Editorial: November 2009
A recent survey has shown that Indians are the fourth most anxious community in the world, with the Japanese topping the list. The change in life-style has altered our behaviour. Small things like work, relationships and deadlines are enough to make one restless nowadays. Recession and terrorist attacks have added to the anxiety.
The relentless media coverage of the first H1N1-related death in the country led to panic. Many cities resorted to shutting down public places. The nightmare turned out to be less fearsome than imagined. Officials in a collectorate near Mumbai did not permit Christians to conduct weekly prayer meetings in their prayer hall; they were afraid of spreading swine flu! Sometime back, it was Chicken Gunia; now it is H1N1. What next? H2N2?
Clinical psychologists have reported that people across all age groups are going to them with anxiety problems. There is too much expectation among all people in today's competitive world. Many people find it difficult to accept themselves as they are. Individuals are aiming to be like someone else. We are our own torturers. We waste a lot of time getting anxious on insignificant things. Instead, we should be working to find solutions for the problems we face. "Anxiety does not empty tomorrow of its sorrows, but only empties today of its strength."
In contrast to fear, which is the apprehension of a real and present danger, anxiety anticipates non-existent dangers in the future, and helplessly dwells on how to reduce them. Even as many dangers and diseases are eliminated, our world grows increasingly worrisome, prompting many to call this the "age of anxiety." "Anxiety is the interest paid on trouble before it is due." "Man, like the bridge, was designed to carry the load of the moment, not the combined weight of a year at once."
Worry and anxiety have disastrous effects ranging from ulcers to chronic feelings of unhappiness. The wise man said, "An anxious heart weighs a man down, but a kind word cheers him up" (Pro.12:25). Those who trust in God need not be burdened by anxiety. The Lord asked Moses: "Is the Lord's arm too short?" Jesus' view of anxiety, His reasoning and His prescription are recorded in Matthew 6:25-32. God provides food and clothing for the lesser creation without their worrying; all the more will He do it for us. If God gives life, He can also give what is necessary to maintain life. The Lord has condemned anxiety. Worry is a complete waste of energy; we should not indulge in it. He appealed to reason, when He asked, "Can your worry add a single cubit to your life?" Anxiety can only hinder and not help. Jesus emphasised the personal concern of God, who watches over sparrows and counts the hairs on our heads.
Fretting has never manipulated the future and will never do so. The ungodly fret over having their needs met, but the believers have security in God. C.S. Lewis said, "Anxiety is not only a pain which we must ask God to assuage, but also a weakness that we must ask Him to pardon-for He has told us to take no care for the morrow." Anxiety springs from the desire that things should happen as we wish, rather than as God wills.
God loves us and is in complete control. Anxiety is useless and without any effect. Billy Graham said, "Anxiety is the natural result when our hopes are centred in anything short of God and His will for us." It is senseless to add tomorrow's cares to those of today. "Don't trouble the troubles till the trouble troubles you." When the child of God is in the will of God, all the universe works for him. He gave His very best on the Cross. Surely, He will give us anything else we need.
The rich are prone to be covetous and the poor are prone to worry. Both are sins. When we substitute things for life, we stop living by faith and trusting God. Worry only tears us down. The key to a worry-free life is a heart fixed wholly on God. If we belong to God, it is His obligation to care for us; so we need not worry. "The heart of every problem is the problem in the heart."
Martha was worried over the preparations for dinner (Lk.10:41-42). It was not wrong for her to prepare a meal. But, it was wrong for her to be so preoccupied with work and her own "burdens" that she ignored her guest, and was rude to her sister. She was "anxious and troubled" as she tried to serve the Lord; she was missing the greatest and most lasting blessing. What we do with Christ is far more important than what we do for Christ.
Lot left God out of his decisions and ended up in the darkness of a cave, practising terrible sin! He did not put God first in the selection of a place to live and raise his family.
Job is the classic example. God had a wonderful purpose when He permitted Job to be tried, even though Job did not understand what God was doing. Regardless of the trials, Job knew that God is full of love and mercy; all things work together for good to those who love God (Rom. 8:28).
"Cast your burden on the Lord, and He shall sustain you" (Psa.55:22). To cast the burden on Jehovah is not to be rid of it, but it is to find the One who carries and sustains us in a fellowship of love and might. When we put God first by allowing Him to reign in our lives, we find that He is able to relieve us of life's anxieties (Matt.6:33-34).
Paul has echoed this position (2 Cor. 4:7-9). The experience of suffering was not taken away from him, but he was sustained, and made strong to resist its pressure, and thus to make his service more perfect. People were abusing Paul, rejecting him, and making life difficult for him. Still, Paul says; "Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God" (Phil.4:6). Paul was "poor, yet making many rich" (2 Cor. 6:8-10). He gives a thrilling description of the Christian who is sold out to Christ! Anxiety has no place in his life because in everything there can be prayer. "Anxiety and prayer are more opposed to each other than fire and water." When prayer replaces worry, God's gift of the peace which transcends human understanding comes in, and that peace guards the Christian's mind and emotions from being overwhelmed by fear, anxiety or temptation.
"Be patient therefore, until the coming of the Lord" (Jas.5:7). All wrongs will be made right when the Righteous One will come. Too often, we are inclined to become impatient. Be patient, in fellowship with God!
When the natural response is to be anxious, the believer's relationship to the Holy Spirit sustains him/her. "God has not given you a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline" (2 Tim.1:7).
Reduction of worry is not simply a matter of human willpower, but a process rooted in a relationship with the Spirit. Satan would have us believe that the "fiery trial" is an evidence of God's indifference. But Peter reminds us that we may "cast all your anxiety" on Christ because He cares for you (1Pet.5:7). The Spirit gives us discipline and self-control; as a result, we are not easily captured by our circumstances or feelings. When the Spirit is in control, we will experience peace and poise; anxiety and cowardice will vanish. "Do not look forward to what may happen tomorrow; the same everlasting Father, who cares for you today, will take care of you tomorrow, and every day. Either He will shield you from suffering, or He will give you unfailing strength to bear it."
Peace of God is far more wonderful than any cleverness of our own; it is the peace that will guard our hearts and thoughts in Christ Jesus. When we turn our worries to God, we will be free to enjoy His presence and hear what He has to say.
It is only when we seek godliness in our lives that we are assured about this provision. If we "seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness, all these things will be added to you" (Matt.6:33). God's world is always balanced, calm, and in order.
"The beginning of anxiety is the end of faith; and the beginning of true faith is the end of anxiety." Communion with God will under-gird us and keep us free from all anxiety constantly. "The Lord is my helper, I will not be afraid. What shall man do to me?" (Heb.13:6).
"O Lord Jesus Christ, who has told us not to be anxious, we trust ourselves and our loved ones to Thy loving care, knowing that round about and underneath are the everlasting arms, and praying Thee to give us now and always that peace which the world cannot give, nor take away, but which comes only from the Father and from Thee, our Saviour and Friend."