Life in Christ ought to be a banquet of spiritual delights; there’s more than enough gourmet nourishment for everyone. However, in these days of political, religious, and social polarization, many believers are starving to death.
The reason can be summed up in one word: anxiety, the kind of chronic distress or unease of mind caused by fear that distracts us from that which is real. Jesus chided Martha for being distracted with many preparations while missing the opportunity to spend time with Him (Luke 10:38-42).
Regrettably, this seems to be the condition of many Christians. Everyone, at some time or another, experiences feelings of insecurity or anxiety regarding health, age, finances, or physical appearance. And if asked “What makes you insecure or anxious?” we would almost certainly point to some outside condition, not realizing that insecurity or anxiety isn’t generated by things outside, but by our emotional programming from parents, education, society, religion, self-interest, and so on.
If we understand that we are conditioned to think and behave this way, with God’s help we can change that program and change our world. When we wake up and become aware of God’s realities, these insecure feelings will vanish, even though everything in the outside world remains exactly as it was. Jesus urged us to understand this chronic characteristic. He commanded us not to harbor the habit of petulant worry about food and clothing, but to consider the lilies instead (Matt. 6:25-29).
It is futile to be anxious about things outside of us. Our efforts may be momentarily successful, but they will not last. They may even bring temporary relief, but it will be short-lived. So it is not worth the energy and time spent worrying about our physical appearance, about making more money, or about getting further assurances of love from family and friends.
Understand also that this anxiety was picked up when we were young and impressionable. We learned from the behavior and reactions of those around us. Every time the outside world didn’t conform to a certain pattern, we created an emotional turmoil within ourselves called anxiety, paranoia, or insecurity. Then we did everything in our power to rearrange the outside world so as to make more money, seek more reassurances, placate and please people in order to make the insecure, anxious, and negative feelings go away.
We don’t have to do this. Whenever we are insecure or anxious about what may happen in the future, we do well to remember Matthew 6:30-34 and not act like pagans who don’t know God. They spend their time running after material goods, only to worry about keeping them once they are acquired.
When the ghosts of tomorrow stalk with hobgoblins of doubt and distrust, remember: when we were insecure about future events, we were able to handle them with success because God provided for all our needs in that particular moment. Therefore, seek first God’s kingdom and His righteousness, believing that “all these things will be given to you as well” (verse 33).
Hyveth Williams is a professor at the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary.