Though I’m not especially fearful, worrying comes naturally to me. (If I could monetize it, I’d be rich.) Anxious thoughts and feelings — the kind that bubble up when things aren’t going the way I’d like them to, or even when they are — have been a near-constant companion for most of my life. Finding freedom hasn’t been easy. And after reading Max Lucado’s book, Anxious for Nothing, I realize I’m not alone. There are a lot of us suffering.
Consider the stats, which Max highlights in his book:
- This year nearly 50 million Americans will feel the effects of an anxiety disorder (one of out of every six of us).
- Anxiety disorders are the number one mental health problem among women and are second only to alcohol and drug abuse among men.
- Between 1997 and 2004 Americans more than doubled their spending on anti-anxiety medications like Xanax and Valium, from $900 million to $2.1 billion
- The average child today exhibits the same level of anxiety as the average psychiatric patient in the 1950s.
- We are the most anxious nation in the world — citizens in other countries experience one-fifth the anxiety levels of Americans.
There are all kinds of reasons for this. Let me just rattle off a few:
- Some of it’s genetic. As Pete Scazerro likes to say, “We have Jesus in our hearts but grandpa in our bones.” Our families of origin shape us in profound ways; sometimes more than we realize.
- Some of it’s environmental. As Max points out, military planners use the acronym VUCA to describe the world we live in. It’s short for volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous. If you’ve ever felt fearful, busy, time-starved, over-stimulated, or overwhelmed, welcome to life in the early twenty-first century.
- Finally, some of it’s brought on because we make choices that undermine our well-being. We move through life too fast, eating poorly, skipping sleep, neglecting our souls. And the outcomes are never good when we do that.
No matter the reason for our anxiety, we have extraordinary spiritual resources to deal with it. The beautiful thing about God and Scripture is that neither subscribes to the notion that neglecting what’s wrong fixes what’s wrong. We have to face it and ask for help, believing that grace really does flow in the direction of the humble. And in my next post, we’ll talk more about that.