According to a recent study, Americans are the most anxious people in the world. Research that was conducted across fourteen different nations revealed that Americans were significantly more anxious than people living in other countries. According to Google Trends, the number of web searches in this country that include the word “anxiety” has doubled in the last ten years. The National Institute of Mental Health estimates that in a given year, approximately fifty million Americans will feel the effects of a panic attack or another anxiety disorder. And this data was collected prior to COVID and all the turmoil of the past few years. With all that we have lived through since then, there’s good reason to assume that the numbers on panic attacks and anxiety are even higher today.
This is why we’re kicking off a new series at Mayfair this month entitled, Anxious for Nothing: Finding Calm in a Chaotic World. We want to spend some time reflecting on anxiety from a biblical perspective. When it comes to this topic, we really need some wisdom and guidance from the Lord.
Just take some personal inventor. What is the anxiety level in your life right now? On a scale of 1-10, what grade would you give your anxiety right now? I wonder how we would characterize our emotional state right now.
Everyone experiences anxiety. It’s not a disease or something that only impacts certain people. Anxiety is an automatic response to the circumstances of life and it can be found at every stage of life:
- Young parents experience anxiety as they think about raising their children, as they think about that child’s development.
- Our students are overwhelmed by anxiety over making good grades, doing well in their extracurricular activities, and the college application process.
- As we grow older, we face anxiety as a result of pressure at work, financial stress, declining health, the prospect of death … it never ends.
Everyone experiences anxiety to some degree and for some of us, it is a daily struggle. That’s why I believe it is important for us to talk openly about anxiety without making people feel shame. Anxiety is not necessarily caused by a lack of faith in God or a weak prayer life or a lack of Bible study. There may be times when our anxiety stems from these causes, but often times it just isn’t the case. You’re not a bad person or a bad Christian if you struggle with anxiety.
One of the root words for anxiety is a word that means “to squeeze tightly” or “to choke.” And that’s a good description for the way anxiety works. As you know, anxiety occurs when the stresses and circumstances of life threaten to choke the life out of us. Research has shown the link between anxiety and muscle tension When we go through some kind of anxiety-inducing event, we will often experience this physiologically in the form of tension in our neck and shoulders, sometimes a narrowing of our vision. And in some cases, we even feel this as a weight sitting on our chest. It all comes back to this idea that stress and anxiety are choking us, weighing heavily on us.
Everyone experiences anxiety. What differs is our response to it.
- Some people manage their anxiety by indulging themselves with some sort of distraction, whether it’s overeating or binging on Netflix.
- Other go the other direction and withdraw; they stop eating and avoid being around others.
- Some people deal with their anxiety by becoming overly critical of others. You’ve probably known someone who does this.
- Still others deal with their anxiety in a more positive way by going to the gym to work out.
- “Retail therapy” is popular in some circles, going out and buying yourself a little something whenever you’re feeling down. (If “retail therapy” is a thing, then I’d have to endorse “gunpowder therapy” as another suitable way of relieving stress!)
- Sometimes anxiety can feel so overwhelming that we just feel immobilized. We find that we can’t do much of anything.
Here’s some good news: in God’s Word, the Lord has quite a bit to say about overcoming anxiety. Anxiety is nothing new; in fact, it’s been around for a long time. And thankfully, God’s Word is filled with wisdom on how to deal with it.
That’s the aim of this series — hearing godly wisdom for dealing with our anxiety.