Have we turned anxiety into a virtue? Is our level of anxiety supposed to be an indicator of our grasp on reality? Certainly there is plenty of reason for worry and anxiety in the world today. But have we turned it into a badge of honor, the only way to prove we really care about what’s happening in the world?
With all the bad news that bombards us 24 hours a day from TV, radio, the internet, and our friends, we are pressured to worry. It is expected of us and there are plenty of people willing to help us get into a state of anxiety. In fact, we would be branded as heartless or selfish if we didn’t express despair about all of the hundreds of horrible things which happen each day.
Yet God tells us “to be anxious for nothing.” If we live according to His Spirit, trusting in Him, we should not have any worries. I didn’t say we won’t have any problems, God did not promise to remove all evil from our lives. But we should not indulge in anxiety in the face of those trials.
At my house we don’t have cable or satellite TV. We don’t watch TV news and we don’t subscribe to any newspaper. I have had people criticize me for being out of touch with reality. As if filling my head with words and images of horror, destruction and mayhem would somehow make my life more real. It seems like we are supposed to be actively finding ways to cultivate gloom in our lives!
Apparently it is politically and morally incorrect to NOT worry about a civil war in a country half way around the world. This may sound harsh, but I’m not brooding about it. I cannot do a thing about that war, nor its effect on the people of that country. Can you? Can you, by getting stressed about war, terrorism, genocide, economic collapse or natural disasters, do anything about them?
Now, absolutely I have compassion and empathy for the innocent people who have been caught up in those situations. But don’t confuse anxiety for compassion. Anxiety only causes stress, uncertainty, inaction and even illness. Worrying actually turns the focus of a calamity back on ourselves – How will I be affected? How will it upset or change my life? Worrying becomes selfishness.
Compassion, on the other hand, leads us to help those in need. It is compassion that causes us to open our wallets. It is compassion that compels us off the couch and into volunteering for a rescue organization.
Compassion is our natural, God-given response to the distress of others. It leads us to reaching out, connecting and helping. Anxiety is Satan’s perversion of our inclination to care about what happens in the world. Worry leads us to turning inward, focusing on ourselves and hording our resources for our own use.
My suggestion for overcoming anxiety? The next time you feel anxious about anything: a situation in your own life, or on the other side of the planet, ask yourself, “How can I help someone else?” Take your eyes off of yourself; because, after all, we know God’s promises, He is taking care of our needs. Instead focus on finding a way to help another person.