I am no expert in the field of mental health, but it seems that anxiety is crippling more and more people than ever before. Upwards of 40 million American adults are dealing with anxiety disorders. Some have found relief through the help of doctors and modern medicine. Even with this help, it is a constant struggle for many.
Beyond those dealing with various anxiety disorders, thousands more grapple with anxious thoughts and chronic worry. A global pandemic isn’t making it any easier.
Whether your battle is chemical, mental, emotional, or spiritual… there’s hope.
Personally, I’ve not experienced this in the way my friends have. Yes, I worry sometimes. I have fears about the future, especially since my daughter was born, and I’m prone to think way too much about how I’m being perceived by others. But mostly, I have freedom in this area. I’m fortunate enough to have not experienced any anxiety disorders or any extended periods of major worry. I’ve not known what it’s like to have anxiety bring me major issues at work, at home, in my thought life, or in my social circles.
Dozens of my friends aren’t so lucky. Anxiety and worry are ever-present clouds above them, slowing them from doing and being all that they so desire to do and be.
I am so grateful for medicine that helps them. I also believe God’s word offers wisdom into this complex issue, which isn’t only a modern one. Anxiety and worry are not new. The Scriptures deal with them openly.
So what does God have to say about anxiety?
In the sixth chapter of Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus gives quite the sermon. Amidst several comparisons between things that are temporary versus things that are lasting and eternal, Jesus says, more than once, “do not be anxious.”
Easier said than done, right? He calls into question our anxiety about material things especially, like worrying about what we eat or wear.
He then asks a pointed question…
“Which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his life?”
Wow. Mic drop.
As hard as it is for us to comprehend at times, Jesus knew the truth: WORRY IS WORTHLESS.
It gives nothing and it can steal almost anything. We can’t add a single hour to this life by worrying, and yet how many hours have we lost?
Certainly we understand that those dealing with anxiety disorders do not WANT to feel the way that they feel. They haven’t just made a choice to be anxious.
However, how often do we choose to lean into our worries and anxious thoughts? How many times have we rehearsed worst-case scenarios, fretting over things beyond our control?
When I’m worried, I sometimes dwell on whatever my concern is. Even more often, I try to escape. Before I knew Christ, that escape came through lots of destructive behaviors, namely alcohol abuse. Now I escape by trying to simply shut my brain off. I might scroll social media or play a mindless video game.
Surely there’s a better way to cope than just turning my brain off…and Jesus gives it to us in that very chapter. Jesus reminds us that God knows our needs. He encourages us to look at the birds and consider the lilies and the way that God provides for them, even though we are infinitely more valuable to him. He commands us to seek first his Kingdom and promises that if we do, all the things we really need will be added to us.
You see, when it comes to the areas of unnecessary anxiety and worry, we don’t necessarily need to think less, but rather to think rightly.
We need to remind our worried selves about how good God is, about how he provides, and about how fruitless our worry truly is. As one preacher said, sometimes we need to just “read the Bible to our anxiety.”
So whether you’re worried about tomorrow, or your kids, or your health, or your big interview, make sure to take some time to think rightly before you let anxiety do all the talking. Before you get so consumed by what everyone else thinks or says about you, remember what he has said about you.
The Creator of the Universe promises to be with you. You’re not alone. You’re his. And as long as he has work for you to do on this earth, you’re immortal. Sparrows don’t hit the ground without his knowledge, and the hairs on your head are numbered. He’s got you.
I’m so grateful that God doesn’t just leave us on our own to figure these things out. He gives us his Word, his Spirit, and his people to navigate these tricky waters. Time spent with him has a way of bubbling some of our needless anxieties to the surface, where they can be properly dealt with and where God can help us walk the narrow path.
If you’re dealing with anxiety, you’re not alone. God’s Word gives hope, no matter the level, but it doesn’t promise quick results or easy outs. Anxiety might be a bully you have to fight every single day, but with God’s help, I think you’ll win.
Be encouraged today by the words of the Psalmist David in the 139th Psalm.
“Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life.”