In March 1961, Time magazine published a cover story on the presence of anxiety in America. The article was entitled, “Guilt and Anxiety.” The point of the study was that the breakdown of faith in God (in the nineteenth century) and in reason (in the twentieth century), 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 is correct to call worry one of the most widespread and debilitating characteristics of our time.
Time wrote, “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 overhearty 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 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 glamour girls, the glamour girls can become actresses, the slow witted can become intellectuals.”1
In this analysis Time was, I believe, at its best. For it is true that worry is with us, and that millions of persons (many of them Christians) are deeply troubled by it. It is not well defined. Perhaps the very vagueness of anxiety is its worst feature. Still it is quite real. Someone has called anxiety “fear in search of a cause.” And Kierkegaard once wrote, “No Grand Inquisitor has in readiness such terrible tortures as anxiety.”
Is there a cure for anxiety? The only solutions that Time knew for men were sedatives and psychiatry. Fortunately, the Bible offers an entirely different and far more effective cure for Christians.
I know that at this point some may be saying, “Do you mean to tell me that Christians, who have been saved from sin and who have come to know the Lord Jesus Christ, can experience this kind of worry you’re describing?” The answer is that not only can Christians worry, many of them do. What is more, Jesus knew this, which is why he warned His followers against anxiety in the list of warnings (Matt. 6:19-7:5) that begin in the middle of the Sermon on the Mount. But there is also a cure for anxiety because Jesus commanded His followers to avoid it. As 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 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.