginable.

Despite knowing his purpose, Jesus was distressed about what lay ahead. He told his disciples, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death” (Mark 14:34). Jesus was human as well as divine, and the thought of the excruciating physical pain and bearing the sins of all humanity caused him intense sorrow and anxiety.

Jesus knew everything that was going to happen, but still earnestly prayed to the Father three times to “take this cup from me” (Mark 14:36). He had not lost faith in the Father, but was expressing the human desire to avoid the unimaginable suffering.

An angel came to strengthen Jesus and he surrendered himself saying, “My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done” (Matthew 26:42). Jesus overcame the anxiety by trusting in God’s plan.

Jesus understands what it is like to struggle with anxiety and distress. Anyone who deals with anxiety and fear can relate to Jesus’ anguish in Gethsemane. Believers can be encouraged that Jesus has compassion and offers comfort to those struggling with heavy emotional burdens.

Lessons We Can Learn

The stories of biblical characters who struggled with anxiety offer several valuable lessons for those facing similar issues today:

Anxiety is Common, Even Among Heroes of the Faith

It’s easy to idealize biblical heroes and think they had it all together. But the truth is that many major figures like King David, Elijah, Jeremiah, and Paul experienced intense anxiety at times. Recognizing this can help us feel less alone when anxiety hits.

God Understands Our Anxieties

Many anxious bible characters cried out to God for help in their distress. The good news is that God hears our cries too and understands what we’re going through (Psalm 34:17-18). He cares for us deeply and wants to calm our fears.

Anxiety Can Point Us to God

Though unpleasant, bouts of anxiety can motivate us to draw closer to God. Relying on His strength rather than our own helps build faith. As it says in 2 Corinthians 12:9, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”

Scripture Offers Comfort and Reassurance

Biblical passages like Psalm 23, Isaiah 41:10, and Philippians 4:6-7 have brought innumerable people peace in anxious times. Immersing our minds in God’s Word builds trust in His faithfulness.

We Can Overcome Anxiety with God’s Help

While chronic anxiety may always be a battle, with God’s power we can have victory over crippling fear. Many anxious bible heroes went on to do great things through faith. We too can live bold, fulfilling lives when we rely on God’s love to cast out fear (1 John 4:18).


Throughout Scripture, even giants of the faith like David, Elijah, Paul, and Jesus himself experienced periods of significant anxiety and anguish. Their stories reveal that anxiety has been an inescapable part of the human condition throughout history.

However, we can follow their examples in leaning on God for peace and persevering through trials. Their narratives provide hope that with faith in God, anxiety does not have to overcome us. By clinging to Him for strength, we too can have the courage to face our fears and overcome anxiety through the power of the Holy Spirit.

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