Considering the volatile nature of our world, it is reasonable to assume that almost everyone feels anxious from time to time. Anxiety is a natural human response and serves to ensure our survival during genuine threats. However, it should not deprive us of joy, peace, and the ability to live in the present moment. Differentiating between real and perceived threats is crucial, as misinterpretation can lead to unnecessary turmoil. Overcoming anxiety involves more than addressing its symptoms; it requires delving into the underlying causes and triggers behind those emotions.
To gain insight into the root causes, we must direct our attention inward. The human being comprises three fundamental components: body, mind (soul) and spirit. For a state of harmony and balance, it is essential that these three components function in unison. What we think affects how we feel and what we feel affects how we behave. It is therefore vital to be more conscious of our thoughts. Liberating ourselves from anxious thoughts starts with the renewal of our minds. This involves replacing old, unhealthy thoughts with new, positive thoughts (based on truth), which in turn cultivates a sense of calmness and security, ultimately leading to transformed behaviour.
Practical tip: write down a few SMART goals (specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-based) to map out what triggers anxious thoughts and what you can do to replace those thoughts and behaviours that will lead to feeling calm, joyous and secure.
For the believer:
Anxiety is an almost universal plague in the western world. Dr. Sinclair Ferguson offers valuable insights on the root cause and “The Cure for our Anxiety”. He explains on how knowing God as our heavenly Father can deliver us from the plague of hypocrisy and relieve us of anxiety by presenting Jesus’ remedy for our unease. He goes on to explain that ‘Jesus understands that many of us, behind our brave face, is a deeply anxious people. If our anxiety is not caused by a chemical disorder in our bodies; putting chemicals in our bodies cannot possibly be the cure for our anxiety. And so, Jesus wants to teach us a long term cure for our anxieties’.
“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
“Jesus has a wonderful knack of putting his finger right on the problem. He is saying: ‘here are the symptoms’: the first one is putting your treasure in the wrong storehouse. ‘Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.’ Our anxieties are created by the treasures that we possess. Now Jesus is not saying that we should go live in a monastery, He understands that possessions are legitimate. But He is distinguishing between our possessions and our treasures. The things that we possess should be with an open hand where we are able to say to the Lord, ‘it is relatively a matter of indifference to me whether I possess this or not because that is not where my treasure is. But when my treasure is invested in the possessions that I have, in Jesus understanding, when I have misplaced the real nature of lasting treasure that is a recipe for anxiety. The more you have, the more insurance you buy. The more you get, the more anxious you become.
Secondly, we also create anxiety (says Jesus) because we have eyes that let in only darkness. ‘The eye is the lamp to the body …’ If you have healthy eyes, it is as though there is light inside you. But if your eyes are diseased then there is no light within and there is darkness without. He says that what we need is a healthy eye. And what He means by a healthy eye is that we should be looking in the right direction. If my eye is focused on things of passing value then at the end of the day, my body is going to be full of darkness and I’m just not going to know where to find lasting treasure. And so, I’ll bounce from one thing to another to another in order to find lasting treasure. And that is a recipe for anxiety.
The third illustration He makes is this: “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.” He moves to our heart and our loyalties, getting right to the pain centre of the sickness of anxiety. This above all things is that we’re trying to serve two masters. We would like the blessings of the gospel but we simply can’t let go of other things. Jesus is saying, ‘Do you understand the problem here? What God has given us in this world to serve us for our good and His glory has become our masters, we find ourselves in a conflict of two masters, a recipe for anxiety’. This is the struggle for most people when they realise that He is calling them into His kingdom.
‘Oh but if I serve Him then I’ll have to give up _____ (fill in the blank); this can be all kinds of things. Here is the promise of the gospel, no one has given up anything to follow Him without receiving a hundredfold in this life as well as the blessings of the life to come. If ever there was a promise of Jesus that comes true, it is this one. However, it only comes true when you’re no longer trying to serve two masters. And, discovering that one of them that was meant to be your servant has actually become your bondage master. What do we need to do? What is His prescription? What is it that He calls us to understand? Well, He calls us to understand the gospel. He calls us to understand what it means to be able to call oneself ‘a child of God’. You need to think through the implications of the heavenly Father’s reign in the world. The God of the universe, the One who reigns over all things, is the best possible master. Don’t make masters out of yourselves; what you have to eat, what you have to drink, what you have to wear. Instead, yield the whole of your life to Him and He will give you all things richly to enjoy.”
“Therefore do not be anxious … But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”– Jesus
Only when we are completely drained of our own strength is when the strength and power of God begins to work in our lives. Opportunities arise when we recognise our limits as human beings and revere the limitlessness of the One who holds tomorrow. This is the way and there are no stairs, you have to simply throw yourself into the hands of the Father and your anxiety will begin to diminish. That’s the way to life!
“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?”– Jesus