What are you anxious about right now?
If each of us would really ask ourselves this question, we might discover we have a lot on our plates that seems to result in feelings of anxiety.
Did you know, about 40 million adults in the United States are affected by anxiety disorder? Only 36.9% of people with anxiety disorder receive treatment. That means there’s a whole bunch of us out here who are dealing with too much anxiety in our lives, and allowing it to debilitate us in some pretty damaging ways.
For most of us, occasional anxiety is just a normal part of life. We work our way through whatever is causing us angst at the moment and we put it behind us. If we are experiencing these feelings regularly, they can manifest themselves in ways that are not good for us. Nervousness, restlessness, tension, increased heart rate, rapid breathing, trembling, exhaustion, sleeplessness, gastrointestinal problems, anger, in a constant state of fear, dread, and uneasiness, are all symptoms that play havoc with those who are unable to deal with and put aside the anxiety that plagues them.
I know you’re probably asking, “why is he harping on this issue?”
I think we as a society do a pretty poor job of talking about mental health, and have developed negative attitudes toward the seeking of treatment surrounding ours and other’s mental health. We have to do better my friends. We have to be more empathic toward those who experience a need for a mental health break. In days gone by, we were all told to “grow up, put on our big person pants, brush our feelings and issues aside.” This is how many were taught to deal with what was causing them anguish. This is not acceptable behavior, we are a people of love, and love should manifest itself in care for those in need. Its not acceptable to expect anyone to bottle up what is causing them feelings of fear, dread, impending doom, sadness.
One of the areas in my life I’ve had to make peace with was showing my emotions. You’ll remember what we told little boys of my era, “Big boys don’t cry.” What a load of hooey. We can cry on the outside and get it out, or we can swallow it and keep it in and let it come out in some disastrous ways. We have to learn to be comfortable around those who shed tears, and be able to comfort them appropriately. As a people of God, we have each been equipped with all we need to be of comfort to those who are anxious, fearful, sad, grief-stricken, lonely, dealing with low self-esteem or feelings of worthlessness. I know, I know, you’re going to say, “I’m not a trained counselor.” And you’re right, you’re not, but you have the ability to listen, really listen. You have the ability to comfort. You have the ability to express love and concern. We’d be amazed at who all we could help with just those few abilities.
In Matthew 6:25 Jesus says, “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?” That’s a good admonition from Jesus to us, but we still worry about a great many things. In verse 26 though, he illuminates what he’s saying…”Look at the birds of the air: They do not sow or reap or gather into barns—and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?” Now he’s gotten down to it, our value, our worth to God. That may be a key to why we worry and are anxious. We are not so sure of our value and worth to the One who created us. And yet, over and over, we are told of God’s love for us throughout the biblical story. Time and again, God has been present and never forsaken those God loves. In Isaiah 41:10 we hear, “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” And in Psalm 91:4-5 we are told, “He will cover you with his pinions, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness is a shield and buckler. You will not fear the terror of the night, nor the arrow that flies by day.” And again in Psalm 27:1 we hear the psalmist say, “The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?” And when Jesus was comforting the disciples, he said, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.”
All of this rich treasure store we have available to us. Not to condemn those whose angst is holding sway in their lives, but to comfort them and remind them God is present with them in their struggles. When we learn to love with the same patient love God has loved us with, we will be able to walk with our sisters and brothers in their times of need. We will be the hands and feet and heart of Jesus. We will accept the tears of others with a compassionate heart. Who knows, you and I may even learn to make peace with our own tears. I don’t know about you, but after a good cry, I have a feeling of peace that I know comes from the One who created me and called me good. After all, God also made the tears I’m shedding, weren’t they also good?
I pray for each of us and our mental health. I pray God will give us open hearts to care deeply for those who are in need, and for acceptance of our own needs when it comes to our mental health. May God’s loving arms continue to encircle us all.
Your fellow traveler on the Way,