Anxious? You Don't Need a Pill, You Need Redirected Hope
My life is in some ways, just like yours — a unique cocktail of delightful, painful, and mundane circumstances that often leaves me stumbling around in an anxious stupor. As one who has always prided myself as easy going and generally able to "roll with the punches" I realized my self-assesment was wrong, nothing more than wishful thinking. At one point earlier this year, I confessed to my wife, "I don't know how, but I've become an anxious person."
Do Not Be Anxious
When the Christian honestly identifies some of the symptoms of anxiety in his life, he must then reckon with some of the Bible's most frequent teaching. The Scriptures teach that anxiety, in all its forms, grows out of the polluted soil of sinful heart. Philippians 4:6 gives us one of the most widely known (and consequently the most widely ignored) commands in all the Bible. "Do not be anxious about anything…" The same Biblical sentiment takes a variety of other forms: "Do not worry" (Matt. 6:25) "Do not be afraid" (1 Chron. 28:20) "Be free from anxieties" (1 Cor. 7:32). Thus, those who take the Bible seriously must be forced to conclude that, anxiety is actually sinful! But why?
Anti-God and the Root of Anxiety
Why is it that our Lord speaks so strongly and so frequently against all degrees of anxiety? Could it be that perhaps, the root of all our anxiety is that at our core, we are prone to be fiercely anti-God? Mankind's longing for autonomy and independence is precisely what readers encounter in Genesis 3 when Adam and Eve reject God's government of Eden. Cain expressed his desire for autonomy when he destroyed his image-bearing brother out of jealously. Then came the flood which was occasioned by the fact that "every intention of the thoughts of [man's] heart was only evil." Isn't the essence of evil a rejection of God's rule or a desire to build a "name for oneself" (Gen. 11:4)?
Anxiety is the feeling produced when one is frustrated by his inability to control a situation. Surely this is the most common of frustrations for humans because every day we are reminded of how little in our lives we actually control. Lay-offs, marital strife, difficult children, declining health, presidential elections, travel delays, rumors of war, and the unscheduled imminence of death constantly place us in circumstances where we are stripped from our ability to control. Anxiety arises when we want to be God: all-knowing, all-powerful, all-wise but frustrated by our limitations, we realize that we are not. Anxiety is the byproduct of our frustrated desire to be God.
Anxious?: Symptom of a Sick Heart
Anxiety can actually serve us. In the same way that throbbing pain in my hand indicates that my hand is injured and requires care, the throbbing pain of anxiety clues us in to the fact that our hearts are sick an need care. This can be remarkably helpful because if we are wise, we can trace our anxiety back to its evil root and then turn and respond in faith.
For example, today I saw a for sale sign in the yard of a home in my neighborhood. This immediately caused my heart and mind to fly down a dangerous road. Is the housing market still bad? How much would they make or lose? I wonder if they have money saved for retirement? Has my house lost/gained value? Will I have money for retirement? Who is going to be elected president? What will happen if I lose all my savings? All of a sudden I pictured me and my wife living under a bridge unable to care for each other! All this went flying through my head in a matter of moments. I went from seeing a home for sale to living under a bridge in 2053.
As anxiety ransacking my heart, I paused… "Do not be anxious." What was at the root of all my concerns? I began slowly to diagnose the symptoms of my heart. I was placing my hope in money, security, and comfort; none of which are even remotely secure. I was ignoring the many promises of God. Did He not say, "Keep your life free from the love of money, for He has said, 'I will never leave you nor forsake you'" (Heb. 13:5). If my ultimate hope and security actually depended upon my financial security or the economic climate, I would have a reason to be anxious. But since my hope is in a heavenly kingdom, an eternal kingdom… and since my days on earth have been carefully scripted by a loving Father… what reason do I have to be anxious?
Prayer: The Antidepressant
When the Bible diagnoses the sin of anxiety, prayer is almost always the first treatment given. "Do not be anxious… but in everything by prayer…" (Phil. 4:6). People only pray when they feel needy and insecure. Every time you sense anxiety in your heart, you can trace that anxiety back to something or someone you are placing your hope and are feeling helpless because of your limited ability control.
Have you considered that today's exact circumstances have been specifically crafted by your loving Father to pry away your false sense of control and to remind you of His loving provision, which has been proved in the past and is guaranteed for the future. They are intended to remind you that we are utterly dependent on Him for everything (John 15:5) and that He is the only worthy object of hope. So today, when feelings of anxiety begin to rise, wether large or small, pray that God would help you trace them back to what you are placing your hope in. Then turn and rest in the perfect security of your Father's loving arms and rest as the peace of God guards your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.