A frightened wife calls us. Her husband is in a state of panic, locked in a bedroom. Two of us coax him out and restrain him. It is a classic panic attack, an anxiety attack. Worry and anxiety are real, but they are devastating and can be disabling. They are more common than we think. Jesus commands, “Do not worry” (Matthew 6:31).
Anxiety often presents itself in men as panic or fear. It frequently presents itself in women in the form of phobias. When anxious, we see the world as a fearful place. The future is uncertain. There is a sense of helplessness. We may have headaches, nausea, chest pain, and fear a heart attack. A man measures his pulse every few minutes. It seems erratic. He panics. In the midst of anxiety, we are seldom satisfied. We are fidgety. We incessantly bounce a leg under the table. We are irritable. When a panic attack occurs, we are sure we are going to die, or we think we are going crazy.
Anxiety has to do with how we view life. It is a control issue. We sense life is out of control. Anxiety also has to do with how we react on the inside. It has to do with internal events, with how we think. Because anxiety is a control issue, giving someone more to do or increasing job demands is not the answer. Giving control lessens anxiety.
Three typical anxieties dominate our lives. Matthew 6:25 mentions two of them. “Do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on.” What am I going to take to the fellowship supper? What are we going to feed our company? Such anxiety escalates to war over food within families and between nations. We also fret about clothing. What am I going to wear to the dance, the theater, the wedding? Young people kill for basketball shoes and designer jackets.
Matthew 6:27 and 34 mentions a third worry. “Who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life?” And, “Do not worry about tomorrow.” Can you add minutes or hours to your life? Suppose there is cancer? Suppose we have arthritis, bad vision, paralysis, old age, or some new and heretofore unknown disease. Will we add days to our lives? We do not ultimately control these things.
The answer to worry and anxiety is rooted in God. Matthew 6:19-21 exhorts. “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” What do you treasure? Are fields, farms, houses, cars, computers, and jobs more important than God? We want God but not at the expense of a special car, a specific computer, or particular clothes. Anxiety rises because God is in our way.
When anxiety is high, faith is low. “If God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more clothe you? You of little faith” (Matthew 6:30). Anxiety is indeed a control issue. We are not in control. God is. God provides adequate food and clothing. God also controls your future. To overcome anxiety, don’t center your thoughts on food, clothing, and the future. “Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (Matthew 6:33).