the shape of leadership

How to Support Anxious Young Adults

Five biblical truths for navigating worry

Kent Ingle on February 5, 2024

How many of you like Taylor Swift?” I was speaking to a group of students, and I figured a popular subject would get their attention off the bat. A third of the room raised their hands.

I asked a few more questions to get a better understanding of the audience. I asked how many came from fragmented families. Several raised their hands. I read out a few more questions.

Then, I felt prompted to ask a question that wasn’t in my notes. I asked, “How many of you found yourself overwhelmed with anxiety this past year?” Every student raised their hand.

It’s a topic plaguing this generation.

Young adults (18 to 34) reported higher stress levels than older generations according to the American Psychological Association’s 2023 Stress in America survey. Their top stressors were money and health.

A Barna survey found that Gen Z (18 to 35) was filled with worry. They had anxiety about important decisions, uncertainty about the future, fear of failure and pressure to be successful.

With the growing anxiety in our world, we must come alongside young adults to navigate through the concerns in their lives by providing biblical truths.

Here are five ways to encourage young adults struggling with anxiety.


Practice a Posture of Gratitude

Young adults are inundated with news pushing fear of the economy, rising social tensions and conflicts worldwide. Social media can add to their worries, giving young adults a false perception of the life they “should” have or ways to find fulfillment. With the ongoing noise around them, it can feel like joy is out of reach.

In Philippians 4:4, Paul wrote, “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” Paul suffered for the gospel — being shipwrecked, imprisoned and beaten — yet he understood that true joy from Christ never fades. Paul demonstrates how when we rejoice in Christ, He transforms us from the inside out.

Ask young adults if they allow their circumstances to control their joy. Encourage them to read Paul’s story in the Bible. Discuss how Paul teaches them to rejoice in the Lord always — even when things don’t go their way or life feels overwhelming.

Talk about the importance of remembering everything God has done for them. Have them write their blessings down and share them with others. Living in a posture of gratitude can teach them to find their source of joy in Christ.


Seek Out Christ

When I lived in Issaquah, Washington, I woke up early every morning to walk on a hiking trail near our home. I loved that time of day because I would see a handful of deer since it was quiet and no one was around.

In a world filled with worry, it’s important that we continue to point young adults back to Christ and how He can be their true source of peace and comfort.

I soon expected to see deer every day. I realized that I would have missed out on some amazing moments if I didn't have that expectation. During one of my walks, I felt like God was asking me, “Do you have the same expectation to see me at work in your life?”

We can often forget God is near and lose the expectation that He will be with us every moment of the day. We forget to be aware of what God wants to prompt in our lives or whisper to us.

Remind young adults that Christ is always near (Philippians 4:5). He is with them in difficult conversations and times of fear. He is with them when the enemy wants them to focus on the difficulties of the past or grow concerned about the future. They just need to seek Him out by having the eyes and ears to know He is close.


Surrender Your Needs

A few years ago, I was dealing with some extreme anxiety. My mentor told me that I needed to identify the problem. I was able to find what was causing my anxiety by journaling. My discovery helped me surrender that problem to Christ.

Encourage young adults to discover what is causing their anxiety. Have them identify key moments throughout their day that lead to stress or worry. Encourage them to claim a biblical promise over what is causing them concern. Remind them of how Christ prevailed for them in the past.

Philippians 4:6 says, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”


Focus on the Right Things

Many years ago, I had the opportunity to go to the top of an air traffic control tower. I watched as planes flew in and listened to what the air traffic controller communicated with the pilots. He would tell pilots when they were free to land or take off. Standing there, I realized I was directing the air traffic control tower for my brain and heart.

Teach young adults how they can be running the control towers for their lives. Rather than letting fear and anxiety land, encourage them to let whatever is right, pure and good land in their hearts and minds (Philippians 4:8). Help them learn how to stop any negative thoughts that could fuel their anxiety.

Once they focus on the right things, it can change their perspective on life and keep them focused on what God has for them.


Live in the Present

Paul uses the Greek word merimnáō for anxiety, which means divided mind. Anxiety causes our minds, hearts and lives to become quite divided. It pulls us out of the present and takes us to the past or creates “what if” scenarios about what tomorrow will bring.

When I found myself overwhelmed and talking to my mentor, he told me, “Anxiety is going to be this fracturing and splintering of your internal world. This is what the enemy wants.”

Many young adults struggle to be fully present. They may jump on their phones for distraction, which can hamper their relationships. They can often find themselves more connected to the past or worrying about tomorrow rather than being present in today.

When young adults feel anxiety setting in, remind them to pause what they are doing, take a deep breath and say a prayer. By doing this, they can learn to shut out the worries of the past or tomorrow and focus on where they are at presently. As Isaiah 40:31 says, when they put their hope in Christ (rather than themselves), He will renew their strength.

Anxiety is a growing problem in our world. I have read numerous studies showing that young adults and children today experience more anxiety than people their age did decades ago. It’s not surprising, with how technology has changed. In a world filled with worry, it’s important that we continue to point young adults back to Christ and how He can be their true source of peace and comfort.
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