Day 224

Anxiety and Peace

Wisdom Psalm 94:12-23
New Testament 1 Corinthians 7:1-16
Old Testament Ecclesiastes 1:1-3:22


Anxiety can rob you of the enjoyment of life. The causes of anxiety are numerous: health issues, work (or lack of it), finances (debt, unpaid bills and so on) and much else besides. The global pandemic has greatly increased levels of anxiety. Sometimes we may need professional support or medical help. Some of the biggest causes of anxiety are those dealt with in today’s New Testament passage: relationships, marriage (or lack of it), sex (or lack of it), singleness and divorce.

In our Old Testament passage, the book of Ecclesiastes suggests that much of the anxiety we experience is caused by something deeper. This could be described as the anxiety of meaninglessness. In the midst of all this, you are called ‘to live in peace’ (1 Corinthians 7:15).


Psalm 94:12-23

12Blessed is the one you discipline, Lord,
   the one you teach from your law;
13 you grant them relief from days of trouble,
   till a pit is dug for the wicked.
14 For the Lord will not reject his people;
   he will never forsake his inheritance.
15 Judgment will again be founded on righteousness,
   and all the upright in heart will follow it.

16 Who will rise up for me against the wicked?
   Who will take a stand for me against evildoers?
17 Unless the Lord had given me help,
   I would soon have dwelt in the silence of death.
18 When I said, “My foot is slipping,”
   your unfailing love, Lord, supported me.
19 When anxiety was great within me,
   your consolation brought me joy.

20 Can a corrupt throne be allied with you—
   a throne that brings on misery by its decrees?
21 The wicked band together against the righteous
   and condemn the innocent to death.
22 But the Lord has become my fortress,
   and my God the rock in whom I take refuge.
23 He will repay them for their sins
   and destroy them for their wickedness;
   the Lord our God will destroy them.


Speak to God about your anxieties

Do you know what it is like to experience great anxiety (v.19a)?

The psalmist certainly did. He writes, ‘You grant… relief from days of trouble… When I said, “My foot is slipping,” your love, O Lord, supported me. When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought joy to my soul’ (vv.13a,18–19).

He goes on, ‘But the Lord has become my fortress, and my God the rock in whom I take refuge’ (v.22).

When surrounded by great anxiety, turn to the Lord for help. ‘When I was upset and beside myself you calmed me down and cheered me up’ (v.19, MSG). In God’s love we find relief, consolation and joy. God provides ‘a circle of quiet within the clamour of evil’ (v.13, MSG).


Thank you, Lord, that you give me relief in the days of trouble. Today I come to you and bring my anxieties to you…

New Testament

1 Corinthians 7:1-16

Concerning Married Life

7 Now for the matters you wrote about: “It is good for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman.” 2 But since sexual immorality is occurring, each man should have sexual relations with his own wife, and each woman with her own husband. 3 The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband. 4 The wife does not have authority over her own body but yields it to her husband. In the same way, the husband does not have authority over his own body but yields it to his wife. 5 Do not deprive each other except perhaps by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control. 6 I say this as a concession, not as a command. 7 I wish that all of you were as I am. But each of you has your own gift from God; one has this gift, another has that.

8 Now to the unmarried and the widows I say: It is good for them to stay unmarried, as I do. 9 But if they cannot control themselves, they should marry, for it is better to marry than to burn with passion.

10 To the married I give this command (not I, but the Lord): A wife must not separate from her husband. 11 But if she does, she must remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband. And a husband must not divorce his wife.

12 To the rest I say this (I, not the Lord): If any brother has a wife who is not a believer and she is willing to live with him, he must not divorce her. 13 And if a woman has a husband who is not a believer and he is willing to live with her, she must not divorce him. 14 For the unbelieving husband has been sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife has been sanctified through her believing husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy.

15 But if the unbeliever leaves, let it be so. The brother or the sister is not bound in such circumstances; God has called us to live in peace. 16 How do you know, wife, whether you will save your husband? Or, how do you know, husband, whether you will save your wife?


Live in peace with your situation

Do you feel you are living a life of peace? ‘God has called us to live in peace’ (v.15c). How do you find this ‘peace’? In this chapter, Paul sets out how you find peace in relationships, marriage, singleness and separation. He begins by asking the question, ‘Is it a good thing to have sexual relations?’ (v.1, MSG). He responds, ‘Certainly – but only within a certain context’ (v.2a, MSG).

Paul is dealing with two opposite dangers: those who say that ‘all things are lawful’ (see chapter 6) which leads to immorality, and the super spiritual ascetics, who deny the body totally. In response, Paul answers a number of questions:

1.Is marriage God’s general will for his people?

Marriage is the norm for all people: ‘It’s good for a man to have a wife, and for a woman to have a husband’ (v.2, MSG). God’s general will is for people to get married for partnership (Genesis 2:18), procreation (Genesis 1:28) and pleasure (1 Corinthians 7:1–5). Singleness is the exception. It is a special call.

The reason Paul gives here is because there is ‘so much immorality’ (v.2). ‘Sexual drives are strong, but marriage is strong enough to contain them and provide for a balanced and fulfilling sexual life in a world of sexual disorder’ (v.2, MSG). He is dealing with his opponents on their own terms. They were reacting against immorality and arguing for no sex and no marriage.

Paul replies that, as well as all the positive reasons, the temptation towards immorality is a good reason to get married.

2.What is the Christian attitude to sex within marriage?

The route to spiritual fullness in marriage is not through abstinence. Within marriage there is sexual freedom and sexual equality: ‘The marriage bed must be a place of mutuality – the husband seeking to satisfy his wife, the wife seeking to satisfy her husband’ (v.3, MSG). The only reason to abstain is for short periods of prayer, if mutually agreed, and that is a concession not a command (vv.5–6).

3.Is it better to be single or married?

Paul writes that both are gifts from God. They are both good (vv.7–9). In a way, it is best (for reasons to be given later) to be single: ‘Sometimes I wish everyone were single like me – a simpler life in many ways! But celibacy is not for everyone any more than marriage is’ (v.7, MSG). But it is also a good thing to get married (v.9).

4.Should a Christian ever seek a divorce from another Christian?

The general principle of this passage, and the rest of the New Testament, seems to answer this question, ‘No’: ‘If you are married, stay married... a husband has no right to get rid of his wife’ (see, for example vv.10–11, MSG). Of course, this is a very complex issue. (I have tried to look at this question in more detail in the book on the Sermon on the Mount: The Jesus Lifestyle, chapter 6.)

5.What about relationships with people who are not Christians?

Paul does not encourage a Christian to marry someone who is not a Christian (2 Corinthians 6:14–7:1; 1 Corinthians 7:39). However, if they are already married that is quite different. They should not seek to dissolve any existing marriage relationship.

Paul’s opponents were worried that being married to someone who was not a Christian would pollute the marriage. Paul’s response is that the opposite is the case: ‘The unbelieving husband shares to an extent in the holiness of his wife, and the unbelieving wife is likewise touched by the holiness of her husband. Otherwise, your children would be left out; as it is, they also are included in the spiritual purposes of God’ (v.14, MSG).

If the person who is not a Christian insists on leaving, and clinging to the marriage would lead to nothing but frustration and tension, then the Christian should let them go, not for the sake of purity, but for the sake of ‘peace’ (see v.15).


Lord, help us at whatever stage we find ourselves, regardless of our marital status, to live according to your standards and to know your peace.

Old Testament

Ecclesiastes 1:1-3:22

Everything Is Meaningless
1 The words of the Teacher, son of David, king in Jerusalem:

2 “Meaningless! Meaningless!”
  says the Teacher.
“Utterly meaningless!
  Everything is meaningless.”

3 What do people gain from all their labours
  at which they toil under the sun? 4 Generations come and generations go,
  but the earth remains forever. 5 The sun rises and the sun sets,
  and hurries back to where it rises.
6 The wind blows to the south
  and turns to the north;
round and round it goes,
  ever returning on its course.
7 All streams flow into the sea,
  yet the sea is never full.
To the place the streams come from,
  there they return again.
8 All things are wearisome,
  more than one can say.
The eye never has enough of seeing,
  nor the ear its fill of hearing.
9 What has been will be again,
  what has been done will be done again;
  there is nothing new under the sun.
10 Is there anything of which one can say,
  “Look! This is something new”?
It was here already, long ago;
  it was here before our time.
11 No one remembers the former generations,
  and even those yet to come
will not be remembered
  by those who follow them.

Wisdom Is Meaningless
12 I, the Teacher, was king over Israel in Jerusalem. 13 I applied my mind to study and to explore by wisdom all that is done under the heavens. What a heavy burden God has laid on mankind! 14 I have seen all the things that are done under the sun; all of them are meaningless, a chasing after the wind.

15 What is crooked cannot be straightened;
  what is lacking cannot be counted.

16 I said to myself, “Look, I have increased in wisdom more than anyone who has ruled over Jerusalem before me; I have experienced much of wisdom and knowledge.” 17 Then I applied myself to the understanding of wisdom, and also of madness and folly, but I learned that this, too, is a chasing after the wind.

18 For with much wisdom comes much sorrow;
  the more knowledge, the more grief.
\t\t Pleasures Are Meaningless
2 I said to myself, “Come now, I will test you with pleasure to find out what is good.” But that also proved to be meaningless. 2 “Laughter,” I said, “is madness. And what does pleasure accomplish?” 3 I tried cheering myself with wine, and embracing folly—my mind still guiding me with wisdom. I wanted to see what was good for people to do under the heavens during the few days of their lives.

4 I undertook great projects: I built houses for myself and planted vineyards. 5 I made gardens and parks and planted all kinds of fruit trees in them. 6 I made reservoirs to water groves of flourishing trees. 7 I bought male and female slaves and had other slaves who were born in my house. I also owned more herds and flocks than anyone in Jerusalem before me. 8 I amassed silver and gold for myself, and the treasure of kings and provinces. I acquired male and female singers, and a harem as well—the delights of a man’s heart. 9 I became greater by far than anyone in Jerusalem before me. In all this my wisdom stayed with me.

10 I denied myself nothing my eyes desired;
  I refused my heart no pleasure.
My heart took delight in all my labour,
  and this was the reward for all my toil.
11 Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done
  and what I had toiled to achieve,
everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind;
 nothing was gained under the sun.

Wisdom and Folly Are Meaningless
12 Then I turned my thoughts to consider wisdom,
  and also madness and folly.
What more can the king’s successor do
  than what has already been done?
13 I saw that wisdom is better than folly,
  just as light is better than darkness.
14 The wise have eyes in their heads,
  while the fool walks in the darkness;
but I came to realize
  that the same fate overtakes them both.

15 Then I said to myself,

“The fate of the fool will overtake me also.
  What then do I gain by being wise?”
I said to myself,
  “This too is meaningless.”
16 For the wise, like the fool, will not be long remembered;
  the days have already come when both have been forgotten.
Like the fool, the wise too must die!

Toil Is Meaningless
17 So I hated life, because the work that is done under the sun was grievous to me. All of it is meaningless, a chasing after the wind. 18 I hated all the things I had toiled for under the sun, because I must leave them to the one who comes after me. 19 And who knows whether that person will be wise or foolish? Yet they will have control over all the fruit of my toil into which I have poured my effort and skill under the sun. This too is meaningless. 20 So my heart began to despair over all my toilsome labor under the sun. 21 For a person may labor with wisdom, knowledge and skill, and then they must leave all they own to another who has not toiled for it. This too is meaningless and a great misfortune. 22 What do people get for all the toil and anxious striving with which they labour under the sun? 23 All their days their work is grief and pain; even at night their minds do not rest. This too is meaningless.

24 A person can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in their own toil. This too, I see, is from the hand of God, 25 for without him, who can eat or find enjoyment? 26 To the person who pleases him, God gives wisdom, knowledge and happiness, but to the sinner he gives the task of gathering and storing up wealth to hand it over to the one who pleases God. This too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind.

A Time for Everything
3 There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under the heavens:

2   a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
3   a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
4   a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
5   a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
6   a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
7   a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
8   a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.

9 What do workers gain from their toil? 10 I have seen the burden God has laid on the human race. 11 He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end. 12 I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live. 13 That each of them may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all their toil—this is the gift of God. 14 I know that everything God does will endure forever; nothing can be added to it and nothing taken from it. God does it so that people will fear him.

15 Whatever is has already been,
and what will be has been before;
and God will call the past to account.

16 And I saw something else under the sun:

In the place of judgment—wickedness was there,
  in the place of justice—wickedness was there.

17 I said to myself,

“God will bring into judgment
  both the righteous and the wicked,
for there will be a time for every activity,
  a time to judge every deed.”

18 I also said to myself, “As for humans, God tests them so that they may see that they are like the animals. 19 Surely the fate of human beings is like that of the animals; the same fate awaits them both: As one dies, so dies the other. All have the same breath; humans have no advantage over animals. Everything is meaningless. 20 All go to the same place; all come from dust, and to dust all return. 21 Who knows if the human spirit rises upward and if the spirit of the animal goes down into the earth?”

22 So I saw that there is nothing better for a person than to enjoy their work, because that is their lot. For who can bring them to see what will happen after them?


Find purpose instead of meaninglessness

‘What do people get for all the toil and anxious striving with which they labour under the sun?’ (2:22). This expression ‘under the sun’ occurs twenty-eight times in this book. It is used to describe a search for meaning that never moves beyond this life and this world.

Ecclesiastes is a story of one person’s anxious search for meaning. The writer, in the shoes of King Solomon 3,000 years ago, searches in various areas.

Joyce Meyer writes, ‘Solomon was a busy man; he tried everything that could be tried and did everything there was to do, but at the end of his experience, he was unfulfilled and bitter... exhausted, disappointed and frustrated.’ Ecclesiastes expresses some of these frustrations about life.

Eugene Peterson writes, ‘Ecclesiastes doesn’t say that much about God; the author leaves that to the other sixty-five books of the Bible. His task is to expose our total incapacity to find the meaning and completion of our lives on our own... It is an exposé and rejection of every arrogant and ignorant expectation that we can live our lives by ourselves on our own terms.’

Solomon finds that ‘everything’s boring, utterly boring – no one can find any meaning in it’ (1:8, MSG). ‘So what do you get from a life of hard labour? Pain and grief from dawn to dusk. Never a decent night’s rest. Nothing but smoke’ (2:22–23, MSG).


He begins by chasing after ‘wisdom’ and ‘knowledge’ (1:18a), but this only leads to ‘much sorrow’ and ‘more grief’ (v.18b). ‘The more you know, the more you hurt’ (v.18b, MSG). Accumulating wisdom and knowledge does not deal with the ultimate cause of anxiety – meaninglessness.


Hedonism is the doctrine that pleasure is the chief good or proper aim. ‘I said to myself, “Let’s go for it – experiment with pleasure, have a good time!”’ (2:1, MSG). He tries escapism through ‘laughter’ (v.2). He tries stimulants – ‘cheering myself with wine’ (v.3). He then turns to music, ‘men and women singers’ (v.8). He tries sexual pleasure, ‘and a harem as well’ (v.8b). Solomon in fact had 700 wives and 300 mistresses. All this still did not satisfy.

He concludes, ‘Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind’ (v.11). He experiences the paradox of pleasure – the law of diminishing returns. The more people seek pleasure, the less they find it.


Materialism is ‘The tendency to prefer material possessions to spiritual values’. He tries various ‘projects’ (v.4). He obtains property (vv.4–6). He has many men and women working for him (v.7). He has many possessions (v.7b). He acquires money: ‘I amassed silver and gold for myself, and the treasure of kings and provinces’ (v.8). He achieves greatness, success and fame (v.9). He has a successful job and career (v.10b). Yet death makes this entire search ‘meaningless’ (vv.16–18).

Ecclesiastes raises the questions that the New Testament answers. Meaning is found not ‘under the sun’, but in the Son.


Lord, thank you that in Jesus, I find the answer to the anxiety of meaninglessness. Thank you that in him I find true peace and purpose to my life.

Pippa adds

Ecclesiastes 3:1 says, ‘There is a time for everything…’

I never have enough time for everything, even for my Bible reading and I’m on holiday!



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Eugene Peterson, The Message, 'Introduction to Ecclesiastes' (NavPress, 1993), p.882.

Joyce Meyer, The Everyday Life Bible (Faithwords, 2018) p.1017.

Unless otherwise stated, Scripture quotations taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version Anglicised, Copyright © 1979, 1984, 2011 Biblica, formerly International Bible Society. Used by permission of Hodder & Stoughton Publishers, an Hachette UK company. All rights reserved. ‘NIV’ is a registered trademark of Biblica. UK trademark number 1448790.

Scripture marked (MSG) taken from The Message. Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.

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