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Be anxious about everything

iStock/Liubomyr Vorona
iStock/Liubomyr Vorona

Ever had one of those weeks where bad news comes along like a trip hammer, one right after another? Big issues, small issues, serious issues, minor issues. Suddenly, they all pile up until the combined weight feels like a sumo wrestler is standing on your chest.

And now it’s got you – anxiety. And as the Bible says, “Anxiety in a person’s heart weighs it down” (Prov. 12:25).

As a Christian, you know the go-to verse that reads “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:6–7). But the thing is, you’ve done that, and …. it’s still there.

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Instead of being anxious for nothing, you’re becoming anxious about everything. If that’s you right now, don’t feel bad, you’re not alone.

Current data tells us that anxiety disorders are the most common mental illnesses in the U.S. and affect over 40 million adults, or 19.1% of the population. Young people are more likely to experience symptoms of anxiety than older adults, with nearly 50% of those between the ages of 18 and 24 reporting depressive disorder or anxiety symptoms, and women are more than twice as likely than men to experience an anxiety disorder.

It's a feeling that poet W.H. Auden depicts well in his Pulitzer-winning poem “The Age of Anxiety” – fear, doubt, aloneness, disorientation, and, in the extreme case, dread and hopelessness. 

With a climate of angst and fear on the rise, how can a Christian practically approach the threats and stressors in life that cause anxiety and overcome them? Let’s walk through an example using the biggest enemy and anxiety-producing fear that – barring the Lord’s return – we’ll all have to face one day.

No, death is really number one

You’ve likely heard jokes about the #1 fear people have being public speaking and death being #2. I’ll bet no one’s ever put that to the test. Line all those fear-of-public-speaking people up and tell them they have to deliver an address to an audience right now or a trap door will open under their feet and they’ll plummet to their death. Which fear do you think they’ll overcome?

Sorry, death is really our number one fear and one that can produce great anxiety when we’re face to face with it. So, let’s talk about it.

Imagine you’re told by your doctor you have a life-threatening disease like cancer or something similar. Fear grips you, but why? Are you afraid of the disease itself?

Most likely not; instead, you’re afraid of death. And that’s pretty normal – as philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau said: “He who pretends to look on death and not fear, lies.”

But why are you afraid of death? And I mean really? Is it just ceasing to exist? That’s doubtful. The Greek philosopher Epicurus once remarked: “What men fear is not that death is annihilation, but that it is not.”

What Epicurus knew innately is that there is a moral First Cause (God) that brought us into existence. And after this life, comes the next where we’ll stand before a holy God, which can be an anxiety-producing thought.

Maybe this is why David wrote, “I am full of anxiety because of my sin” (Ps. 38:18) and the writer of Hebrews says, “It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Heb. 10:31).

But here comes the cure for this and all anxiety – the truth, mercy, and love of God.

While the Bible tells us that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23), it also gives us the good news about Jesus Christ and His finished work on the cross that rescues us from God’s judgment and grants us eternal life. Jesus summed this up when He said: “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die” (John 11:25–26).

Paul underscores this great news when he writes: “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more than, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life” (Rom. 5:8–10).

These promises of God are reflected in three parts of what Paul calls the “armor of God” in Ephesians 6: the breastplate of righteousness, the shoes of peace, and the belt of truth. Practically “putting them on” every day helps overcome any fear and anxiety we may have about death.   

Whereas standing before God in our own righteousness would be a disaster, having Christ’s righteousness affixed to us is a totally different story. On this point, pastor Tim Keller said, “The breastplate of Christ’s righteousness allows you to look God in the eye with confidence”.

And while the fear of death or a similar set of anxiety can sweep you off your feet, the shoes of peace allow you to stand firm because they represent the peace with God that’s occurred because of Christ’s sacrifice for us. And you have to have peace with God before you can have the peace of God in your life. This is why David wrote: “For You have delivered my soul from death, indeed my feet from stumbling, so that I may walk before God in the light of the living" (Ps. 56:13).

“OK”, you’re thinking, “Great story. Sounds wonderful. Sign me up. Just one question: Why should I believe any of that? Didn’t the famous physicist Stephen Hawking once say, ‘Heaven is a fairy story for people who are afraid of the dark’?”

This is where the belt of truth comes into play.

And let’s start with the key truth on this matter: we’d have no well-grounded reason to believe these things were it not for the fact that for 2,000+ years there’s been an empty tomb in the Middle East that testifies to Christ and His gospel being real. Jesus’ resurrection is why we can stare death down and say with Paul, “Death is swallowed up in victory.” “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Cor. 15:54–57).

Those verses of Paul have sometimes been called “the Christian snarl.”  You think you got me death? Think again.

So no, Stephen Hawking is wrong about eternal life with God being a fairy tale for people afraid of the dark, which is why mathematician and Christian apologist John Lennox responded to him by saying: “Atheism is a fairy tale for people afraid of the Light”.

So, let’s rewind: because of Jesus’ work on the cross and His resurrection, we have peace with God, stand before Him in Christ’s righteousness and not our own, and therefore enjoy eternity with Him and thus have no fear of death because Jesus frees us from that. As the writer of Hebrews says, Jesus has “[freed] those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives” (Heb. 2:14–15).

OK, let's take a breather with the theology for a moment and admit something important: there’s a lot of human emotion involved in facing the fear of death and anything comparable. In writing the above, the last thing I want to come off as is flippant when facing those kinds of giants.

But read through Psalm 102, aptly titled in most Bibles “Prayer of an Afflicted Man”, and you’ll first see lots of emotion woven into the text. But you see something great at the end: a man saved by good theology. 

Good theology worked for him and it will work for you too. All these points about facing the anxiety that comes from realizing you’re mortal and will die one day can be applied to any angst you have.

You start by weaving together parts of God’s truth and promises, followed by a persistent meditation on them, and then come prayers to Him which amounts to “casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you” (1 Pet. 5:7).

Oh, and one last thing. Through it all, never forget that God loves you and that His “perfect love casts out fear” (1 John 4:18).   

Robin Schumacher is an accomplished software executive and Christian apologist who has written many articles, authored and contributed to several Christian books, appeared on nationally syndicated radio programs, and presented at apologetic events. He holds a BS in Business, Master's in Christian apologetics and a Ph.D. in New Testament. His latest book is, A Confident Faith: Winning people to Christ with the apologetics of the Apostle Paul.

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