In a recent column in The New York Times, journalist Alex Williams suggested that “anxiety is starting to seem like a sociological condition”—a shared cultural experience. A 37-year-old media consultant has put it this way: “If you’re a human being living in 2017 and you’re not anxious, there’s something wrong with you.” Titles of recent books underscore her assertion: On Edge: A Journey Through Anxiety; Hi, Anxiety; My Age of Anxiety; Monkey Mind; This Close to Happy; and 10% Happy. Symptoms include the monitoring of blood pressure, constant attention to iPhones, and desperate visits to meditation studios. A substantial portion of America’s teenagers have some kind of anxiety disorder. Kids in middle school are freaking out. In fact, the anxiety memoir has become a literary subgenre. Recession, the advent of digital life; the threat of global conflagration—it all means that what we once considered normal has changed, and no one seems to know where he/she fits in. One author has described life as “a random lottery of meaningless tragedy and a series of near escapes.” Life is an obstacle course laced with land minds, and as a culture, we have moved from everyone being depressed to everyone being anxious.
We evangelical Christians are not immune from anxiety either. The pressures of life impact us as well. For one thing, there are many studies that have found links between social media and anxiety. Most Christians are on line in multiple ways. Everybody’s business is everybody else’s business. There’s no hiding. But perhaps most influential in the explosive growth of anxiety here in America has been fear. Uncertainty and trepidation touches every area of life—from the family to the economy, to international tensions.
But terror is incompatible with biblical Christianity. The Bible is replete with reminders of this truth: “”Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go” (Josh 1:9). “The LORD is my light and my salvation; Whom shall I fear? The LORD is the defense of my life; Whom shall I dread?” (Psa 27:1). “When you lie down, you will not be afraid; When you lie down, your sleep will be sweet. Do not be afraid of sudden fear nor of the onslaught of the wicked when it comes” (Prov 3:24-25). “Behold, God is my salvation, I will trust and not be afraid” (Isa 12:2). The Lord Jesus said: “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful” (Jn 14:27). Paul writes to the Philippians: “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 comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Phil 4:6-7). But perhaps the verse that comes to my mind first is that of Isaiah 26:3: “The steadfast of mind You will keep in perfect peace, Because he trusts in You.” An unshakeable mind and an unwavering faith. Those are the antidotes to fear and the anxiety that often precedes it.
This is not to say that there aren’t those of us who may need drugs like Prozac or Xanax from time to time. They can help those who have physiological conditions with neurological consequences. But we Christians have no reason to live in perpetual anxiety and fear of the circumstances of life in the world. The Lord has decreed not only the end, but the means to that end as well. He is in control—of your life, of your future, and of the entire world as well. Satan will not triumph over God; evil will not win. So you don’t have to worry, and you can be happy! Remember this the next time you run for refuge to your bottle of Zoloft or Valium!