A Vaccine for Anxiety

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I read an article in The New York Times that said although we – today, in this generation – are more wealthy, are more healthy, have a bigger sense of liberty and purpose than our parents and grandparents did in their generation, we are 20% more anxious and depressed.

People today are 20% more anxious and depressed than the previous generation. 

Usually when anything increases 10% in any generation, it’s an epidemic. We are living in a double epidemic of depression and anxiety right now. 

This is The New York Times reporting this. They don’t lean to the right politically. They’re not really any friend of the church. They’re just doing their journalistic duty reporting that even though we are healthier than ever before and have all the advancements of the medical world available to us, and even though we are wealthier and have more opportunity and more means to make more money and even though we have a greater sense of liberty, meaning we can go anywhere, travel anywhere, set personal goals and bucket lists, with all of that – 

People today are 20% more anxious and depressed than the previous generation. 

I’ve got a friend who is a pastor in the church. 8 years ago he was diagnosed with an anxiety disorder. As time went on after his diagnosis, he became fatigued toward the people in his church coming up to him Sunday after Sunday saying that the cure to his anxiety was that he just needed to trust Jesus a bit more. 

He told me one day over coffee that he wanted to lovingly punch the people who kept saying that all he needed to stop any anxiety attacks was to pray more. 

If you don’t know anything about having an anxiety disorder than you don’t know. 

I read about a man who experienced an anxiety attack for the first time and when it hit him, he thought he was having heart attack because his blood pressure was at the level of a stroke. 

The doctor told him to go home and rest, and for the next 3 nights he had an anxiety attack and thought he was dying. He was flown from Kansas City to Los Angeles for better care and for the next 6 months, every single night, he thought he was dying due to experiencing this anxious paralysis. 

$50,000 later with all the medical tests available, he was diagnosed with severe anxiety disorder. 

And this guy is a Christian leader, an elder in a church. He gets told all the time by people at his church to suck it up, pray it out, trust Jesus and he wants to slug people in their well-meaning faces. 

I know a woman in the church who struggles with an anxiety disorder and I reached out to her via Facebook-messenging last week asking her about her anxiety disorder and she wrote back – 

“You can do everything right in your marriage and it can still fall apart. You can do your best in raising your kids in a loving way – or even in the way the Bible wants you to – and there’s still no guarantee that when they are older they still love Jesus – they could walk away from God. You can do everything right at work and still not succeed in the way you expect .Or still not get promoted. Or still not find purpose. Or even lose your job. You can do everything right as a friend and still get back-stabbed by them.”

And then she wrote this – 

“This world is volatile and if you haven’t admitted that, it’s time to admit it.” 

The New York Times article referenced earlier goes on to say that the Western world, specifically America, is disintegrating from other inside out. That, no matter how much you convince yourself on the outside of things that everything is okay, your soul inside knows something is off. No matter how many trips you take or things you buy or nights out with friends or shows you binge to ignore it – something is off inside.

I’ll put it like this: 

In all of life, in every aspect, there will be a backdrop of disappointment and dissatisfaction. 

[insert sarcasm] Thanks for choosing to read my blog today. I hope you are fully encouraged. Enjoy the rest of your week.

…………………………..

No matter how much wealth, how much health, how much liberty you have to succeed or how great you look or how awesome your family is, depression and anxiety will set in if you think any of those things can really save you. 

Have you heard the latest report on what the death rate is right now? I didn’t have to Google the answer. The death rate is 1 per person.

You are going to die.
I am going to die.
Every day is a gift from God.

And if I attach myself to something that is also disintegrating, like my marriage, my kids, my job, my money, my health,  then my soul knows that and I will disintegrate as well. 

C.S. Lewis put it this way, 

“Most people, if they really learned how to look into their own hearts would know that they want something that this world can never give them. These longings which no marriage, no travel, no learning will ever satisfy. 

There is always something that we have grasped at that first moment of longing that just fades away with reality. The thing we thought we were going to get in the new experience always evades us.” [C.S. Lewis]

Part of the reason people come to Jesus and give their life to Him is they hope He will give them the idols they worship. They hope Jesus will give them a spouse, give them a child, give them their break through, give them their health back, give them a house like everyone else. 

People pray to Jesus all the time saying He’s their Savior but what they’re praying for is really their savior. 

Anxiety is ultimately the fear of losing someone or something you think you can’t live without. 

Yes, if it happens, one day, it’ll hurt to lose a job, lose a dream, lose a loved one, lose your own health. But the only thing you can’t truly live without is Jesus.

When our day doesn’t go how we thought, or our year doesn’t go as hoped, or our life turns out in a worse way than we dreamed (when a flu virus becomes a global pandemic) we forget there’s a sovereign God.

And I’m not a doctor or a scientist but if you feel like you don’t have control of your life you probably don’t have control of your life. 

The only thing that lasts is God. Everything else fades away. 

Your soul knows when you attach yourself to something other than Jesus and that’s why we get more miserable and more unsatisfied. 

We are only as durable as what we have placed our trust in. 

Did you know that beautiful people (to the world, I think all people are beautiful) but beautiful people to culture are more prone to commit suicide because as they get older, they lose their looks and figure and since they’ve attached their identity to their physical appearance, once that is gone, what do they have to live for in their mind? 

The Bible communicates that your life and mine is all about us having an intimate relationship with God and once you say you will believe in Him and follow Him, He will not only forgive you and bring you in, He will spend the rest of your life destroying your lesser loves. 

He will frustrate the things in your life you love more than Him – the things you think you can’t live without. If God doesn’t destroy what is destructible, you will place your identity and faith in it and it will destroy you from the inside out. 

That’s why I beg every Sunday when I preach at the loving church I am a part of for those listening to place Jesus at the center of who they are. They need love Him more than self, more than health, more than money, more than marriage, more than children, more than dreams, because if they don’t, those areas are going to be frustrated until Jesus is their passion and you are going to be anxious. 

As long as you think life is all about you and how fake great you are, anxiety and depression will grow in you. 

If you want the good and satisfying life Jesus came to earth to die and rise for you to have, you have got to let go of whatever or whoever you’ve attached yourself to and hang onto Him. 

Let go and let God.

It’s when we say, God, this life is not about me. It’s about You. I’m taking each day as a gift from You, no matter what happens, You are large and in charge and I am Your child, Your servant, I will trust in You. 

How many Christians are praying a prayer like that verses how many are over-reacting with anxiety at what is taking place in their lives or in the media?

If you want to let go of anxiety, you have to attach yourself to something eternal. 

If you attach yourself to someone or something other than Jesus, that something or someone is fading away and you will fade away with it, but if you attach yourself to Jesus, the One who was, is and will always be, you will live and your anxiety will fade away. 

But it’s a daily decision and I was hoping to give you that daily reminder today. 

Thanks for reading. You are loved. 

Z

Waiting on God to Answer Us

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In Genesis chapter 12, God promises barren Abraham and Sarah that they will have a child. The excitement and hope that promise brought must’ve dimmed in belief with each passing year it did not become a reality. In fact, 24 years go by and Abraham and Sarah are still not pregnant when God shows up again in Genesis 17 and promises them a child once more. Abraham and Sarah both doubt and they both laugh. Waiting on God had worn them down.

The problem with Abraham and Sarah is the same problem with you and I:

In each trial we face, we are eager for the answer but are not eager to wait for it. 

It’s not natural/instinctive/easy to wait. For anything.

I don’t like waiting for a webpage to open. I want it opened faster than I can blink. If a webpage takes more than 3 seconds to open, I exhale in frustration because I have to see how my fantasy football team is doing IMMEDIATELY.

People were getting frustrated having to watch 5 commercials go by until the next scene of their TV sitcom or drama came back on, so the DVR was invented. Once we realized fast-forwarding commercials was still too much work to get to our show, Netflix came along to provide streaming with no ads. And our blood circulation speed took a hit.

If I click on a YouTube video that a friend has sent me to watch, and it has an ad at the beginning, I roll my eyes because I have to wait 30 seconds before I see why my friend thinks a cat in a Santa costume is cute.

If you and I are at Target, and we’re both about to check out with our items, I’ll get in line, I’ll push you toward another line, and I’ll compete with you to see who will get out faster. Even though we drove together. I’m not alone on that, am I?

When Blockbuster Video was near its deathbed, it’s last, gasping breath pitch was that they were going to have movies 28 days before Netflix would have them available. Blockbuster was saying to an impatient culture, Why would you wait 28 days to watch a rental movie when you can have it now?

We addictively utilize the social media options of Facebook/Twitter/Instagram because we have to tell the world what restaurant we are eating at that night right away.

Our culture says why wait, have it now? And we can with our phones and online shopping and Google and Amazon and Spotify and Uber and Youtube. We can get it now.

And I’m thinking……

The more culture (via technology) encourages us to have things quickly, the more we will struggle with trials when answers from God don’t come quickly. 

The more serious things are things that we have to wait for.

Some people know the frustration of trying to find the right person to marry. Friends are getting engaged and are getting married, you’ve tried the dating game a few times and got nowhere, and the temptation is to lower the bar and marry anyone because waiting is difficult. A lack of trust in God’s timing with an unwillingness to wait has single people marrying quickly and unwisely.

I don’t want my daughters to settle for a guy who doesn’t love Jesus more than her, who doesn’t serve her, uplift her, who doesn’t have a heart for those in need. If they do, it’s because they were unwilling to trust God and wait. I want them to marry a man who loves Jesus so he can love them like Jesus.

It’s not just love that is a struggle waiting for, it’s a financial issue as well.

Why is there such a large amount of people in our nation who are burdened by debt? People don’t want to financially plan and save up for the house, the car, the children, the clothes, the stuff – that plastic little rectangle and the bank are desperate to loan you whatever you want (standard interest rates apply). That magic card allows you get you whatever you want now.

Others have struggled waiting for the right career, the right job. Some people jump at the quickest available opportunity, others go after the job that pays the most because maybe it will make them content. If someone dreads going to work when they wake up, could it be there was impatience somewhere along the line?

When our health is failing in a certain way, or we see loved ones struggling with an illness, we struggle spiritually. With each doctor’s report given, complications occurring, feeling the pain or seeing our loved ones in pain, we hate the wait we are forced to go through before an answer is given.

We have a misconception when it comes to waiting on God to come through for us.

I’ll try expound on it this way: most likely the days after Christmas later this month you will go back to the stores to return gifts you received that didn’t meet your expectation. The clothes were the wrong size or style, or the gift was just hideous to you, (what was your great Aunt thinking?), so you go to the store to return that gift and you get a number at customer service and you wait in a long line of other people returning what their great aunt got them and you wait and wait and wait and it’s slow, nothing is happening, until it’s your turn at the counter and then the action begins.

This is the misconception we have when it comes to waiting on God to come through for us. We think God is like the person behind customer service, only able to help one person at a time. And if you’re not that person, you think nothing is happening until God calls your number. Here’s what I’d like you to tattoo on your membranes:

Biblically speaking, waiting and inaction is not the same thing. 

Waiting is a step of faith, a step of action. Yet, experiencing it can feel like we’re doing nothing, or not doing enough.

Waiting might feel like nothing is happening, it might feel slow, it might not feel like an action of faith but God is actively working earnestly behind the scenes. God, in His power/providence/perfection is working, and not just for one person but for all of humanity. When you wait, it’s faith in action. Trusting God and waiting on Him might be one of the highest acts of faith. So we choose to not be angry while we wait. We choose to not complain while we wait.

What God does while we wait is He is shapes us into being the type of person who can handle the promise when it comes. It takes trust, and perseverance, and faith, and a community of believers to lean on and an amount of Scripture to lean on and believe.

What God does while we wait for whatever it is we really want (a spouse, a baby, a house, a job, a purpose, a vehicle, a bill paid, healing from sickness, a loved one to know Christ) while we wait for it, God is working earnestly behind the scenes and is transforming us individually to become the type of person who can better handle the promise when it’s revealed.

While you wait, don’t feel like you’re doing nothing or that God is doing nothing. Even if it takes 24 years like in Abraham and Sarah’s case, be at peace that He is in control.

Thanks for reading. You are loved. Merry Christmas,

Z