Two telling truths about anxiety

The internet is watching us.

We are increasingly becoming aware that the internet knows us too well. It even knows what we read in our Bibles.

In 2014, Amazon released data it secured by watching us. Not only does Amazon see what we read on our Kindles, it also sees what we highlight. Amazon’s data, reported by The Atlantic, reveals the most popular highlights in Kindle’s most popular books including our Bibles.

Did you know that Philippians 4:6-7 is the most underlined verse in the NIV which was the best-selling electronic version of the Bible on Amazon in 2014?

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

In a Christianity Today article, published in 2015, Philippians 4:6-7 was identified as the second most shared verse over email, text and social media.

There’s a reason that verse is shared so often. There are many battling anxiety in our society today. In fact, anxiety is one of the most common battles Satan can try to throw us into.

I will confess that I have anxiety.

I’m not talking about a disorder or illness; I am talking about struggle with sin. When I am filled with anxiety, I lose sleep and have irrational fears. I contrive schemes, manipulate and react to people badly. I worry instead of praying. I replace trust with fear. I become self-absorbed.

When I am filled with anxiety, the peace of God which transcends all understanding does not guard my heart. But thanks to Amazon, I see I am not alone in this pit of sin and struggle. No doubt some of you have the same struggle. But just know, friends, our feelings—even as unreliable as they are—can mirror our hearts.

My feelings tell me two things about anxiety:

I am anxious when I lack faith.

What do we see about anxiety in Matthew 6:25, 30-34 below?

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? ….”

“If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will He not much more clothe you—you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

So, I ask you, what is the root of anxiety?

In verse 30, I’ve found it’s pretty clear that the root of anxiety is when we are of little faith.”

Anxiety is a sin because it is rooted in fear, not faith. We fear what might happen to us. We become paralyzed and distracted. But worrying about ourselves drives us away from God and away from trusting Him.

I am anxious about the closest things to my heart.

Some of my anxiety stems from my family, grandchildren, money, reputation, success and comfort. I admit I can get irrationally anxious about these issues and quickly!

My anxiety most often surfaces in the places Ezekiel 14:3 identifies as “idols in [the] heart.” It is hard to think that these categories could be my idols because they are mostly good or seemingly innocent things.

But I stumbled upon these wise diagnostic words from Counsel from the Cross by Elyse M. Fitzpatrick and Dennis E. Johnson.

“When we find ourselves feeling anxious, that feeling tells us that something we treasure is being threatened…. [It is] a signpost telling us that something is amiss with our hearts. We are not loving the Lord as we should – which is to say, we have lost sight of His supreme loveliness and forgotten that in His presence only is fullness of joy (Psalm 16:11). We have other gods…. Our Savior, the one who loves and welcomes us, tells us where our treasure should be: with his kingdom and his righteousness (Matthew 6:33.) If our treasure is in living our lives for Him and in leaving our success and security to His providential care, and if our treasure is his righteousness, not ours, then we will be able to appreciate all the good things he bestows without succumbing to worry. On the other hand, when we find ourselves plagued by anxieties, we have to conclude that his kingdom and his righteousness are not the chief delight of our heart.“

I completely agree with their words. In fact, I have known God’s presence and fullness of joy even after the devastation of losing my husband in 2002. I have tasted the knowledge of Him being the Chief Delight of my heart. Yet, I wander from that place far too easily.

I should learn to have faith that come what may God will be faithful. While I don’t understand His ways, I can rest in His presence and peace. I am His creation. But I am in the world. There will be times my heart is prone to stray too quickly from God and run towards fear and worry like so many Kindle readers.

We all need to remember that God’s inexplicable peace can guard our hearts and our minds.

Published May 29, 2017