Don’t hate me too much, but I feel like I need to be Captain Obvious for a second. We've got waaaaaaaaay too much anxiety these days (Overboard with the a's there? I thought so too.).
I’m even a little reticent to punch you in the gut with all the stats about it because if you’re not anxious already it might make you anxious. Stats say that 38% of girls between the ages of 13-17 have a diagnosable anxiety disorder of some type. Stats also tell us that we’re searching the term “anxiety” on Google nearly twice as much as we did five years ago. Stats even tell us that college kids and young adults are seeing therapists and receiving meds at unprecedented rates. And aside from stats just look at the culture. We gave the Tony for Best Musical to Dear Evan Hansen, a show with a huge anxiety theme. We binge listen to podcasts with names like Generation Anxiety. We have experts saying that we’re no longer the Prozac nation. That these days we’re the Xanax nation. I even read an article that we can now make a case for being one the most anxious generations to ever live on this planet.
Have you ever thought about what anxiety is?
Anxiety is emotional uncertainty. It's the inner sense that your life may well fall apart. It's the condition of believing that everything probably won’t be ok.
And everybody’s against it. Everybody. That’s why we treat it. Nobody wants to stay up nights with visions of what could go wrong. Nobody wants to sit on pins and needles waiting for a text or a test result to come back. Nobody wants to have this awful sense of foreboding that things in life aren’t going to be ok. Nobody is good with anxiety.
Least of all God. Did you know that? God tells us in the Scriptures – no commands us – not to be anxious about anything. (Philippians 4:6) God even goes so far as to give us very deliberate and purposeful strategies to rid ourselves of it like casting it away to him through prayer. (1 Peter 5:7)
Have you ever thought about why God is so against it though? I’ll give you a hint. It’s not simply because God wants you to be more emotionally comfortable in life. Like we should all imagine God as a sort of divine anesthetist who’s always trying to dial up the serenity for us. It’s because of the way anxiety functions in the human heart. It’s different than sadness, which doesn’t get a prohibition in the Scriptures that I’m aware of. Sadness is us merely reacting to difficulty in life. Anxiety though?
Anxiety is spiritually caustic to us because it functions as a prophetic preacher inside.
If you’ll let me push on that preaching metaphor just for a second, think of how true that really is. We all understand that anxiety is not us simply reacting to our present circumstances. It’s an emotion forecasting for us what’s to come. It an inner prophetic preacher, an awful visionary, a seer of sorts that’s saying, “Things aren’t going to turn out well for you.” Or, “God doesn’t care. You’re not going to end up respected or loved or ok. God is going to give you what you deserve.” Understood that way it’s not surprising that God takes issue with anxiety. It goes directly against everything he promises to do for us.
How fiercely does he take issue with it? He goes to war against it. And how? I should ask you something first. Have you ever thought about what the polar opposite of anxiety is? What the opposite of an, “about to fall apart,” and, “won’t turn out well,” sense is? It’s peace.
Peace is the ying to anxiety’s yang. Peace is the push to anxiety’s pull. (Not convinced of the antithesis I'm proposing here? Check out Philippians 4:6-7.)
Peace is the inner sense that everything will be ok. Peace is the sense that everything will hold together and will turn out well and whole because you have God at your back.
See it? That’s how God goes to war on our anxiety. He pushes peace. Just think of how he does that especially in the great Christological events in the Scriptures. Just think. What did the angels sing when Christ was born? Yeah. Peace on earth. (Luke 2:14) And what did Christ himself say when he showed up to us after his resurrection? My point exactly. Jesus made peace personal. He said, “Peace be with you.” (John 20:21) And what did Paul write in what many consider the most important book of the Bible in one of its greatest transitions. Precisely. “We have peace.” He even put peace on steroids there saying, “We have peace with God.” (Romans 5:1)
You know what’s interesting, but not surprising when you analyze God's combat methodology that I just outlined? It’s interesting, but not surprising that God does not make it his practice to say to us in our anxiety, “Buck up and trust me more.” Anybody who struggles with anxiety knows that doesn’t work. We’re just not naturally inclined to internalize peace well by ourselves. How’s that for honest?!? You know what does work though? Someone preaching peace to you. Like the angels once did. Like the Christ once did. Like Paul once did.
Like I am now. You ready? I'm going to do it with one verse. "God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." (Romans 5:8)
Work that through the gears just for a second. If God gave Christ to die for you while you were still a sinner and you deserved to have your life fall apart. If God had Christ make the ultimate sacrifice for you then when nothing should’ve turned ok for you. If God did that then, what is true now that in Christ you are forgiven before God? That is the question. Seriously, work that question out for yourself.
If God had Christ die for you when you should’ve meant less than nothing to him, what does it mean for you now that you mean everything to him?
I take that back. Don’t work it out for yourself. I’m here to tell you. It means peace. It means peace and wellness and wholeness for you in the complete biblical sense. Shalom as the Hebrews would say. Rest in it, reader. It’s all yours. Through Jesus everything really will be way more than ok. Forever. That’s the gospel truth.
Take that right in the teeth, anxiety.