As we talk about worry I’m reminded of an interesting Time magazine article I once read on the presence of worry in America, written back in March 1961. The point of the study was this. The breakdown of faith in God and in reason, coupled with the accelerated pace and high tension of modern life, has produced intense anxiety in many millions of people; so much so, in fact, that it’s correct to call worry one of the most widespread and debilitating characteristics of our time.
The article said, “Not merely the…[bleak] statistics of murder, suicide, alcoholism, and divorce betray anxiety (or that special form of anxiety which is guilt), but almost any innocent, everyday act; the limp or over hearty handshake, the second pack of cigarettes or the third martini, the forgotten appointment, the stammer in mid-sentence, the wasted hour before the TV set, the spanked child, the new car unpaid for…”
The writers of the article added that these symptoms are intensified for many of us by the dominant American myths that “the old can grow young, the indecisive can become leaders of men, the housewives can become glamor girls, the glamor girls can become actresses, the slow witted can become intellectuals.”1 In this analysis the magazine was, I believe, at its best. For it’s true that worry is with us, and that millions of persons (many of them Christians, unfortunately), are troubled by it.
Worry is not well defined. Perhaps the very vagueness of worry is its worst feature. Someone has called anxiety “fear in search of a cause.” Kierkegaard once wrote, “No Grand Inquisitor has in readiness such terrible tortures as anxiety.” Well, is there a cure for anxiety? The only solutions that the magazine article offered were sedatives and psychiatry. Fortunately, the Bible offers an entirely different and far more effective cure for Christians.
Now at this point someone may be thinking, “Do you mean to tell me that Christians, who have been saved from sin and who have come to know the Lord Jesus Christ as their Lord, can experience the same type of worry as you are describing?” The answer is yes. Not only can Christians worry; all of us do worry at times, and many worry constantly.
Now Jesus (who knows what is in man) was aware that this is true. And therefore in the list of warnings that begins in the middle of the Sermon on the Mount, He emphasized anxiety more than any other personal failure. He said, “Therefore, I say unto you, Be not anxious for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on… For after all these things do the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you” (Matt. 6:25, 32-33).
1Time, March 31, 1961, 44, 46.