Serving Christians Seeking to Live a Holy Life


Leon L. Combs, Ph.D.

Some Christian speakers say that anxiety is probably the biggest cause of Christian ineffectiveness in the world. That is quite a statement and thus the topic of anxiety should get our full attention. First let's look at definitions of anxiety from the Heritage Illustrated Dictionary of the English Language. In psychiatry it means an intense fear or dread lacking an unambiguous cause or a specific threat. We have to be careful in dealing with anxiety for it is possible that anxiety could have a biochemical cause. In dealing with problems with people in the world today we need to be certain that we have ascertained whether the problem is of physical or spiritual origin. We will assume that we know that the anxiety itself is not of physical origin. Note that I am not saying that there is not a physical problem involved, but that the anxiety is not of physical origin. Anxiety is defined as "painful uneasiness of mind over an impending or anticipated ill" or "concerned as to something future or unknown; as anxious for news; anxious about one's health, accompanied with or causing worrying." Thus we are concerned with dealing with situations such as when someone is sick and the waiting for full reports of the medical diagnosis brings about anxiety. Situations such as when the economy is going bad and there is a very real possibility that you will loose your job and you are anxious would also be included in this discussion. Another applicable situation would be when a church has no pastor and the search seems to be taking a long time and some people become anxious. First we need to understand why the anxiety is such an affront to God and why it is perhaps the biggest cause of Christian ineffectiveness today.

In order to try to better understand the seriousness of anxiety let us take that last definition and apply it to a common problem. Suppose your electric bill is due today and the electric company told you that if it is not paid by noon tomorrow they will cut off your electricity. What happens internally to you? Panic and anxiety as you are distressed about not having electricity tomorrow. No electricity, no heat for the fan of your gas heater is electrically driven. No electricity, no light, no stove and no refrigerator, etc. You have let down your family by not providing for them. You are in a full anxiety attack for you see no solution to your problem. Now suppose I come to your house and tell you that I want to help you and volunteer to pay your light bill as a gift. Now if you know me that I am trustworthy and have enough money to do what I say that I am going to do, how do you feel? Perhaps somewhat bad about having to accept a gift, but the anxiety is gone isn't it? You know that I will help you out of my resources and you no longer have the awful feeling in the pit of your stomach and the panic about the needs of you and your family going unmet.

What was the origin of the anxiety? A problem presented itself and you could see no way that you could find a solution to the problem. You saw no solution to the problem within your own resources and abilities. Now how was the anxiety removed? It was removed by trust in someone else. You had complete confidence that I would do what I said that I would do. You knew that I was not just talking but that I would do what I said that I would do and that I had the resources to meet your need.

Now let us make a spiritual application of this same event. Suppose that you are a Christian with the same needs described above and that I am a Christian with the ability to help. What does it mean spiritually if the same awful anxiety strikes you as the person above? It means that you do not trust God to take care of you. It means that you really did not believe that God means what He says in Matthew 6:33 ("But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added to you"). Now we can begin to understand the seriousness of having anxiety about our circumstances. Your anxiety is not because you don't trust me, for you do not know from which direction your help will come. You may not even know that I know about your problem. He will still take care of you by telling me to pay your bills, or He may provide an unexpected extra job that would pay the bills, or He may meet your needs some other way. But God has said that He will provide our basic needs and if we really trust Him then there will be no anxiety. But be careful not to add guilt over not trusting God to the anxiety. Just know that you can trust God, admit your sin of distrust, accept His forgiveness, and then go on to accept His provision which will come by whatever means He chooses.

In other words I am saying that anxiety is a measure of our trust or distrust of God in the same way that temperature is a measure of heat content. As long as we live in this world we will not be perfect and we will always have some distrust of God and hence we will always have some anxiety in this life. But it is extremely important for us to recognize anxiety for what it is : a measure of our distrust for God. Then when an anxiety-producing situation enters our life we should automatically recognize our trepidation as a measure of distrust of God and then seek spiritual peace about the situation. Let's read Phil 4:6-7 "Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, shall guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." At the beginning we see a command not to be anxious about anything. Then we see God's planned response by us to the possible anxiety-causing situation.

Realizing that supplication means to make a humble and earnest request, let us return to the electricity problem above and apply this scriptural solution. The man would feel the anxiety, recognize it as a measure of distrust of God and then get on his knees in prayer. He would thank God for His faithfulness in everything and for all that God had provided for him and his family in many more ways than he even knew about. Then He would tell God that he recognizes the proper order of the universe and that he knew that God could meet his needs and if such needs were not met God would still be God and he would still be His servant. Then he would earnestly ask God to meet the needs of his family. He would keep praying such until he felt a peace before God about the situation. Then he could relax, push aside the anxiety and do all that he could to meet his family needs within his abilities and the situation in which he lived.

Thus we see that anxiety is a human response which God has used to enable us to know that a problem exists. It can be used spiritually in the same way that the knowledge of someone having a fever can be used physically. If a fever exists, a problem exists and the solving of the physical problem will remove the symptom. If we treat only the symptom of a fever, we may be heading for big trouble since the real cause has not been found. Similarly if we feel anxious about a situation, we know that this means that we must begin to attack the real cause of our anxiety: our distrust of God.

Now see if we can understand this even further. Supplication involves a humble state. Humble is defined as "having or showing feelings of humility rather than pride, showing differential respect". Humility is submission, pride is defined as "relying on one's own self-worth" and submission is "yielding oneself to the will or authority of another or others". Thus we see that "but in everything by prayer and supplication" means that, as a Christian, we must be without pride and thus in total submission to the authority of Jesus Christ. Augustine said "Should you ask me what is the first thing in religion, I should reply, the first, second, third; nay, all is humility". Read 1Peter 5:6-7 "Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your anxiety upon Him, because He cares for you". When we really trust God and know how much He cares for us, we must be ashamed that we have not allowed Him to aid us by casting our anxiety upon Him. Casting is a fishing term and it does not mean throwing them away. It means to put them on a hook and cast them to God who will surround them with the solutions and then we reel them in solved. Then what do you do with the catch from the sea? You prepare and eat your catch to provide nourishment for your body. In analogy, we use the solved anxiety in our life in such a way that it nourishes us spiritually. We make the entire situation with its solutions from God an integral part of our spiritual being and this is how our faith grows.

The human body will not allow anxiety to go on unabated. The person will search frantically to relieve the anxiety. The non-Christian will search within his own resources to relieve the pressure. If the anxiety-causing situation persists, he may seek to hide from the situation through alcohol or drugs. He may get a doctor to give him tranquilizers but if only tranquilizers are taken, the situation will not be solved. Surely every human being encounters problems he cannot solve and experiences the resultant anxiety. Throughout the world anxiety takes a huge human toll and there is no solution within only the confines of the world. Within the church anxiety also takes an awful toll if Christians will not recognize it for what it really is. Thus in the example above about anxiety resulting when the search for a pastor takes longer than people think it should, the people will try to relieve the anxious feelings by attacking the search committee and perhaps going out on their own to find a pastor. The result is disharmony and a lack of effectiveness of the church. Think of the story about Sarah and Abraham when God told them they would have a child in their old age. Sarah became anxious and brought Hagar to Abraham to bring forth the child in a worldly solution. The problem in the East today is a result of that incorrect, temporary removal of anxiety. A pastor may not have a sermon topic in what he thinks is the proper time for the Sunday service and he forces the development of a topic, which God did not intend to be discussed at that time. There are many other examples about church members becoming anxious about something in the church and trying to relieve their anxiety by forcing some solution on the church which God does not intend. Thus it is easy to see how anxiety may be the biggest cause of Christian ineffectiveness in the world when God's people do not recognize it as a symptom of a serious problem: their distrust of God. Thus let us make Matt 6:25-34 verses that will surface to the conscious mind often:

"For this reason (given in verse 24 "You cannot serve God and mammon") I say to you do not be anxious for your life, as to what you shall eat, or what you shall drink; nor for your body, as to what you shall put on. Is not life more than food, and the body than clothing? Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single cubit to his life's span? And why are you anxious about clothing? Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin, yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory did not clothe himself like one of these. But if God so arrays the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more do so for you, O men of little faith? Do not be anxious then, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'With what shall we clothe ourselves?' For all these things the Gentiles eagerly seek; for your heavenly Father know that you need all these things. But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added to you. Therefore do not be anxious for tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own."


Web Author: Dr. Leon L. Combs
Copyright �2000 by Dr. Leon L. Combs - ALL RIGHTS RESERVED