ISIS… Global Warming… Terrorism… Economic Collapse… Racism … Airport Security … Riots … Murder … Retirement … College
So how is your ANXIETY level? That’s what I thought. Let’s talk.
Anxiety is sometimes defined as uneasiness associated with vague or unknown threats, both real and imagined. Fear is often defined as an emotional response to a clear and present danger – usually real, and immediate. There are subtle differences between anxiety and fear. Ironically, fear can cause anxiety, and anxiety can cause fear. But, both produce physical stress responses.
“Anxiety does not empty tomorrow of its sorrows, but only empties today of its strength.” – Charles Spurgeon
I want to focus on the anxiety that results from the undercurrent of future uncertainties. In other words, worry over things that might or might not happen:
- Will I ever find my true love?
- Will the economy collapse?
- What if an asteroid strikes the planet?
- What if I go to the bank and get killed in a robbery?
- What if I am on an airplane and it crashes?
- What if I am hit by a car trying to cross the street?
- What if I lose my job and become homeless?
Yes, the anxiety list is filled with endless scenarios. Every morning we awaken to a myriad of new opportunities to make us feel uneasy about the future (let alone all the stuff we keep overanalyzing and replaying from our past, but that is an entirely different subject).
“Every tomorrow has two handles. We can take hold of it with the handle of anxiety or the handle of faith.” – Henry Ward Beecher
I have referenced the work of Thomas S. Kepler (1897-1963) in a previous commentary. He was a respected biblical scholar, prodigious author and Professor of New Testament studies at Oberlin College. Kepler also wrote a weekly syndicated newspaper column on religious issues. He published a story about a woman who came to the realization that anxiety was ruining her life. According to Kepler, she began to keep track of what was worrying her. This is what she found:
- 40% of the things she was anxious about never happened.
- 30% of the things she was anxious about already happened (i.e. – it’s the past, get over it).
- 12% of the things she was anxious about were the opinions and criticisms of others.
- 10% of the things she was anxious about were unnecessary health concerns, which actually made her health worse through nervousness.
- 8% of the things she worried about were “reasonable concerns,” since life does have some real challenges to overcome.
So, if just 8% of her anxieties were actually reasonable concerns, how legitimate is your relentless undercurrent of dread? No wonder you’re so worn-out. Anxiety is zapping your energy. And for what benefit? Worrying does not solve problems (especially the ones that are only in your mind). And even your reasonable concerns are never an excuse for unnecessary apprehension. There are occasions when brief anxiety can be appropriate (uneasiness about that math test later today or an impending job interview, etc.), but when anxiety becomes a steady companion, that’s not so good. How many hours of your invaluable time have you invested in worry? What a waste. You’ll never get a single moment back.
“In almost everything that touches our everyday life on earth, God is pleased when we’re pleased. He wills that we be as free as birds to soar and sing our maker’s praise without anxiety.” – Aiden Wilson Tozer
In the New Testament book of 1st Peter you will find this good word,
7“ Let him (GOD) have all your worries and cares (anxieties), for he is always thinking about you and watching everything that concerns you.” (1 Peter 5:7)
To me that is so awesome. The creator of all things (GOD) knows who I am. He actually thinks about me. Every detail of my life here on this planet is of personal concern to Him. And since I actually believe this is true, how can I justify worry?
“Well now brother, I just cannot comprehend how GOD can know every detail of every human life and all at the same time.”
Neither can I. That’s why He is GOD and we’re NOT!
Look, I’m no fool. I’ll readily concede this; there are plenty of opportunities to worry. But that does not excuse living with persistent anxiety (and fear). Please consider these words that came from the lips of the Jesus,
25“Can all your worries add a single moment to your life? 26 And if worry can’t accomplish a little thing like that, what’s the use of worrying over bigger things?” (Luke 12:25-26 NLT)
The point is; anxiety is useless. It accomplishes nothing of value. And modern science tells us that it can contribute too many ailments – physical and mental. The bottom line: anxiety is a killer. So, how do you stop anxieties grip on your life?
“Happiness is not a brilliant climax to years of grim struggle and anxiety. It is a long succession of little decisions simply to be happy in the moment.” – J. Donald Walters
First, change your focus. Clearly you are spending way too much time dwelling on potential problems (real or imagined) instead of concentrating on the one who by His power within us is able to do far more than we ever dare to ask or imagine (Ephesians 3:20).
Listen again to the words of the Jesus as recorded in the Bible’s New Testament,
30-33 “If God gives such attention to the appearance of wildflowers””most of which are never even seen””don’t you think he’ll attend to you, take pride in you, do his best for you? What I’m trying to do here is to get you to relax, to not be so preoccupied with the getting, so that you can respond to God’s giving. People who don’t know God and the way he works fuss over these things, but you know both God and how he works. Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, and God-provisions. Don’t worry about missing out. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met.” (Matthew 6:30-33 – The Message)
That is incredible! Jesus wants me to chill. Relax, He said. Get to know God. Learn His ways. He will handle the details that you have no control over and make provision for everything that concerns you. All we have to do is trust Him. We have His word on that.
Second, talk with God. When you hear the word PRAY, think of a conversation. Prayer is talking with the creator of all things (GOD). Can you imagine that – an honest conversation with the source of life itself? Consider your closest friend. It is easy to talk with them. They know you and they love you. That level of intimacy can only spring from the depths of your human heart. Prayer is talking to your closest friend (GOD) about your most pressing concerns. The New Testament writer Paul said,
6 “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything; tell God your needs, and don’t forget to thank him for his answers. 7 If you do this, you will experience God’s peace, which is far more wonderful than the human mind can understand. His peace will keep your thoughts and your hearts quiet and at rest as you trust in Christ Jesus.“ (Philippians 4:6-7 -NLT)
Let’s break that down.
- Don’t worry about anything.
- Talk to God about everything.
- Let God know your concerns (what you need).
- Thank God for His solutions.
Sounds simple enough, right? Well, it’s not. Like any relationship, your comfort level grows over time. Imagine waking up at home in the middle of the night. The power is out and the interior of your bedroom is very dark. You must navigate your way to another room. Can you do it? Sure you can. You are familiar enough with your surroundings to walk that walk. But what if you were sleeping in a strange hotel room? That walk in the dark might prove challenging because the surrounds are unfamiliar. Every word we just read is the absolute Truth. But it takes faith and patience to live it. The more you do it, the more comfortable it will become.
“Let us never forget to pray. God lives. He is near. He is real. He is not only aware of us but cares for us. He is our Father. He is accessible to all who will seek Him.” – Gordon B. Hinckley
You may be going through a tough time right now. Life has swamped your little boat. Sometimes you struggle just to find meaning in your day to day existence. Talk to the creator of all things (GOD) and let Him have all your worries and cares. Decide right now, I will not be defeated and I will not quit.
Here are a few parting words of encouragement penned long ago by the New Testament writer Paul as he refreshed a group of struggling Christians who lived in the ancient city called Ephesus,
10-18 In conclusion be strong “not in yourselves but in the Lord, in the power of his boundless resource. Put on God’s complete armor so that you can successfully resist all the devil’s methods of attack. For our fight is not against any physical enemy: it is against organizations and powers that are spiritual. We are up against the unseen power that controls this dark world, and spiritual agents from the very headquarters of evil. Therefore you must wear the whole armor of God that you may be able to resist evil in its day of power, and that even when you have fought to a standstill you may still stand your ground. Take your stand then with truth as your belt, righteousness your breastplate, the Gospel of peace firmly on your feet, salvation as your helmet and in your hand the sword of the Spirit, the Word of God. Above all be sure you take faith as your shield, for it can quench every burning missile the enemy hurls at you. Pray at all times with every kind of spiritual prayer, keeping alert and persistent as you pray…” (Ephesians 6:10-18 – PHILLIPS)
Be strong in the Lord and remember; He is keeping His eye on everything that concerns you. He alone holds the future. Stop fretting about tomorrow and experience the joy that comes when you seize the day and learn to live in His all sufficient grace.
Joseph A. Cerreta, PhD., is a noted author, broadcaster, a popular Bible teacher and a rabbid Coastal Junkie ®
For additional information write to: Coastal Life Ministries, P.O. Box 1283, New Port Richey, Florida 34656