God’s Prescription for Anxiety and Fear
Many of us will be returning to school in the next few days. Some have been back for a week, while many parents anxiously anticipate their children’s return to school. Almost everyone I talk to who has a connection to schools has shared their anxiety over the new school year.
Many teachers, like me, have underlying health concerns that put them at a higher risk of serious complications (or even death) if infected with COVID-19. Other educators are more concerned about coming home with the virus and infecting a child, spouse, or other especially vulnerable family members.
Some teachers’ anxieties run in another direction. Many of our colleagues are struggling with the prospects of trying to teach their classes online. I recently had a chat with a kindergarten teacher who confided her great apprehension about teaching a class of 5-year-olds entirely online. As I thought about her fears, I had visions of the chaotic classroom scenes from Kindergarten Cop. I concluded that teaching Advanced Placement Macroeconomics online was a piece of cake by comparison.
Many parents struggle with fears of exposing their child to the virus versus the anxiety of trying to be their child’s teacher. Financial pressures are stressing many parents too. They wonder how they can earn a living if they don’t send their children back to school.
We live in a time when fear, anxiety, depression, and economic hardships are crushing down on many people, and Christians are not immune to those troubles.
Many of us believe we are firm in our faith until something terrible happens over which we have no control. For example, let’s say the transmission in my car goes out right after the warranty expires. I have it towed to my garage and learned it’s going to cost $1500 to repair it. None of us would like that, but many would have the money in their bank or sufficient credit to pay off the repair over time. Others might get loans from friends or even outright gifts from fellow Christians.
As believers, we would be thankful to God for blessing us with a way to handle such a considerable expense, and we would probably consider that to be an act of faith. Still, Hebrews 11:1 tells us that faith “is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” The rest of that chapter talks about people who trusted God when they could see no solution, only enormous problems. If I can see a way to solve a problem through my bank account or credit line, I have faith in those things and not God.
Tests of Faith
If my wife asks me to get the cat litter out of the trunk and carry it into the house, I might consider that a test of strength, but if I have never failed it, is it a genuine test?
Recently, I had to pick up a chest of drawers and slide a rug under it. Even empty, it was heavy, and my grip on it was tenuous. With all the clothes in the chest, lifting it proved to be beyond my strength.
The empty chest taxed my physical resources, so I struggled with the chore. Had I been less determined to do it alone, I could have asked for help, which would have made the job much easier. Spiritually, this tells God, “I got this,” even when we are unsure and uneasy. “I got this” is not the attitude of a genuinely humble person.
The entire chest was something I simply could not handle alone. I knew that and did not pretend that it was otherwise. Similarly, when facing a Goliath in your life, you know you must trust God or give in to despair.
Fortunately, God knows we are dust, and He never asks us to go it alone. The Apostle Peter, a man who was personally acquainted with pride and coming up short when tested, wrote these words:
Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. 1 Peter 5:6-7
We humble ourselves when we bow our heads and go to God in prayer. I confess that the subject of prayer has confounded me at times in my Christian walk, but as I get older, some things are becoming more evident. For years I wondered why God instructs us to pray to him if he is sovereign and knows what we need before we ask for it. (Matthew 6:8)
If that verse is true, as I believe, I have to consider the likelihood that being told to pray is motivated by something else, namely a desire for us to be humble and reliant on Him.
The Danger of Self-Reliance
I remember when our daughter graduated from bottles and sippy cups to cups with no lids. If I poured her a cup of milk and tried to hand it to her, she would put her hands behind her back. She would then gesture with her head to signal she wanted the cup placed on the table so she could pick it up like a big girl. Not surprisingly, this often resulted in spilled milk on the table and floor.
My daughter proved to have more confidence than ability when handling full cups of milk. We do the same thing in the spiritual realm when we do not seek God & his provision in prayer. COVID-19 and online classes are cups of uncertainty and anxiety and are brim-full. Take comfort and advice from a beautiful old hymn:
What a Friend we have in Jesus,
All our sins and griefs to bear!
What a privilege to carry
Everything to God in prayer!
O what peace we often forfeit,
O what needless pain we bear,
All because we do not carry
Everything to God in prayer!
Have we trials and temptations?
Is there trouble anywhere?
We should never be discouraged,
Take it to the Lord in prayer.
Can we find a friend so faithful
Who will all our sorrows share?
Jesus knows our every weakness,
Take it to the Lord in prayer.
Trusting God in these times will stretch our faith and make us stronger in the process. The greater the stress, the more we need to reach out to God and, in doing so, take hold of his peace. We can cultivate peace in our hearts by continually bringing our needs, fears, and concerns before the Lord. In Isaiah 26 we are told,” You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you because he trusts in you.
The Apostle Paul echoed the same theme when he wrote to the church at Philippi:
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7
No matter what is troubling you, the first and most crucial step is to realize you serve a big God who loves you. He wants you to depend on Him and not yourself, so whatever is bothering you, take it to the Lord in prayer.