More Misunderstood Than We Realize
When referencing their fears, people will often say something gave them anxiety or that someone made them anxious, but do we really know what it means to be anxious? We know that it has something to do with a kind of nervousness or stress that feels overwhelming. But what makes mild nervousness different from a crippling panic?
One definition of anxiety is as an emotional reaction to something uncertain—whether it’s a threat to our health or something that makes us upset. A low level of anxiety can be normal and even healthy, pushing us to do what needs to be done. Some fear is almost God given in a sense, an internal alarm system that gets us out of harm’s way like when it tells us to stay away from a ledge or keeps us from procrastinating on that impending deadline. On the other hand, too much anxiety can be consuming, leading us to believe lies that others don’t like us or making us hypervigilant in situations that do not warrant it.
In many Christian circles, anxiety can carry a dangerous and debilitating stigma. Some Christians shy away from topics related to mental health, leaving them without the support they need in times of struggle or crisis. We can wrongly believe that God doesn’t care about our mental health but the mind, body and soul are of God’s concern, and within the reach of the redemption and power of Christ.
More Purposeful Than We Know
Many times, anxiety can be over-spiritualized. It can be miscategorized as sin, when in actuality it can lead us to sin, but is not sin within itself. Just like any other physical or emotional problem, anxiety is the result of being fallen people in a fallen world. But as God’s children, we know that everything has a purpose. We know that all things, even anxiety, can be worked together for our good. That good is the life-long process in which we are made to be more like Christ (Romans 8:28-30). Our anxiety invites us to grow in our dependence on God and surrender to His will.
Talking about purpose when dealing with our anxiety sounds more inconsiderate and insensitive than helpful. We’d rather know how we can overcome anxiety rather than why we’re going through it. But one thing I’ve learned is that when I choose to trust that God has a purpose in my emotional turmoil, I can bear the pain better. While God is never the source of our anxiety, He does allow it to shape us and transform us so that we look to Him and learn to trust when life feels so uncertain.
The Apostle Paul talks about how God views our suffering, including anxiety. According to him, these anxieties are temporary. Paul knew what it felt like to wrestle with fear at times. But he also knew that what those present sufferings were achieving in him, outweighed the temporary pain. In 2 Corinthians 4:17-18, he says, “For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.”
It can sound counterintuitive, but our pain is actually one of the greatest signs of the goodness of God. It points us to Jesus. It teaches us that when we move beyond the pleasure of comfort, health, and wealth, we get to know the “man of sorrows” Himself, whose sacrifice on the cross reshapes the way we as Christians should think of pain and suffering.
As you face anxieties in your own life, it’s alright to ask God why He has allowed you to go through your current suffering. I’ve been there, and I understand your pain. But in the midst of your pain, don’t miss the greater questions: What are you trying to develop in me, God? How is this momentary affliction preparing me for an eternal weight of glory?
It is in those answers that we begin to see how even our anxieties can be used for our good. It is in those moments that we begin to understand the everlasting value our suffering has as it prepares us for an eternal glory.
This article about anxiety was originally published here, and it used by permission.