It’s Personal: Anxiety

In just a couple weeks (July 21), Pastor Justin Hannemann will preach on a powerful and timely topic: anxiety. As part of his sermon, he will explain how anxiety is a byproduct of the brokenness and fallenness of this world as a result of sin. In other words, we all experience the effects. If you are breathing and have a belly-button, you are impacted by anxiety. Recent reports from the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) reveal that 18 percent of the U.S. population deals with an anxiety disorder. This is up from 5 percent in 1985. Some 31 percent of all U.S. adults will experience an anxiety disorder in their lifetimes.

While these alarming statistics should capture our attention, please keep in mind that these numbers only reflect those who have been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder. I suspect that these numbers are actually higher. I base this on my belief that many people try to go it on their own in the face of anxiety and are not receiving help; therefore, they are not diagnosed. In addition, many people do not have access to mental health care and are undiagnosed. Not included in these counts are the individuals who have significant uneasiness or dread but do not necessarily meet the criteria for a diagnosis. Finally, anxiety can be masked through addiction, self-medicating, and even through achievement and activities.

Anxiety impacts everyone

This topic impacts everyone, but unfortunately and due to stigma, I believe we have a hard time admitting this to be true. For some individuals reading this blog, you may have been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, and I am writing on your behalf. But actually, my audience is everyone. I want to bring this topic out into the light so that we can talk about it.

When it comes to anxiety, there are not “haves” and “have-nots.” At the very least, every person is one catastrophic event away from anxiety. Whether or not anxiety takes hold is based on a whole host of factors. One thing is clear: anxiety remains whenever and wherever the conditions are ripe for it to continue.

By in large, these ripe conditions are formulated or are compiled over a lifetime and then manifest as a perfect storm for ongoing anxiety. Included in this list are several common themes:

  1. During stressful or traumatic life events, if there is a lack of shared empathy, then the message for that person is one of being alone in an unsafe world, which over time may become a life theme.
  2. An imbalanced brain chemistry may present a challenge towards a return to homeostasis (calm) and result in a constant state of hyper-vigilance or dread.
  3. Growing up in or remaining in a stressful and angst-filled environment curtails the development of a personal anxiety-reduction-self-care-plan.

These three areas are some of the biggest indicators as to whether the “forecast” will be for rain or a severe thunderstorm in the face of adversity. I wish anxiety was not so opportunistic, but it is. Thank goodness that anxiety is not a match for Jesus! It is not even close.

1 Peter 5:7 Cast all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you. Notice it says, “cast all your anxiety on Him.” It does not say, “If you have anxiety.” We all have anxiety. This is an ongoing imperative. In other words, and much like prayer, this is something we are called upon to do without ceasing. This specific verse follows Peter’s exhortation to the church to be more compassionate, to be humble, and to lead from the heart. Based on this prior text, we know that Peter is exhorting us to proceed with a gentle attitude towards ourselves and with others. This includes anxiety. Therefore, our role is not so much defined by action but more by having a posture of compassion for self and others.

Casting is more about surrender

1 Peter 5:7 is one of those many verses in which all of the action begins and ends with Jesus. But wait a minute …it does say “cast.” Isn’t this an action on our part? Yes, it is an action, but it is a fairly passive action. Casting literally means to throw something in a direction. It does not require skill, experience, or even belief. Case in point: I can be holding any object in my hand, and just by my opening my hands, I have “casted.” This is more about surrender than an actual action. In the Passion Translation of this verse, the phrase “pour out” is used in place of “cast.”  We let go, and Jesus lovingly does His work.

Unfortunately, the reality is this: many people believe that they are pouring out their anxiety but are not experiencing Christ’s peace. This leads to many conclusions: there is something wrong with me, Jesus is not helping me, I need to pretend that I am less anxious and hope nobody notices, my belief or faith is too low, I don’t know how to pray right, or when it comes to anxiety I am a “have” when others are a “have-not.”

This is where the body of Christ is blessed to come around one another as part of a posture of compassion, humility, and shepherding leadership. God designed us for community and to stand with one another. We get to help each other along the way through patience, by providing empathy or understanding, by representing Jesus as part of being a calm presence in the midst of a storm, and by developing self-care plans to help reduce anxiety.

God designed us for community

We can support and not stigmatize one another when medical management and professional care are indicated. As part of supporting and helping one another, please plan on attending our next-step offering:

At the anxiety seminar on August 8, Nate and I will educate you on what we call adding “fuel to the fire” in terms of anxiety. This is a list of habits and behaviors that make anxiety worse. We specialize in helping people identify behaviors and beliefs that generate more anxiety. In response, we offer our “do this” and “don’t do this” list. This list is for everyone regardless of your level of anxiety. We will offer both generalized tips and specific recommendations for some of the more common anxiety culprits.

There is not a cost for the seminar, but registration is required. As an important side-note, we neither expect nor request personal sharing at the seminar.

About the Author

Dr. Brenda Neyens

About the author: Dr. Brenda Neyens is the Spiritual Formation Director and a Licensed Professional Counselor at King of Kings Church.