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Light of Life: June 2012

Editorial: ANXIETY - P. Abraham






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Editorial: June 2012


P. Abraham

Our days are filled with all kinds of personal reasons to get our adrenaline pumping and our minds churning, even before we start thinking about holiday gridlock, double digit recessions, wars, terrorist threats and weather patterns. There are also the constant, subtler worries and pressures that grind at us every day, sometimes leaving us staring at the ceiling deep into the night. This creates a kind of chronic anxiety condition, with a non-stop series of stressors leaving us struggling with a crisis, even as we are worrying about the ones to come. That can lead to overload and paralysis.

Anxiety is not just a fear of imminent danger, but also a broader prospective reaction to possible dangers. Anxiety exists in the gap between how things are and how we want them to be. Anxiety is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease, high cholesterol and even obesity. Worry ages us, increases BP, leads to wrinkles, prevents sleep, takes away our joy, gives us grey hair and can even make us sick. It does not solve any problem. It is the dizziness of reason, argued Soren Kierkegaard. T.S Eliot said, it is the handmaiden of creativity. Novelist Angela Carter observed, it is the beginning of conscience.

Though Blood Pressure (BP) is dipping across the world, it has risen in India. WHO says that the average BP went down by 2.7 mm mercury among women globally, while increasing by 2.4mm mercury in India. In men, it decreased by 2.3 mm mercury globally in the past three decades, while it went up by 2.2 mm mercury in India. We worry; we know it is a waste of time. Yet, a lot of us find ourselves in this dilemma. We know we should trust God, but we wonder what He is going to do! People with panic disorders fret over what could trigger their next attack; they are always on the lookout for any potential catalyst that could set them off. Obsessive patients tend to focus on one possible negative outcome. Being robbed, and compulsively working to prevent that from happening, they repeatedly check the lock on their door.

A person with a traumatic childhood is more likely to grow up anxious than the one whose upbringing was relatively free of psychological or physical challenges. Being involved in a car accident is likely to make you more nervous on the highway than someone who has never been in an accident. Experiences of Mom and Dad with stress and anxiety, and how they react to situations, can have a genetic legacy in the form of how intensely certain genes are turned on or off. "One of the problems of chronic worriers is that they tend to have predictions of catastrophic outcomes that crowd out their consciousness."

Extreme anxiety can be managed in acute moments by drugs. But they can be addictive and do nothing to help sufferers acquire meaningful coping skills. A thorough mapping of the brain's genes can identify potential anxiety sufferers early on and help them learn coping skills that can make anxiety treatment preventive rather than therapeutic.

Recently, a newspaper reported a health capsule as follows: "Research has revealed that soaking in a warm bath for 8 weeks is more effective at easing anxiety than a prescription drug. Add essential oils to the bath water, like sage for memory enhancement and Bergamot for additional stress relief.Ē

Anxiety does not get any smaller when we are anxious. Rather, it grows, if you think about it. They literally grow and bring to light increasingly pressing facts to prove that there is enough reason to worry. Many feared worries never materialise. Studies are reported to show that more than 90% of all fears are non-existent! Hence the saying, "Don't trouble the trouble till the trouble troubles you."

All of us face real problems, but we often create additional ones by thinking of all the bad things that might happen, but never do. "Worry is the interest you pay on borrowed trouble."

Some people expand the worry to their families, friends and churches. They are a lot like the ten spies (Num.13:26-33), who spread their fear and doubt to everyone else. Only those who put their trust in God can stand alongside Joshua and Caleb, the only ones whom God allowed to enter the Promised Land. Do not let worry hold you back from what God is trying to teach you. Bring your anxious thoughts to Him.

Anxiety is not a new phenomenon. Jesus spoke about it two thousand years ago. He exhorted that we should leave our worries in the hands of someone who is interested in taking care of us. He referred to sparrows that were on sale at a very cheap rate. "Are not two sparrows sold for a copper coin? And not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father's will. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows" (Matt.10:29-31). Luke says that two of these coins would buy five sparrows (Lk.12:6). Without His knowledge, without His providential direction, not even such insignificant events can occur. This providence applies even to the minutest parts of our being (the hair on our heads). These verses provide a vivid picture of the loving care of the Father. God's providence, which extends even to the smallest details of this world, provides the antidote for fear. Using birds and lilies as examples, Jesus urged people not to worry. God is the loving Father of all those who trust Him. Is that not enough to satisfy you?

Some people are capable of suppressing anxiety with logical arguments. Some others play down their worries; they adopt a casual approach and wait to see what happens. For some people, it is "soothing" to go through all the possible scenarios of a particular worry. They keep at picturing their worries, and won't have 'peace' till they know it all! But, it is consoling to know that there are many who put their trust in God.

When God tells you to stop being anxious, He means not only worries about ourselves, but also worries about others. By His love, He shows us that He is there to take away our worries, and holds out His hand to us, saying, "Don't worry-I will take care of you, whatever your worries are. I will stay with you through every hardship." "Trust in Him at all times, pour out your heart before Him; God is a refuge for us" (Psa.62:8).

The way to forget our worries is to concentrate on the goodness and loving care of God, not on the problems that plague us. Stay focussed on eternal values. "Worry casts a big shadow behind a small thing."

It is God alone who fully understands us and our anxieties. He wants us to put our trust in Him. It is up to Him whether our fears are to become reality or not. Apostle Paul exhorts us: "Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus" (Phil.4:6-7). Don't worry about the basic needs of life-food, clothing, shelter-don't worry about tomorrow" (Matt.6:25-34). Who can add one cubit to his stature, by worrying?

It is natural for us to be fearful in a storm. The disciples had Jesus right there with them in the boat, yet they were afraid (Matt.8:23-27). He used the calming of the storm as a lesson to show them who He was-a powerful God who cares for them. He is in our boat and He cares for us.

David emphasised in Psalm 45 as follows: "God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore, we will not fear even though the earth be removed, and the mountains be carried into the sea; though the waters roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with its swelling" (Psa. 45:1-3). Therefore, he wrote, "Be still and know that I am God" (Psa.46:10). Those who are "still" before the Lord will have the ability to live with tranquility in the midst of dangers and dilemmas. The confusion, apprehension and despair will fade away. They show poise under pressure, and are unshaken by life's alarms. They will radiate peace wherever they go. When you learn to turn confidently to God, and cast your cares on Him, you can be calm in the midst of life's demands.

The first century Christians were driven out of Jerusalem and scattered throughout Asia (1Pet.1:1-7). Many of them were experiencing feelings of distress. Peter encouraged these believers not to be anxious (1 Pet.5:7).

No matter what situation our grandchildren will face, they can depend on God's promise of help, regardless of what trouble the world will be in. God said, "I will never leave you nor forsake you" (Heb.13:5). Jesus said, "I am with you always, even to the end of the age" (Matt.28:20). "We do not know what the future holds, but we can trust the One who holds the future."

Our concerns, big and small, seem to stick to us like Araldite. The solution is to take those burdens off our hands and put them on God's shoulders. "Cast your burden on the LORD, and He shall sustain you" (Psa.55:22). "Burden Him with what burdens you."

The problems of life can be taxing physically, emotionally and spiritually. As we learn to trust in the Father's care, we overcome our anxiety. We can be at rest, for we are in God's hands. God is reminding us that He is much bigger than the universe He created. Compared to Him, "the nations are as a drop in a bucket" (Isa.40:15) and the inhabitants of the earth are like grasshoppers (Isa.40:22).

So, do not waste your time worrying over matters that are not under your control. But, having done what you ought to, let us leave everything to Him who knows everything and is able and willing to manage everything for our ultimate good.

We can neither change the past, nor manipulate the future. How can we walk with the LORD and experience His peace when we are paralysed with worry about the past or the future? A Christian puts his faith in the God of the past, present and future. By faith, we can walk securely, one day at a time. That day is today! As we sense the strength of God's everlasting arms beneath us (Deut. 33:27), we can stroll through life with confidence. When you can't find a way out, look up!

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