by Dick Innes
It's Monday morning. The weekend is over. The alarm clock howls out its hideous jangle and suddenly you are snapped into the world of reality. First comes the struggle to get out of bed, and then the rush to get to school or work on time.
Is this how your week starts? And aren't these pressures mild compared to the ones you face as the day and week wear on?
We live in a world of ever-increasing stress and worry with school, work, family, financial, and social pressures. Not many people are free from worry of some kind.
Worry or anxiety is a major problem of contemporary society. In excessive amounts it can take years off your life.
Some people like to think that things don't bother them. "No Sweat," they say as they put on a brave front and reach for the aspirin or alcohol bottle to deaden their fears.
However, it isn't possible to deaden inner anxiety. it will reveal itself in many ways.
For instance, George withdraws when he is upset. Susan talks endlessly to cover her anxiety. Bill chain smokes to avoid facing his. Harry attacks when his inner fears are threatened. Jack dominates and Joy procrastinates. Dennis is a negativist and a compulsive complainer. Joan is a compulsive eater, Fred a compulsive drinker, Tom a compulsive worker, and Frank a compulsive gambler--all because of unresolved worries and anxiety.
Anxiety may also express itself in a physical way. Stuttering, abdominal pains, high blood pressure, a tic, allergy, hives, ulcer, nervous stomach, tension headaches-- all have been named by doctors as symptoms of anxiety and worry.
Yes, sooner or later anxiety will win out. When one fails to talk out his worries, he will act them out in one way or another.
Long ago the Bible pointed out that "a relaxed attitude lengthens a man's life." Jesus himself said, "Don't worry about things--food, drink and clothes...don't be anxious about tomorrow. God will take care of your tomorrow too. Live one day at a time." And the Apostle Paul wrote, "Don't worry about anything; instead, pray about everything; tell God your needs and don't forget to thank him for his answers. If you do this you will experience God's peace, which is far more wonderful than the human mind can understand. His peace will keep your thoughts and your hearts quiet and at rest as you trust in Christ Jesus" (Proverbs 14:30;Matthew 6:25,34;Philippians 4:6-7,LB).
"A relaxed attitude lengthens a man's life."
However, it's one thing to know about God's peace and another to find it. It begins with being able to see and admit your real fears, by facing and resolving them, and by learning to give them over to God.
John Powell, author of Why Am I Afraid to Tell You Who I Am, feels that two major causes for anxiety are unmet emotional needs and supercharged repressed emotions. A third cause would be situational, and fourth, unmet spiritual needs.
Man is very much a spiritual as well as a physical and emotional being. He needs to find peace as much with God as he does with himself and his fellow man. How, then, can he do this and win over worry?
First: If anxiety is situational--that is, caused by adverse circumstances or too much work, I find it helps to list all my worries on paper. This is half the battle. I then eliminate the least important matters, work on the things I can do something about and learn to accept the things I cannot change.
"Perfect love drives out fear."
Second: If the problem is repressed, pent-up feelings, such as resentment, hurt, or anger, those feelings need to be expressed. If you're nursing a grudge you will need to put things right with the person concerned (see Matthew 5:23- 24). Other feelings can be talked out with a trusted friend or counselor. Or, if it helps, go for a drive in the car with the windows closed and shout your feeling out, go to the bedroom and cry them out, or write them out as David so often did in the Psalms.
I recall one night when I was worried and couldn't sleep. I got up and typed a letter to God sharing all my feelings with him. Within a half-hour I had released my pent-up feelings. I then read them back to God, went back to bed, and fell asleep immediately.
Good, hard physical exercise is also helpful when you're feeling worried or anxious.
Third: If your worry, however, is caused by unmet emotional or spiritual needs, you can remedy this by growing in your relationship with God and other people. A spiritual growth group can be a big help. As you open up to others and to God and feel their love and acceptance, you can slowly change feelings of fear, guilt, anger, inadequacy, anxiety, and worry for feelings of hope, confidence, peace, and love.
"Perfect love drives out fear," writes the Apostle John (1 John 4:18). So we need to ask God not only to free us from fear, but also to fill us with love. The more we love and trust God, the less we fear man and circumstances. Every day, visualize yourself opening to God and being filled with his love, joy and forgiveness. In 1929, business tycoon J.C. Penny was hospitalized because of his severe anxiety. One night he was sure he was going to die so he wrote farewell letters to is wife and son.
But he survived the night, and hearing singing the next morning in the chapel, felt drawn to go in. A group was singing, "God will take care of you," after which followed Bible reading and prayer.
Penny said, "Suddenly something happened. I can't explain it. It was a miracle. I felt as if I had been instantly lifted out of the darkness of a dungeon into warm brilliant sunlight. I felt as if I had been transported from hell to paradise. I felt the power of God as I had never felt it before.
"I realized then that I alone was responsible for all my troubles. I know that God with his love was there to help me. From that day to this, my life has been free from worry. The most dramatic and glorious minutes of my life were those I spent in that chapel that morning."1
The cause of our worries always lies within ourselves. At best it is triggered by outside circumstances. Only when we can see this, and admit to the real causes are we free to fully surrender our fears and worries to God and experience his peace.
Whether this peace come instantly or over a period of time matters little. The important truth to remember is that God is always there. His love and power are constant and available to all. As we reach out to him through the fog of our worry and damaged emotions, we discover that he is waiting to help us if only we will respond to his love and give him the chance.
1. S.I. McMillen, None of These Diseases, (Westwood, NJ:Fleming Revell Co.,1963),p.98.Used by permission.