As Christians, we want to be exempt from the worries of this world, but we’re just not. our children still get cancer, our spouses still cheat, our homes get broken into, our cars break down, our bosses fire us, and our bills don’t get paid.
We are broken, and we live in a broken world, which is why it is so important to remember that God did not leave us to do this on our own. We have the gospel, and it gives us weapons to fight back against anxiety.
What is the Gospel?
The basic definition of the word gospel the dictionary is “the teaching or revelation of Christ.” The gospel is the “good news” about Jesus written in the scriptures. In order to understand the gospel better, it is helpful to not just read the New Testament, but to put it into context of the entire narrative of the Bible:
Creation. God created the world and everything in it. He created man in His own likeness (Gen 1:26) and He blessed them and gave them dominion over everything on the earth.
Fall. And the Lord commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.” (Gen 2:16). … “When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some of it and ate it.” (Gen 3:6) At this moment, sin enters the world, as Eve and Adam reject God’s rule over the earth. The result is physical and spiritual death.
Redemption. God’s plan to rescue us and to redeem the world through sending His Son, Jesus. John 3:16 says, “For God so love the world that He gave His one and only son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.”
Restoration. Revelation 21:1-5 “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”
We currently live amidst the brokenness of the fall, but with our eyes fixed on restoration. Jesus Christ has redeemed us, and we can live free from the weight of sin and eternal death — but on this side of heaven, we are still faced with the effects of that brokenness. Because of that, we can be anxious and afraid.
What is anxiety?
In its most basic definition, anxiety is the natural human response to fear and potential threats, designed to evoke a fight or flight response to get us out of danger. For most of our history, humans have been faced with life or death situations on a daily basis, and anxiety served a positive purpose in order to save you from wild animals, drought and disease, or starvation.
Now, though, anxiety rules over many people who don’t face immediate life or death situations, but rather the fear that they might happen. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, anxiety
- is the most common mental illness, affecting 18.1% of the adult population
- is impacting younger people, affecting 25% of children ages 13-18
- is increasing overall; a survey by Time Magazine found that 40% of Americans say they are more anxious now than they were this time last year
- is driven by these three issues most: safety, health, and finances
- costs $300 billion each year in medical bills and lost productivity
- is a huge drug market, with $2.1 billion spent annually on anti-anxiety meds
Anxiety and the Christian
Anxiety is rooted in fear, and we can fear of man or of our circumstances — the belief that God does not have the best for us and is powerful enough to bring the best from all things — is not from the Lord. “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind (2 Timothy 1:7).
If you believe, but still live like God is going to punish you through circumstances, you can also know this is not from God. 1 John 4:13-19 puts fear into context within God’s love for us:
This is how we know that we live in him and he in us: He has given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they in God. And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.
God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.
To summarize: God has given us His Spirit, if we confess that Jesus is the Son of God. God is love, and there is no fear in love; because, fear has to do with punishment. Jesus accepted the punishment we deserve. Perfect love casts out fear — if we are in Christ, the victory is ours. Sin and death have already been defeated. We know the brokenness of this world will not last forever, because someday everything will be restored.
It is in His love for us that we will feel safe and secure.
God did not promise us that we would be free from trouble. In fact, John 16:33 says, “In this world you will have trouble, but take heart! I have overcome the world.” However, He did promise to be an ever-present help in times of trouble (Psalm 46:1). It helps to understand the root of your fear so you can ask Him honestly to help.
So what is it for you, then? What are some things that make you anxious, and how does it manifest itself in your life? Is it a fear of:
- Losing control? Or realizing you were never in control?
- Pain and suffering?
- Dying or losing a loved one too soon?
- A past event that haunts you?
- Experiences straight out of hell?
- Being known and rejected?
- Not being good enough or worthy of love?
Identify your fears, and you can face them with powerful spiritual weapons. “For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh” (2 Corinthians 10:3).
Anxiety and the Christian
As believers, we are not exempt from the brokenness of this world, but we can be equipped with something more than just what we find within ourselves. It is crucial to remember we are fighting a spiritual battle, and we need to be equipped with spiritual weapons.
Satan wants us to be occupied with what can happen — fear lies in the unknown — but that is only half the story. We may not know what will happen next, but there is One who does — and this One is the Lord and Creator of the Earth.
We are not alone in this. Not only did He send His son to walk the earth and give us an example of how to live, but also He gives us His living Word that transcends time to guide us and speak to us. And most importantly. He left Himself with us — the Holy Spirit —t o be alive in us no matter where we go or what we do.
Sometimes offering up your anxiety in persistent prayer to the Lord is enough.
Sometimes meditating on His Word and celebrating who God is and what He has done in your life is enough.
Sometimes, anxiety is the Lord’s way of drawing you back to Him, reminding you of your need for His peace and comfort that surpasses all understanding.
Sometimes, He brings along Biblical counsel — someone who can work with you to uncover those roots and point you back to Jesus.
Sometimes, you continually do all of the above and still find yourself clouded with anxious thoughts. This is a battle that might not be won on this side of heaven, and because of the evil and brokenness of this world, your anxiety might have roots that are deeper than you can see. Keep fighting.
There is no one path to overcoming anxiety, because overcoming anxiety is not a promise for this life. The good news is that someday we will be home, where anxiety cannot exist, because there will be no more brokenness. So we wait in expectation for that glorious day, and in the meantime, we remember we are not fighting this battle alone.