Terry’s Take… May Week 3: Troubled Hearts
My sister-in-law works in a medical clinic and recently I asked her what health problem do the doctors there deal with the most. Her reply didn’t surprise me. She said that anxiety and depression are the biggest issues.
Now, everyone worries. Everyone has a problem with anxiety. Despite the fact that we generally think God is against our fear, worry, and anxiety, we don’t ever seem to completely overcome its harsh grip.
God created us as emotional people. Our emotions are given by God to put us “into motion.” For instance, anger is driven by a sense of injustice and a desire to oppose something that we feel isn’t fair or right. In the same way, fear is a God-given emotion when our mind alerts us to danger, real or perceived. Anxiety is what we feel when our body is responding to the emotion of fear. Worry is the thought process that mulls over and gives power to the object of our fear.
Fear, worry, and anxiety show up together and feed into each other in various situations where danger lurks. Even at times when we don’t know why we feel anxious, our brains have previously learned to fear in a similar situation that we simply can’t recall at that moment. Our anxiety is tied to our life experiences and thought patterns, not some random biological defect.
To be fair, we don’t all experience fear, worry, and anxiety in the same way. Different bodies feel differently despite similar thought processes and experiences, but God did not tell us to fight a battle that is impossible to win.
With God’s help, each one of us can progressively improve in the way we fight fear, worry, and anxiety.
All throughout the gospels, Jesus addressed the fear, worry, and anxiety that those around Him were experiencing. However, He didn’t just do this to bring physical comfort to those experiencing ill effects of anxiety. He challenged those He encountered to understand the spiritual significance of their anxiety. Fear, worry, and anxiety affect our physical health, but they also reflect our spiritual health. Our brain’s responses are most influenced by our hearts and our values. Our thinking and actions reflect the spiritual condition of our hearts.
Jesus taught us to examine our fear, worry, and anxiety as clues into who we worship or what we worship in any given moment. In conversations with Jesus, His questions often exposed the values and thinking that were causing fear, anxiety, and worry. His goal was never to shame those who honestly sought Him… but rather His questions were an invitation to trust in Him as the creator and provider of all that they truly needed.
When Jesus was teaching His disciples about fear, worry, and anxiety, He taught four key principles. These principles reveal how a wrong response to fear, worry, and anxiety can hinder our spiritual walk, and why we must take our fear, worry, and anxiety seriously as a follower of Christ.
Even though Jesus was full of compassion, His primary goal was not simply to eliminate the physical discomfort that fear, worry, and anxiety bring into our life. He taught us that our emotions reflect what is going on in our hearts, values, and thinking. If we are going to take our faith seriously, we need to listen to the clues that anxiety brings our way.
Jesus talked about fear, worry, and anxiety often because He didn’t want us to lose sight of what was most important in life. In each principle Jesus taught about anxiety, He also gives us an action step.
Let’s look at the first principle he taught.
Principle #1: My Anxiety Reveals What I Value
Matthew 6:25 is perhaps the most quoted verse about anxiety in the Bible because it challenges us to trust God rather than falling into worry and anxiety. What we often miss when quoting verse 25 is that the teaching on anxiety is an application of verses 19–24. In verses 19–24, Jesus reminds us all that life on earth is short and we can’t take anything with us. He taught us that what we value will become what we prioritize. If we value the world’s priorities more than we value God’s priorities, we will naturally be anxious about the things of this world like food, clothing, and “stuff.”
Because our money, health, reputation, and relationships are valuable to us, we become anxious when what we love becomes threatened. Anxiety provides us a window into what our hearts find truly valuable. When our hearts align with God’s values, we will view the dangers around us differently. Death, discomfort, and dire circumstances don’t have the same sting when we have God’s eternal perspective. When God’s values and our values align, we will understand what is most important and live out the purpose we were created for.
God calls me to overcome anxiety by keeping my focus on what will last eternally.
Next week will take a look at the second principle He teaches us….so “stay tuned!”