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LCM Fifty1_Blog_34

ANXIETY: When Concern Becomes Obsessive

Part Two: Understanding the Nature of Anxiety

As we continue to move forward with this series, it would helpful to remember the greater context surrounding anxiety in a person’s life.

Our Creator has fearfully and wonderfully fashioned us as both physical and spiritual beings. So, as physical creatures living in a fallen world, we must understand that sometimes one’s own body may contribute toward one’s struggle with anxiety. We should, therefore, be careful to encourage persons to get medical checkups as is appropriate.

As spiritual beings we know we have an enemy of our souls who seeks to destroy us or render us ineffective through lies and accusations.[1] Therefore, we alert the person to the reality of spiritual warfare and help equip them to put on the armor of God, pray, and receive support from others.

But being created in the image of God also means we are social creatures. So, we realize that social factors like family, friends, and culture are often key shaping influences. Therefore, we must explore personal histories involving key influential relationships.

Above and beyond these other influences, what one thinks about God is critical to how that person navigates life. Our heavenly Father is affectionately ruling over all that impacts us and is always working for our good. Therefore, we encourage them to trust in His care as they wrestle with their anxieties and fears.

Understanding the Nature of Anxiety

Dr. Ed Welch reminds us that:

Anxiety (and depression) often arises from a conjunction of external circumstances and internal interpretations and our responses to them. These internal responses are motivated by things like our desires, fears, beliefs, and spiritual allegiances, so we pay attention to both heart and life issues. [2]

According to Jesus, we begin to experience anxiety because this world is not substantial enough to produce true contentment and peace and we place our hopes and confidence in things that are unstable. [3] Good things like relationships, family, finances, etc. become ultimate in our life. We shift priorities and allegiances from God and His kingdom to our own and we obsessively focus on that which can be taken away. Our thoughts become focused on changing the future instead of doing our best to handle the present circumstances. The word Jesus uses for anxious has the idea of being divided.[4] He says that when we are anxious we are “divided” or “distracted” in our loyalty. Jesus is saying the central issue of allegiance, (I.e., “treasures of the heart”) is what lies underneath all of the multi-layered influences that make anxiety more difficult.  Consequently, it may be helpful to ask questions like:

·        What treasure are you living for?

·        Where do you look for security, comfort, or peace?

One’s answer to these questions may reveal what one is living for and why one struggles with worry.

The common causational link to many of our fears and anxieties is the desire for control.  We fear losing something close to us or as seen in the “what ifs” the frustration in the inability to control tomorrow. With anxiety, control and trust are often at odds with each other. One wrestles with God for control because one has a hard time trusting Him.  In fact, trusting God means that I am willing to surrender control to Him.

Therefore, at the heart of anxiety is an intense struggle to rest upon God’s care and power in the midst of a broken and unstable world. Where one runs to, or where one finds relief often reveals the allegiance of one’s heart. That will be the topic of part three of this series.

[1] 2 Corinthians 10:3-6

[2] Author of “When I am Afraid,” an excellent resource for helping people deal with their fears and anxieties.

[3] Matthew 6:25-34

[4]  Merimnáō literally means “divided mind”; combines two Greek words ‘merizo’ which means ‘divide’ and ‘nous’ which means ‘mind.’ (See Strong’s 3309).

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