“Anxiety weighs down the heart, but a kind word cheers it up.” (Proverbs 12:25)
It takes something rather dramatic to bring a society together. Certainly events like the Great Depression, the attacks of Pearl Harbor and 9/11, as well as the Coronavirus Pandemic of 2020 are good examples where there was, for the most part, an effort toward a spirit of unity. During the latter – a group of residents in an apartment building in Dallas, Texas, stuck their heads out their windows joining in a chorus of quarantined voices led by one soulful tenor who began singing the Bill Withers’ lyrics:
“Sometimes in our lives we all have pain . . . We all have sorrow.
But if we are wise . . . We know that there’s always tomorrow.”
Little by little, other residents began to join in the refrain, “Lean on me, when you’re not strong. And I’ll be your friend; I’ll help you carry on.” While some added harmonies, others simply peered outside or recorded the impromptu sing-a-long on their phones. This display affirmed that when we feel anxiety in uncertain times, “we all need somebody to lean on.”
Some authorities state that anxiety has overtaken depression as the leading mental health problem in the United States. To be sure, life is not without uncertainties—whether they come in the form of a major life transition, family issues, health scares, or financial trouble—and anxiety usually results. Anxiety has three main elements. The first is Insecurity, something bad is going to happen. The truth is that bad things do happen, but seldom does the “worst-case scenario” we imagine ever play out. Then there is Helplessness, there is nothing I can do to change this. The reality is that there is almost always something you can do, even if it just is a small step in making a positive difference in your life today. Add to that Isolation, there is no one to help me. While anxiety for most folks is temporary and can be brought under control with some self-talk and intentional reaching out, it must be recognized that there are indeed those who suffer from true anxiety disorder. There are professionals and organizations who can help, some of which are able to be accessed directly from one’s home.
In his book, Anxious for Nothing, Max Lucado presents an acronym for helping those of us who subscribe to faith in God and feel anxious at any given time. The abbreviated letters are remembered by the word CALM . . . the opposite of anxious, and just what we are seeking. Here is his advice: “Celebrate God’s goodness. ‘Rejoice in the Lord always’ (Phil. 4:4). How will you express your joy for God’s goodness today? Ask God for help. ‘Let your requests be made known to God’ (Philippians 4:6). If you don’t already keep a prayer journal, start one. Begin with today’s requests. Leave your concerns with Him. ‘With thanksgiving . . .’ (Philippians 4:6). At bedtime review the concerns you left with God this morning. Thank him for relieving you of your anxious thoughts. Meditate on good things. ‘Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise’ (Philippians 4:8). Plan your day to include time alone with God.”
Do you have anxieties? The results may be costly, since anxiety drives our attention away from spiritual matters and drains our energy away from the important things of daily living. Scripture does not state specifically what causes anxiety, but in every case, it evidences itself as a crisis of faith. Throughout the Bible, almost all of the major players had the opportunity to experience anxiety. Each were confronted with a choice to be consumed by it or to relinquish it to God and recognize it to be part of His plan. Jesus asked His followers, “which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?” (Matthew 6:27) We must turn over whatever burdens us in exchange for the peace that only He can give. It takes humility to admit we can’t handle things ourselves, and it requires trust to allow God to work the situation according to His will. So, “cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:7). If you will surrender your burdens to Him, the only thing you have to lose is . . . you guess it, your anxiety.
REFLECTION: What situations are causing you to be anxious at this time? How might you make a conscious shift to focus on the blessings of today rather than on the worst-case scenario? Are there ways that you might be that “somebody to lean on” for someone you know going through an anxious time?