The Cure for the Anxious Heart
March 1, 2009 - Historians will probably call our era “the age of anxiety.” Though we have it easier than our forefathers, we have more uneasiness.
by Billy Graham
Inwardly we are more anxious. Callused hands were the badge of the pioneers, but a furrowed brow is the insignia of modern men and women.
Our chief concern is physical and temporal. Vast numbers of people actually believe that if we all have food, shelter, clothing, education and recreational facilities we will have attained utopia.
Many of our statesmen, much of our literature and most of our commercial advertising support this utterly false view. Television advertisements lead us to believe that the greatest catastrophe that could come upon a man would be to have a five o’clock shadow or yellow teeth.
This undue emphasis upon the importance of the body—and the neglect of more important issues—has made us more concerned with the accommodations of life’s journey than with its destination.
Modern men and women have fled to ivory towers and there, surrounded by luxuries and gadgets, they hide from reality, from their conscience and from God. But they are hounded by the feeling that they are not the people they ought to be, that they are not living the life they ought to live, and that “life [is] more important than food, and the body more important than clothes” (Matthew 6:25).
Modern men and women have tried to fill the vacuum of their empty souls with things that have proved inadequate to satisfy their deeper longings and hungers. External luxury is a cheap substitute for spiritual wholeness.
Anxiety is the natural result when our hopes are centered on anything short of God and His will for us. When we make anything else our goal, frustration and defeat are inevitable. Turn your eyes on Christ; worship Him. He will never fall or fail. He gives life balance, security and peace.
The Wrong Type
Don’t misunderstand me—anxiety in itself is not wrong. Certain types of anxiety are natural and normal. Jesus, in the Sermon on the Mount, warned us not against anxiety, but against the wrong kinds of anxieties. He said, “Do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear … But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matthew 6:25–33).
We create our own troubles and then try to cure them without God. But mankind’s self-sufficiency is playing out. We are awakening to the fact that our spiritual infirmity can be cured only by the Great Physician, and that the remedies He indicated are as valid today as they were when He prescribed them. Christ says: “Come unto me … and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).
But while it is true that many people manufacture reasons to worry, millions have every reason to worry, because their lives are so tangled by selfishness and twisted by sin. They need Jesus Christ.
The Bible also indicates that the Christian life is a life of conflict and warfare. Many people offer a false peace of mind and promise that faith in God removes all troubles and difficulties. This is not true. God has never promised to remove our difficulties.
But God has promised, in the midst of trouble and conflict, a genuine peace—a sense of assurance and security that the worldly person never knows (John 16:33). God has also promised new resources and new strength through the indwelling of His Holy Spirit.
However, millions of people, including some Christians, harbor wrong types of anxieties and worries.
First, anxiety exists when our basic needs have not been met. You can’t quell a baby’s anxiety by giving her a rattle when she is hungry. She will keep crying until her hunger is satisfied by food. Neither can our souls be satisfied apart from God. David described the hunger of all men and women when he said: “As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God” (Psalm 42:1).
A starving person’s chief need is food. A thirsty person’s chief need is water. A wounded person’s chief need is a physician. And a lost person’s chief need, whether he or she realizes it or not, is God.
Seek Him First
You will never be the man or woman you ought to be—no matter how many remedies you try—until you hear and heed Jesus’ words: “Do not worry … but seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matthew 6:31,33).
A man or woman away from God can be expected to be plagued by phobias, fears and complexes. Because men and women have not had their basic need met—the need of being reconciled to God—they are unpredictable, untrustworthy, worried, anxious creatures.
You may say, “But I know professing Christians who worry and are filled with anxieties.” You are right! We have anxiety when we try to carry life’s burdens alone. The Bible says: “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7).
Some Christians have not learned that life is a partnership between God and individuals. Christ said: “Take my yoke upon you” (Matthew 11:29). When we are yoked with Christ, pulling as a team, life’s burdens are easily borne.
But our sin separates us from God. The anxieties and burdens of life rest so heavily upon men and women because their souls, made in the image of God, cry out for God; and their souls will never find rest, as St. Augustine said long ago, until they rest in God. And they can never find rest in God until they come to the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ, who died for sin and shed His blood that sin might be forgiven, so that men and women might have peace of heart and soul.
Christ, being God as well as man, could by His redemptive work on the cross mend the broken partnership between God and mankind. For all who have been born again by accepting this finished work of Christ, God walks with them, talks with them and lifts the load of care from their weary shoulders.
To all who wish to be rid of anxiety, I would make three simple suggestions: First, stop seeking the trivial, transient things with which modern men and women glut themselves, and seek the Kingdom of God as it is revealed in Christ. Let God’s life surge through your soul as you, by faith, put the whole weight of your burdens on Jesus Christ, who died for you.
Second, get your eyes off yourself; focus them upon God first, and then others. Self-centeredness is a terrible breeder of anxiety. Spend much time in prayer, and let a large portion of this time be spent in praying for others.
Third, commit yourself fully to Christ. The truly happy Christian is the one who is fully and wholeheartedly committed to Christ. Be that kind of follower of Christ! You will find that your anxiety will dissolve like mist in the morning sun.