One of the rather frequent conversation topics I’ve participated in has to do with dealing with anxiety about the future. In particular I’ve talked with a number of soon-to-be doctorates and professionals who confess a particular anxiety about what life will be like post-graduation. When one considers how life has worked up till that point this anxiety makes sense.
We grow up having our goals set for us.
- Get into a good school.
- Get good grades.
- Go to college.
- Get more good grades.
- And then, graduation.
- Maybe get a job? Post-doctorate?
Suddenly you get thrown into the world and the world says, “Good luck!” No predefined goals. No structure. The poor person gets thrown into life without a notion of what goals to pursue or even how to go about finding those goals. Far from being a source of liberty and openness, this actually becomes a huge source of anxiety.
I’ve experienced it. I know others who have had it. I know people who still experience this anxiety. It’s a tough hill to climb.
This line of thinking popped into my head as I began to process the results of the election. My anxiousness was through the roof. I had trouble sleeping the day before election day. What would happen to the country? Where are we headed?
As I was worried about this the grace of God allowed me a moment of clarity. At some point I realized this same anxiety about the future was the same as I felt when I was at my first job and realized I had no goals, no understanding of what was to come next in my life, and no way of knowing how to find out.
25 “Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature? (Matt. 6:25-27)
Anxiety comes from multiple areas of our lives, but really stems from three sources:
Misplaced priorities – Our minds revolve around the everyday things we do. That is normal to some degree. But far too often we have an attitude as if we are in control of everything. If we only get this job. If we only bought that item. If we only did this. If we only had that. We lose sight of the things that really do matter. And we become anxious about things we cannot control, because we suffer under an illusion of control. This is why we misplace priorities, because we think our priorities will grant us the control we desire. This in particular is why elections are so high on emotion, because we think as long as our guy is in office we are “safe.”
Illusion of control – We as humans are faced with decisions everyday. We have impact on those around us in a variety of ways. But this also leads us to think we have more control that we do. We forget that we have the power we do because God gave it to us. We get anxious because we think that if we tighten our grip we will be able to control outcomes. But all we do is work ourselves up into anxious wrecks.
Lack of trust in God – Let’s be honest. We hoped for a particular outcome and became so anxious about something which we really have no control over. Yeah we can vote but in a country of 300 million 1 vote is about as non-existent an impact as it can get. Ultimately this is because we don’t trust God enough to take care of us. We think if we just compromise on the whole evil thing that will get the job done. We don’t really trust that God is there and He will help us if we ask for it. We have to “do it ourselves.”
A lot of people demoralized about the election are thinking about their kids and families. This is good. This is why God allows us to go through these tough times.
And thou, that hast been the author of all mischief against the Hebrews, shalt not escape the hands of God. For we suffer because of our sins. And though the living Lord be angry with us a little while for our chastening and correction, yet shall he be at one again with his servants. But thou, O godless man, and of all other most wicked, be not lifted up without a cause, nor puffed up with uncertain hopes, lifting up thy hand against the servants of God. For thou hast not yet escaped the judgement of Almighty God, who seeth all things. (2 Maccabees 7:31-35)
We are re-prioritizing and remembering what is really important. Holiness. Devotion to God and taking care of our neighbor. Let the Princes have the world. It will pass away and it doesn’t belong to them anyway.
Finally, the book of Revelation can be summarized like this:
- Bad stuff happens.
- God wins.
- You Christian, be holy and rejoice, cuz God wins.
Be not afraid.