Now when the attendant of the man of God had risen early and gone out, behold, an army with horses and chariots was circling the city. And his servant said to him, “Alas, my master! What shall we do?...Then Elisha prayed and said, “O Lord, I pray, open his eyes that he may see.” And the Lord opened the servant’s eyes and he saw; and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.
Anxiety: apprehensive uneasiness or nervousness usually over an impending or anticipated ill. 18% of Americans suffer from anxiety disorders. One out of every 5 people you know—and everybody that I know. We all experience anxiety. We experience it in different degrees with different reactions. For some, panic attacks completely debilitate. I want to turn and run. How do we deal with it?
The issue is doubly troubling for a Christian. We’re told (commanded, not encouraged), “Be anxious for nothing.” We are not to fret, fear or be anxious. If for no other reason than the one given by John Piper---our anxiety makes God look bad (a lack of trust in His consistent goodness towards us).
Problems at work have me afraid of being fired. Of failing. Of not performing well in other’s eyes. I have friends walking through similar experiences. What am I learning? How to best walk through this?
It’s a perception problem. Perhaps the data isn’t being interpreted correctly. Like Elisha’s servant what I perceive as reality isn’t correct. I am reminded of the words of Jim Elliott, “Remember that the shadow a thing casts often far exceeds the size of the thing itself (especially if the light be low on the horizon) and though some future fear may strut brave darkness as you approach, the thing itself will be but a speck when seen from beyond. Oh, that He would restore us often with that 'aspect from beyond,' to see a thing as He sees it, to remember that He dealeth with us as with sons.”
I see the problem but don’t allow for a solution. Years ago, in the midst of my divorce my car died on me. I needed a car and had little money. Enter anxiety. The local dealership had a used Saturn with manual transmission that nobody wanted to buy. I ended up with a vehicle in better shape than the one I’d had.
The feeling isn’t the reality. In overwhelming circumstances, we feel a gut- wrenching urge to puke. We feel terror. Simon Sinek tells how Olympic athletes when interviewed are always asked, “Were you nervous?” Categorically they respond, “No.” They all said, “No, I’m not nervous. I’m excited.” Because they interpret the feelings typically identified as nervousness as excitement.
Adjusting perception, trusting God for solutions and walking through the feelings are small actions to reduce anxiety. Like most disciplines it’s a mental battle. One I can fight today. As Jesus said, “…Tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”