Anxiety Disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S., affecting 40 million adults in America. This is nearly 20% of the U.S. adult population. Yet this only counts those that are diagnosed. There are many more adults and children that sway in and out of anxiety dependent on stress-level, physical illness, events in their lives, or harassment from others.
At one point, depression stood at the top of this list, but over the last decade anixiety has compounded with the extension of the news cycle, inflation, growth of the internet and social media. Yes, in this time, it seems peace alludes many of us. One researcher writes in 2016, “Anxiety is like pollution; it’s everywhere but can be fairly easy to ignore.” We either minimize it or resign ourselves to it being our constant companion and normal.
Especially in the world of hotly contested elections, bullying, social network arguments and pandemic lockdowns, we are feeding the growth of anxiety. We have been caught in a troublesome cycle for years. Actually, the most common causes and symptoms seem to be present in most everyone—distraction; worry; fear; lack of love; loneliness; pressure from money or work problems; stress; bad diets; etc. It seems that anxiety continues to build on itself with no end in sight.
It is like a rut that we are constantly trying to break out of but something seems to cause us to swerve back in.
The World Health Organization published a report that 1 in 3 people suffer from some level of anxiety disorders, such as Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorders, Panic Disorder, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, and Social Phobia.
Clearly anxiety is a very serious epidemic. The researchers and scientist seem befuddled on what to do because the causes of anxiety seem to be generally all around us. They seem helpless to truly make a difference. Yet, there is an antidote pinpointed in the Bible that is talked about very little.
In a world that is thick with consumer-ism, we should not be surprised that anxiety has become epidemic.
Paul talks about anxiety in his letter to Phillippi. This was an important Roman colony that had benefitted from the close by trade route called the via Egnatia. The Romans settled the city with army veterans after Octavian defeated Julius Caesar’s assassins just outside the city in 42 BC.
This is the reason Paul uses so many military illustrations in this letter. Paul says in chapter 4 of Phillipians:
Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The LORD is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Ph. 4: 5-7)
The original word for guard in this verse has the suggestion of a soldier standing guard over a door controlling all those that leave and enter. So, what Paul is saying here by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit is that God will place a guard over your mind and heart when you approach him in prayer and supplication with thanksgiving. This means that the action of casting your cares upon him in prayer and supplication is important.
Like many of you, I have heard these verses taught often. However, when this is taught we usually do not go far enough. We leave thanksgiving out which is a huge omission.
The teaching here is that out of a heart of thanksgiving, cast your cares and concerns on the Lord in prayer and supplication, and God will guard your heart and mind from anxiety. And, in the absence of anxiety there will be peace.
Therefore, if you want to find your way out of the cycle of anxiety, the antidote is to be more thankful.
The difficulty with thanksgiving is that it is not natural. You do not wake up one day and just start being more thankful. It takes conscious and diligent effort to build up thanksgiving as a habit or routine. But, the problem many run into on this is that thanksgiving is not like other habits. It is not physical like eating well or waking up early or exercise. It takes mental exercise to strengthen the “muscle” of thanksgiving.
The best way to make a difference in building up these kinds of mental approaches is through writing.