Detoxing Anxiety Part 2: The Bible Can Actually Help!
One of my go-to passages in the Bible on anxiety is Matthew Chapter 6. Even critics credit Jesus as saying some amazing things, and here are some of his finest teachings summarised.
The theme of anxiety, which begins in verse 25 is related to the preceding passage as the “Therefore” suggests: the danger of worldliness, the Money Monster Mammon’s many temptations and enticements. The Bible’s teaching is far from being remote and theoretical; it deals with real issues that we all face and battle. And we should be thankful for Jesus’ practical counsel here, for we won’t find any effective advice outside of the Bible.
The world says, “Don’t worry – Be happy” or pack up your troubles in your old kit bag. But you can’t just wish yourself happy – not in a sustainable way. Online articles and forums advise giving in to anxiety for short periods of time (that’s not really a solution is it?). They say distract yourself (isn’t that burying your head in the sand?). They say act unconcerned (isn’t that hypocrisy?) and just accept uncertainty (which is rather terrifying if you don’t believe in a good God who is in control).
The most effective remedy, I believe, is found in the Bible and so we should pay careful attention to what Jesus has to say here.
But before we rush to Christ’s cure we must understand the condition.
Jesus is not forbidding legitimate concern; worrying whether watching too much daytime TV is bad for your health (it is by the way); He’s forbidding anxious thought. And, I should add, He doesn’t just say don’t do it, He gives us the help we need to overcome it.
The word Jesus uses for anxiety or worry literally means to be drawn in different directions. In other words, anxiety pulls us apart. Heart palpitations. Nausea. Wet patches under your arms. Sleeplessness. Agitation. Irritability. Clenched jaw (at least for me).
A good illustration is the story of Mary and Martha. In Luke Chapter 10 Jesus says to Martha, “you are anxious and troubled about many things but one thing is needed”. Martha was stressed about feeding all the extra dinner guests, and why wasn’t her sister helping? Mary’s undivided attention, however, was on Jesus, as she sat at His feet, and she is commended.
When we stop looking to God, thorns grow in the garden of our hearts. We become distracted by the worries of this world and even suffocated by the deceitfulness of wealth them (Matthew 13:22).
The problem with worry is not just that it’s toxic to people’s health. It’s not just that people worry themselves sick and develop ulcers. It’s that it reveals a divided heart, a “little faith”, verse 30; that is neither countercultural nor stand-out different from, verse 32, “pagans” – people who uncontrollably crave (whether they realise it or not) earthly treasures, particularly the security they think money will bring.
Anxiety is, in effect, saying to God and everyone else, “I don’t trust you” when we’re meant to be salt and light. We become like torches with drained batteries, producing light but it’s yellowed, flickering and uncertain.
“You of little faith” teaches that the root of anxiety is unbelief. And so Jesus reasons with us in these verses to put faith in Him because He’s infinitely better than chasing worldly things that never satisfy, and if anything, only increase anxiety because you’ve more to lose.
Take a moment to confess any unbelief you may be holding on to; pray as one man did (and is recorded for us doubters encouragement): “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!” (Luke 9:24)