It is likely that in a recent trip to the grocery store or the gas station, you have noticed rising prices. Or perhaps you have read about the UGA scientist who found a gene in bacteria in our sewer water here in Georgia that could migrate to other bacteria and make them resistant to the last-ditch antibiotic, Colistin. You may be concerned about yourself or a loved one getting sick with covid. Has your small business weakened or failed due to covid restrictions, or have you been forced to miss work and pay after getting sick?
These are some of the realities of life today. Do they make you anxious? Perhaps you are anxiously searching for ways to relieve your anxiety. You may have tried some of the strategies in the image above, or turned to a medication. As a Christian minister, I would like to offer a different answer to the problem of anxiety by telling you about five things.
- God. God is a most perfect, blessed, and boundless spirit who exists eternally in three persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. Unto this God David said, “Thou art good, and doest good.” (Psalm 119:68) James said that he is “The Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.” (James 1:17) Man’s problem is that he has revolted from God: “For my people have committed two evils; they have forsaken me the fountain of living waters, and hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water.” (Jeremiah 2:13) When man tries to live upon the creature rather than the Creator, he finds that any created thing will give way like a rotten bridge when he trusts upon it. This causes anxiety.
- Sin. In the beginning God made man holy, innocent, sinless. He also blessed man and granted him the use of the created things to sustain him in his service to God: “And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth. And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed …” (Genesis 1:28-29) But now, our first father Adam has sinned against God, and has brought us with him under God’s curse. Men must labor by the sweat of their brow to get bread, and women must bring forth children in sorrow. In the end, we must all die and return to dust. (Genesis 3) Therefore, your anxiety is telling you something true. How can man be easy and happy when God is angry with him for his sin? How can man be at peace in the world when he is not at peace with God? Understanding sin is an important clue to finding an answer to the problem of anxiety.
- Christ. God, in love, sent his Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, into the world. The diseased and demon-possessed flocked unto him, and he compassionately healed them. Matthew wrote that in doing so he fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah: “Himself took our infirmities, and bare our sicknesses.” (8:17) Yet, how could he remove sicknesses from people when God’s justice still demanded that man, for sin, be bowed down with troubles and return to the grave? The answer is that the Lord Jesus did not simply come to pluck off a few of the bitter leaves from the weed of human misery, but he came to pluck up the root of this plant, which is sin. This he did by bearing in his own person, as the sinless God-man, the wrath and curse of God for sin in his death on the cross. When he had done this, he said, “It is finished.” (John 19:30)
- Repentance and faith. What must you do, then? The Lord Jesus preached: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel.” (Mark 1:15) Repentance is turning from sin unto God. Repentance is necessary because God commands it, because the pardon of sins could never be sweet without it, and because it is a God-given remedy for man’s malady, sin. God promises that he will pardon every one who repents: “He that covereth his sins shall not prosper, but he that confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy.” (Proverbs 28:13) God also commands men to believe the gospel, and truly, no one ever repented without also believing the gospel promise of pardon.
God has taken great pains to show man how willing he is to pardon freely all the sins of the turning, repenting sinner. He says that however great the sinner’s sins are, or however high the sinner’s doubts and fears loom, his thoughts of pardon are higher: “Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon. For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:7-9)
However, man is by nature very antagonistic toward the thought of receiving pardon by faith, or believing, because he is always wanting to put his own works in the place of that faith that God requires as the only means of obtaining forgiveness. Therefore he hesitates to believe the promise of pardon until he thinks he has some goodness of his own to show. But God is jealous for the glory of his free grace, and insists: “Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt. But to him that worketh not, but believeth in him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.” (Romans 4:4-5)
- Adoption. The one who believes the gospel is blessed with every spiritual blessing in Christ Jesus. One of these blessings is adoption, and this particular gospel benefit is a mighty, invincible antidote to anxiety. A Christian can only become anxious by losing sight of his adoption. He who believes the gospel can call God his own Father. He can expect to be pitied, protected, and provided for by God. He can say, “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.” (Psalm 23:1) His God and Father will turn all his adversities into blessings that increase his holiness and draw him closer to his home in heaven. God cares for his adopted sons in the bosom of his church, where he feeds them the milk of his Word to make them grow up unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, his only-begotten Son.
What anxious soul can possibly refuse such gracious offers? Where else will you go other than to Christ, who does not have a medication or technique that might possibly help you with your problem, but who has the words of eternal life? “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)
Rev. Brent Evans