THE CURE FOR ANXIETY
hese are my notes for teaching at the Cornerstone Church on Sunday, June 7, 2020.
THE ANXIETY EPIDEMIC
The U.S. Census Bureau has been polling Americans weekly since April to monitor the impact of the pandemic. Part of the survey has questions about our mental health. Here's what they found: 30 percent of us report symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder. A big part of it was worry about finances.
It doesn't take a virus to make us anxious. For many of us it's just our every day default experience. We live with the headaches, stomach problems, irritability, and lack of peace, every day and every night. Why? Because we worry. We're part of an anxiety epidemic.
It's time to take action against chronic anxiety.
THE PROBLEM WITH ANXIETY
There are several problems with long-term anxiety. Let's look at a few. Anxiety:
Is actually a form of fear, and who wants to live in fear?
Tends to get worse over time as our mental health spirals down.
May lead to depression and other health problems.
Releases stress hormones (adrenaline, cortisol - fight or flight) that are helpful in an emergency but harmful everyday (high blood pressure; Cushing's Disease; etc).
Affects our relationships: it causes us to either distance ourselves or to get clingy.
Makes us angry and grouchy.
Causes us to self-medicate in potentially harmful ways: for example, escapist thinking, unwise spending, alcohol abuse.
Does not solve any problems or produce anything positive.
Motivates us "to seek safety, control, and certainty at all costs, but "anything pursued at all costs will ultimately cost more than you can afford" (Groves & Smith, Untangling Emotions).
Those are all problems, but the biggest problem we should have with chronic anxiety is what causes it.
THE CAUSE OF ANXIETY
There may be many factors involved in the long-term, chronic worry in our lives; for example:
Humanity: God designed every human with the need to be safe and secure. When we don't feel safe and secure, we worry.
Personality: Some of us are born worriers.
Circumstances: Some of us are in extremely difficult situations (such as health, job, finances, family, people) and the challenges we face seem immense.
Self-sufficiency: When we rely on our own resources to meet our needs, the result is more worry. This is the factor that we can change by the power of the Holy Spirit.
The negative results of self-sufficiency is sort of like when I was in training for a backpacking trip, I loaded my backpack with rocks to make it way too heavy and I walked up and down the bleachers at the high school. Man, was it painful. And we do the same with our lives. We try to carry way too much on our own. The result is daily anxiety.
Nothing will ever change until we apply the cure for anxiety. The question for all of us to ask is this: "Am I sick and tired of being sick and tired? Am I ready to do what it takes to stop worrying?" Let's talk about the cure for chronic anxiety.
THE CURE FOR ANXIETY
The cure for anxiety is very simple to say and very difficult to do. But believe me when I say, the cure is real and it works. Here it is:
The cure is to trust God. The antidote to worry is trust.
(Psalm 56:4) In God I trust and am not afraid.
There's just one problem: For most of us, trust is really hard. We don't believe God will take care of us.
The first King of Israel was called Saul. He didn't believe God would take care of him as he led the nation, so he was filled with fear (extreme anxiety and mental illness) and took matters into his own hands. He disobeyed God's directions. Also, he got involved in the occult, working with a medium to summon spirits (1 Samuel 28:3-20) or demons. His lack of trust in God had truly tragic consequences and Saul ended up killing himself.
We don't want to go down Saul's road, so let me show you how to learn to trust God.
LEARNING TO TRUST GOD
I've selected three snapshots of trust. Each picture teaches us one principle that we can apply to build our trust in God.
Snapshot 1: The Lord our Provider: I trust that God will give me just enough for today.
After escaping from Egypt, the people of Israel spent a month walking through the desert and they were sick of it. They complained that they had nothing to eat and were better off back in Egyptian slavery.
That's anxiety speaking. They weren't running out of food, but when we worry, our problems seem much bigger than they really are. Anxiety amplifies our troubles. This is where we learn how serious anxiety really is. Moses told the complainers: you're grumbling against the Lord (verse 8). Bad move!
Surprisingly, that's when God intervened. When we don't deserve his help, he is full of grace and mercy.
(Exodus 16:4) Then the Lord said to Moses, “I will rain down bread from heaven for you. The people are to go out each day and gather enough for that day. In this way I will test them and see whether they will follow my instructions.
(Exodus 16:17-20) The Israelites did as they were told; some gathered much, some little. ... Everyone had gathered just as much as they needed. 19 Then Moses said to them, “No one is to keep any of it until morning.” 20 However, some of them paid no attention to Moses; they kept part of it until morning, but it was full of maggots and began to smell. So Moses was angry with them.
God provided their daily manna for forty years. He was faithful every single day and they learned to trust him. They also learned that his provision was just in time but never ahead of time. He gave them enough for each day but never more than that.
Auto factories don't want to carry inventory because it costs money and takes up space, so they have an agreement with their suppliers for just in time delivery of the parts they need. That way they have just enough parts but not much extra. The Lord is great at "just in time" delivery.
Be present in the present. Focus on today. That's where God is. That's where his provision is. Jesus taught us to pray, "Give us our daily bread," not our lifetime bread, not even our weekly bread. Jesus said:
(Matthew 6:34, The Message) “Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes."
Getting worried about tomorrow or next week or next year is a waste of energy. Anxiety doesn't produce anything positive. It's stewing without doing. Worse, it's grumbling against God.
The cure for anxiety is to trust God to be your provider today. Tell him what you need and thank him for what he has given you and you'll experience peace.
Snapshot 2: The Lord our Burden Bearer: I trust that God can handle what I'm going through.
The apostle Peter wrote to persecuted Christians and I can imagine what they were going through: loss of jobs, friendships, and freedom. Maybe they were worried about losing their homes or being arrested or even executed. This was Peter's counsel to them:
(1 Peter 5:7) Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.
The apostle Paul tells us how to cast all our anxiety on the Lord. He told the persecuted Jesus-followers in Philippi:
(Philippians 4:6-7a) Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. 7 Then you will experience God’s peace ...
What these passages do not say is this: you'll have peace when everything works out the way you want it to. No, what these passages do say is that we'll have peace when we hand our burden over to the Lord. Turn your cares into prayers. We put the situations we normally worry about in God's hands and leave the rest up to him.
What is it that makes you anxious? Is it your kids? Is it finding rent money? Is it keeping your job? Is it getting all As at school or finding a boyfriend? Whatever it is, hand it over to the Burden Bearer.
Why is it so difficult to put it all in God's hands? Well, to be blunt, we believe that we can do it better without God. We doubt his love and care and commitment. We think he'll let us down. There's only one way to overcome that kind of thinking and it's taught in our third snapshot.
Snapshot 3: Crucified God. I trust that God loves me more than I could ever love myself.
When we choose to believe it's all up to us, guess what. It's all up to us. I don't know anything more terrifying than that. It's little wonder that we feel insecure, afraid, and anxious all the time. But it doesn't have to be that way.
God has shown us how willing he is to love us, protect us, bless us, and to care for us. How? The cross of Christ. The crucifixion of God is the ultimate display of his love for us. He died to rescue us from the devastation of sin, and so that we would return to him in friendship.
(Romans 5:8) God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
(Romans 5:8, The Message) God put his love on the line for us by offering his Son in sacrificial death while we were of no use whatever to him.
We can never say, God doesn't love me. He doesn't know me. He doesn't care about me. What? No way. At the cross, God speaks to us and says:
I have bound myself to you by a covenant sealed in blood.
I love you more than you could ever love yourself.
I will protect you, bless you, and care for you.
God has spoken at the cross. Are you listening?
Are you sick of feeling anxious all the time? Me too. The only cure is to trust God for today. Trust him to take care of you because he loves you more than you love yourself.
You are the only one who can decide you want to worry less and experience peace more. Maybe there is something inside of you that pushes back against trusting God. I get that. At one time, I was in exactly the same situation. Then, I experienced manna from heaven.
O, Peter! Have you lost it? No, I'm serious. Remember the story about the manna? Jesus used that story to illustrate his power to open our hearts to God. He said:
(John 6:48-51) I am the bread of life. 49 Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, yet they died. 50 But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which anyone may eat and not die. 51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven.
Long story short, Jesus is the bread from heaven who gives us spiritual life - that's the life that never dies. Jesus awakens us to God. After I ate this bread from heaven by fully embracing Jesus as my God, my eyes were opened to the goodness and love of God. After that, I found it much easier to trust him. I want that for you too. Turn to Jesus to trust him now.
Join me next time for a new teaching series called Human. We'll explore the Bible on being human and how that can produce answers for the pain we feel in our hearts, and experience in our relationships, and see in our communities and nation.