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by Daniel Baker

High anxiety – This can help

Daniel Baker 01 Jan 2004

We all know the Bible tells us to "not be anxious about anything" {Philippians 4:6a}. Yet we are anxious about things and much of life promotes anxiety. Take the news for example. One morning I did a quick survey of the headlines on Yahoo.com news and Foxnews.com, they included these topics: Violence in Iraq, Terrorism, Mad Cow disease, and Political turmoil. Somehow natural disasters, and economic trouble had not made the list. I know that like most people, I can generate enough anxiety on my own; I do not need the news to help me like that.

With all this bad news in the world today, how can a person not be anxious? People try different methods. Some simply stop watching the news on TV, stop reading the newspaper, and stop listening to the radio. They try to eliminate these sources of anxiety, kind of like the proverbial ostrich with its head in the sand. The problem is you still run into people who just have to talk about the latest disaster! That is how my blissfully peaceful day on 9/11 was shattered. There I was in an elevator calmly thinking about how well my visit with a nursing home patient went, when these people ran into the elevator and start talking about planes flying into buildings and you know this elevator is probably a bad place to be. Terrorists probably are going to crash into this Nursing Home too and trap us! Unfortunately, the "ignorance is bliss" method really does not work.

A better approach is to follow God's counsel and promise in the Old Testament. Joshua and the Israelites were in an anxiety-producing situation. Their leader Moses had died and the new leader, Joshua, was taking over. In addition, they had no home and the one promised to them was across the flooding Jordan River. To make matters worse the city states and "giants" that had terrified the previous generation still lived there!

In that tense situation God gave this counsel and promise to Joshua.

"Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, that you may be successful wherever you go. Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. Have not I commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go." {Joshua 1:7-9}

I think one reason more of us do not use both this counsel to stay faithful and the promise of God’s presence to combat anxiety in our own lives is we think, "Well that was for Joshua, he was a leader, an important person, I am just an ordinary person so it does not really apply to me." Do you realize Moses said almost the same thing to the ordinary people of Israel? In Deuteronomy 31:6, he said to the people, "Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you." So they could use this against their own anxieties.

This same promise is applied to Christians too, in Hebrews 13:5-6, "... because God has said, 'Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.' So we say with confidence, 'The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?'"* So there is no doubt, we can use this to combat our anxieties today.(*quoting Deut. 31:6 and Psalm 118:6, 7)

Relying on the certainty of God's caring presence and blessing is a much better antidote to anxiety than hiding from the news. One reason I did not cave in to anxiety in that elevator was that I could thank God that I could be strong and courageous because God was with me.

Practice the strength of the caring presence of God not the weakness of anxiety.

Written by Rev. Daniel B. Baker January 2004 Updated March 2014

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