On the website for the Anxiety Disorder Association of America (ADAA), the following statistics are reported:
- Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S., affecting 40 million adults in the United States age 18 and older (18.1% of U.S. population).
- Anxiety disorders cost the U.S. more than $42 billion a year, almost one-third of the country’s $148 billion total mental health bill.
- More than $22.84 billion of those costs are associated with the repeated use of health care services; people with anxiety disorders seek relief for symptoms that mimic physical illnesses.
- People with an anxiety disorder are three to five times more likely to go to the doctor and six times more likely to be hospitalized for psychiatric disorders than those who do not suffer from anxiety disorders.[http://www.adaa.org/AboutADAA/PressRoom/Stats&Facts.asp; accessed 3/20/09]
Anxiety is not merely a problem from Bible times that we don’t understand. Anxiety lives in our town, our street, and probably even in our own homes. Anxiety comes in all shapes and sizes, and for all sorts of reason. Some elderly folks worry about having living too long so that their money runs out or about who will take care of them when they are no longer able to. But the young are not immune to anxiety either. I currently know of at least five young men and women who are worried that they will never get married and that maybe God has chosen them for a life of celibacy (we should get them all together!).
So, money and food, and clothes aren’t the only things that we are anxious about. Jobs, kids, bills, cars, relationships, health, all of these things and more give us plenty of reason to worry. But God says something different.
Five Reasons God Wants You To Stop Being Anxious
1. Anxiety Clouds Your Real Mission on Earth (vv. 25, 33)
Jesus asks a serious question that we forget when we are in a state of anxiety. It is found at the end of verse 25, “Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?” God wants our lives to be more about getting stuff and keeping it. If all we do is chase after the latest and greatest, then we prove ourselves to be serving the false god mammon, and not the Lord Jesus Christ. The correct focus that every true child of God ought to have is found in verse 33, “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” You see, we can spend all of our time worrying about temporal things, and we shall find that when we get to heaven, we missed the boat completely. Our eyes were on the wrong prize. Our true mission is to see the kingdom of God grow and for the individual members of the church to grow in the likeness of Christ in holiness. That is our mission—priority one. The church has become weak and diluted because it has lost its mission and has begun chasing after lesser things.
2. Anxiety Causes You to Doubt God’s Love for You (vv. 26, 28-30)
Jesus goes on to give us two illustrations of God’s loving care and concern over his creation: birds and lilies of the field. First, Jesus shows that although birds work very hard daily to care for their needs by feathering their nests, hunting down worms and other insects, they don’t worry about storing up food for the winter. They let God be God and trust him to supply their needs tomorrow.
Second, Jesus directed his disciples’ attention to the wildflowers growing around them on the mount they were gathered on. These flowers were adorned beautifully by God himself, all without worrying.
Jesus’ main point is this, and don’t miss it—God cares more for you than he does for any animal, even these little birds. He loves you more than the temporary grasses and flowers that last only a few days and then wither up and die. If he cares enough to attend to their needs, how much more does he care about you?
Rom. 8:32 reminds us, “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” Did Christ die for sparrows? Did he give his life for flowers? Did God send his only begotten Son to save your soul, only to leave you to die naked and starving? It is when we are anxious that we imply these things. We imply by our anxiety that God doesn’t love us enough to take care of us and supply us with every need, whether physical, spiritual or emotional.
3. Anxiety is a Waste of Energy (v. 27)
This reason is probably the most pragmatic of the five reason. It asks, what does worrying change? How has anything ever been accomplished by anxiety? Stress and panic, sleepless nights and tearful fretting all accomplish nothing. They cannot bring a solution to the table, and in the end, they usually make us feel worse.
4. Anxiety is a Mark of Small Faith (vv. 30a-32)
Jesus doesn’t say that if you are anxious that you have no faith, but he does say that you have little faith. I don’t think I know of a Christian who wants small faith. You may have small faith, but you want to grow in your trust of the Savior. Jesus is setting before us an opportunity to do just that. But how?
Peter tells us in 1Pet. 5:6-7, “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.”
We need to humble ourselves under God’s mighty hand. We can’t be anxious and at the same time say we have placed our full trust in God. Matthew 6:32 tells us that the Gentiles, or pagan unbelieving world, chases after its own needs, feeling that if they don’t take care of #1, then nobody will. Should a follower of Jesus Christ have the same attitude? We need to be humble and put our full weight upon the Lord, and he will not fail us. Why? Because he cares for you!
5. Anxiety Tries to Get Ahead of God (v. 34)
Today has enough problems doesn’t it? God has wisely and sovereignly distributed the amount of blessings and troubles that we can handle. Like the manna in the wilderness, He has given us enough grace for today. But we can’t hoard it up for tomorrow. There is only enough for today and the worries of today. We need to trust the Lord in this. We can’t begin worrying about tomorrow. What a precious Savior, that he cares so much for us!
So, what can we hope to do when anxiety attacks our hearts? Here are some wise closing words of biblical instruction from A.W. Pink: “Be anxious for nothing” (Phil. 4:6). Worrying is as definitely forbidden as theft. This needs to be carefully pondered and definitely realized by us, so that we do not excuse it as an innocent “infirmity.”
The more we are convicted of the sinfulness of anxiety, the sooner are we likely to perceive that it is most dishonoring to God, and “strive against” it (Heb. 12:4). But how are we to “strive against” it? First, by begging the Holy Spirit to grant us a deeper conviction of its enormity. Second, by making it a subject of special and earnest prayer, that we may be delivered from this evil. Third, by watching its beginning, and as soon as we are conscious of harassment of mind, as soon as we detect the unbelieving thought, lift up our heart to God and ask Him for deliverance from it.