Anxious? What You Can Do About It (Part one of three)

Are you feeling anxious nowadays? Most of us are, and for good reason. It’s okay to have anxious thoughts and feelings. I believe Jesus, our Lord, had some anxious moments in Gethsemane and on the cross. The Apostle Paul had his bouts with anxiety during a shipwreck, riots when he was preaching, and during his long imprisonment while awaiting martyrdom. Many of David’s psalms tell of his struggles during threatening situations and how he turned to God to calm his anxious spirit.

It is normal to become anxious but to live a worried and anxious life is another thing altogether. I believe the Bible has an antidote that will help soothe our anxious spirit, and I will share that with you later. But for now, let’s be clear about what anxiety is and the havoc it is playing in our world.

The American Psychological Association defines anxiety as ” an emotion characterized by feelings of tension, worried thoughts, and physical changes like increased blood pressure.”  http://apa.org/topics/anxiety

WebMd (March 10, 2022) has a report with this headline, “Most Americans Report overwhelming Stress Levels: Poll”.  Here is the opening statement from this report,

” A large majority of Americans are reporting high stress levels due to financial concerns, inflation, the COVID-19 pandemic, and the Russian invasion of Ukraine according to a new poll from the American Psychological Association.” You can read the report at https://www.webmd.com/anxiety-panic/news/20220310/americans-report-overwhelming-stress-poll#:~:text=March%2010%2C%202022%20–%20A,from%20th

We live in an anxious world. The news media reminds us of this fact several times a day. The atrocities and evil related to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine are ever before us. The soaring national debt, inflation, violence and murders in several major cities, grief in the aftermath of the school shooting in Uvalde, drugs deaths, suicide, and the open boarder are deeply troublesome issues we are facing. And, the unprecedented price we have to pay for a gallon of gas. Did I miss anything?  

I have what could be described as a sense of “angst” when I step back and look at the human condition  and the state of the world in general. The lack of strong, common-sense, moral leadership we are now experiencing in our country reminds me that we have a sickness of the soul that only God can remedy. We need, we must have a spiritual revival, a turning back to God for the healing of our nation.  I pray for God’s intervention every day.   

 If the global and national woes are not enough to make you anxious, there is the personal stuff of marriage, raising kids, health issues, aging parents, making ends meet financially, and fitting more and more things into an already overcrowded schedule. 

Anxiety is part of living. From birth to the grave, we will deal with it in one way or the other. God made us with feelings and those feelings are to serve us. Some people struggle with the idea that strong emotions like anger or anxiety can help us. Some people grow up in conditions that teach them to not admit or express their feelings. Some even believe that to have anger or anxiety is a sin.

The problem with feelings comes when we allow feelings to rule us or control our actions. As  I often say, feelings are a good servant but a terrible master. We also get into some pretty serious problems when we deny or stuff our feelings. When we are anxious, we can admit it and see what we need to do with the feeling, something good can happen when  we do that.

It may surprise you that I suggest there is something good about anxiety. I believe anxiety can serve us and do great harm to us. While we cannot and should not hope to be rid of all anxiety, we can take steps to use the good part of it and arm ourselves so as not to be controlled by it.

What is the good part of anxiety? Anxiety is good when it alerts us to some danger or impending harm to us or someone or something we care about. It is good when it cautions us to be careful, to use discretion about a decision. For example, the wise parent becomes anxious when his child does something that can easily lead to physical harm or death. Anxiety alerts the parent to act, to rescue the child from his foolish decision or from someone who could harm him. Anxiety can push us to take action to deal with a potentially problematic situation before it gets worse. It can alert a student to prepare well for an exam, a soldier to be vigilant at his task, or a worker to give his best to his job. In these ways and many others, anxiety can spur us to avoid carelessness or laziness that may lead to failure or even death. Seen this way, anxiety can have a good,  beneficial effect. It serves as a warning signal, an alarm to awaken us to potential harm. You might even say it is a sign of wisdom to respond well to the good side of anxiety.

God is good and he created us with marvelous abilities and capacities to deal with the challenges of life. Life is hard but we have a heavenly Father who has us in his hand and will guide us in a way that will honor him and make us healthy and strong. When I’m feeling anxious and concerned about the evil and violence in the world, I often turn to David’s Psalm 37 to be reminded that he is in ultimate control. If you are sensing that things are out of control in the world, you may find these words reassuring to you also.

There is also a passage in Philippians 4:6-7 I want to recommend that you read and digest. This is, I believe, the ultimate secret to living in God’s peace in an anxiety-burdened world. 

Next week we will explore the bad side of anxiety, when those anxious feelings cross the line and begin to control us. For now, let me leave you with some things to think about so you can keep your concerns and anxious thoughts under your control. What are you doing to stay in control of your anxiety and other potentially dangerous feelings? 

  1. Are you walking or doing other exercises at least three times a week? 
  2. Are you getting enough restful sleep each night? Most of us require about seven hours a night.
  3. Are you limiting ‘junk” foods, eating healthy meals?
  4. Are you setting aside a daily time to be quiet, to worship, read scripture, and pray? 
  5. Are you limiting the amount of news and stress-producing information you take into your life?
  6. Are you engaging regularly with people who are helpful and encouraging?
  7. Are you seeking ways to be helpful and encouraging to others? 
  8. Are you taking responsibility for controlling only what you can control?  

anxietyJust for the fun of it, I did a “search” for an answer to this question, ” Is there any thing good about anxiety?” And, here is what I found. If you tend to be a bit on the anxious side of life, I think you will be encouraged by this article. https://www.goodtherapy.org/blog/7-ways-anxiety-actually-works-to-your-advantage-0202165

P.S. In my book, Heaven’s Currency, I outline a proactive, faithful approach to life that will fend off debilitating anxiety and bring you the abundant life God offers. By doing what I suggest, you can send ahead rewards for you in heaven. Take a look http://http;//www.cosdavis.com/product/heavens-currency-investing-in-the-things-that-matter-anxious

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