The Cure for Existential Anxiety

Ken Swan explains existential anxiety as “a sense of worry, dread or panic that may arise from the contemplation of life’s biggest questions, such as ‘Who am I?’ or ‘Why am I here?’” People throughout the ages have wrestled with these big questions which can be boiled down to “What is my purpose in life?” People are born with a desire to have meaning and purpose in life. They may sense strong meaning in one season of life over another. Age, health, work, or relationships can seem to define one’s purpose. The inevitable changes in life can bring existential anxiety.  However, the Westminster Catechism, written in the mid 1600’s, declared the cure for existential anxiety—to glorify God.

The Westminster Catechism states that the chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. Vincent Thomas explains that chief end is the desire, the aim, the endeavour to which all one’s actions and life should be directed.[1] Let’s look closer at the first part of the chief end of man—to glorify God. Isaiah 43:7 points out that man was created for God’s glory. So, to glorify God is the reason (the purpose) man was created. You may be wondering, as I did, what it means to glorify God. Glorify means to “positively acknowledge, recognize, or esteem one’s character, nature or attributes”[2] A closely related word, glory, can mean a state of high honor, to exalt, to praise (Isa 24:15) or to honor (Psa 22:23). One Bible dictionary defined glorify as “to magnify God through praising His name (Psa 86:12).[3] Interestingly, a Hebrew idiom “give glory to God” meant to confess your sin (Josh 7:19; John 9:24)[4] 

Theologians help us with the understanding of what it means to glorify God. For example, John Piper wrote, “‘Glorifying’ means feeling and thinking and acting in ways that reflect his greatness, that make much of God, that give evidence of the supreme greatness of all his attributes and the all-satisfying beauty of his manifold perfections.”[5] 

With a better handle on the what glorifying God means, how can we specifically carry this out? Writer Joel Beeke offers ten scriptural ways to glorify God:[6]

            Praise Him (Psa 63:3)

            Obey His Word (Mal 1:6-7, 2:2)

Pray in Jesus’ Name (John 14:13)

Produce Spiritual Fruit (John 15:8)

Remain Sexually Pure (1 Cor 6:18-20)

Seek the Good of Others (1 Cor 10:24, 31)

Give Generously (2 Cor 9:13)

Live Honorably Among Unbelievers (1 Pet 2:12)

Be Faithful in Persecution (1 Pet 4:16)

Face Death with Faith (John 21:19)

Beeke provides some helpful insights into specific ways to glorify God—which is a believer in Christ’s chief aim. Furthermore, Jesus gives us another way to glorify God, by accomplishing the work that He gives us to do (John 17:4).  

God is clear through His Scriptures what our purpose in life is—to glorify Him. Our purpose in life stands regardless of age, health, work, or relationships. We are designed to glorify God in every season of our life. For a believer, existential anxiety disregards God’s stated purpose for us. The cure for existential anxiety is to glorify God. When do you and I slip into the lie of “I have no purpose” or “My life has no meaning”? In what way are you and I glorifying God as detailed in His Word? In what way would God have you and I to be more intentional in glorifying Him?     

Image “Existential Anxiety: Definition and Coping Tips,” BetterHelp.com, December 7, 2023, accessed February 24, 2024,  https://dz9yg0snnohlc.cloudfront.net/what-is-existential-anxiety-3.jpg.   

[1] Thomas Vincent, “An Explanation of the Assembly’s Shorter Catechism,” accessed February 23, 2024, https://www.puritannica.com/front/demo/wk/VincentThomas/ShorterExplained/0013-0049.html.

[2] “Glorify,” in John 17:1, Word Sense, accessed February 23, 2024, Logos Bible Software. 

[3] Ronald F. Youngblood, F. F. Bruce, and R. K. Harrison, Thomas Nelson Publishers, eds., Nelson’s New Illustrated Bible Dictionary (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, Inc., 1995), glorify.

[4] M. G. Easton, Illustrated Bible Dictionary and Treasury of Biblical History, Biography, Geography, Doctrine, and Literature (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1893), 291.

[5] John Piper, “Glorifying God,” Desiring God, July 15, 2013,  accessed February 23, 2024, https://www.desiringgod.org/messages/glorifying-god-period John Piper Glorifying God…Period.

[6] Joel Beeke, “How Do We Glorify God?” Ligonier Ministries, June 3, 2017, accessed February 23, 2024, https://www.ligonier.org/learn/articles/how-do-we-glorify-god.

PJ Beets is passionate about encouraging women and children through the Scriptures and life to see the compassionate God who redeems the rejected by acceptance, the silenced by expression, the labored by grace, and the lonely by love in order to set them free to serve in His ordained place and way for them individually and corporately. She has served the Lord through Bible Study Fellowship and her home church in various capacities with women and children. Upon turning fifty, she sought the Lord on how He would have her finish well which began her journey at Dallas Theological Seminary. She has a Master of Arts in Biblical Studies as well as a Doctor of Educational Ministry in Spiritual Formation, both from from DTS. PJ is married to Tom, has three children, and six grandchildren.

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