Thursday, March 10, 2016

Anxiety (Part I)

Anxiety in a man's heart weighs him down, but a good word makes him glad. (Proverbs 12:25)

We try everything to take away our anxieties--from prescribed medication to self-medication, which includes light stuff like going to the beach or watching TV to heavy stuff like numbing the pain with drug use or alcohol. As a pastor, all I can do is share what the Bible says about anxiety. The above proverb states that a good word will make the anxious one glad. Well, let's do just that and see what God's Word says about anxiety.

Prescribed Anxiety
Does God ever WANT us to be anxious? As a saved Christian, no, but before being saved, being anxious is important, because it is the driving force toward Christ. The problem is we have many secular, worldly ways of dealing with anxiety, and so the unbeliever will tend to choose those. One has to come through the realization that the worldly remedies do not work in the long-term (read eternal). No matter how we numb the pain in this world, if we haven't embraced Christ by faith, we will have a worse time in the next life, where there is no worldly remedy.

In Ezekiel 4, we read about the Lord instructing Ezekiel to act out a prophecy of everlasting torment on Jerusalem by making "unclean" bread and eating it before the people. In the short term, the prophecy focused on the people of Israel going into captivity among the nations, where the Lord would drive them, and they would eat unclean food there. For unbelievers hearing the Word of God preached, this text is to bring them anxiety for their eternal souls, so that they might repent and turn to Christ. For the saved Christian, these verses aid in a sanctifying repentance that reminds the believer that he is still a sinner and re-centers an already-existing faith in Christ. In brief, this is where anxiety is needed in life.

Dispelled Anxiety
But aside from that particular use of Anxiety, the gospel dispels such stress and frustration in life.  As we read in Isaiah 35: Say to those who have an anxious heart, "Be strong; fear not! Behold, your God will come with vengeance, with the recompense of God. He will come and save you." Once again, this statement about anxiety focuses us on eternity, but instead of a dread of everlasting captivity, we lose our anxiety and gain a confidence that our God fights for us and wins. We have a faithful expectation of everlasting life. Knowledge of God's salvation takes away our anxiety.

And this is just what the Old Testament says about anxiety.  Next we will look at the New Testament.