1. We begin by recognizing the anxiety has a spiritual component. Human beings possess a mind, a body, and a spirit. That’s who we are. It is how God made us. Consequently, to think about anxiety only in terms of the mind and body is a failure to treat it fully and completely. It overlooks a significant aspect of our being. There is almost always a spiritual component in anxiety which I’ll refer to as spiritual anxiety.
Having said that, we need to keep in mind the different between a component and a cause. I am not suggesting that all anxiety has a spiritual cause. We know it can be triggered by hormonal or chemical imbalances, traumatic episodes, drug abuse, etc. (The CDC has been straightforward about the short-term and long-anxiety that marijuana can cause). However, I am suggesting that even in such cases there is usually a spiritual element that can be a contributing factor.
When you begin to look at the prevalence of anxiety is our culture, it’s difficult not to think there is a correlation between the diminishment of faith and the surge in anxiety among those in their thirties and below. The Pew Research Center reports that 37% of older millennials (those born during the 80’s), identified as “nones” (no religious affiliation). Meanwhile, 63% of younger millennials (those born during the 90’s), identified as “nones.” That’s a sharp increase and means that roughly 50% of millennials aren’t part of a church family. At least half of that number don’t believe in God. If someone detaches themselves from the transcendent God and the comforts of His people, should we really be surprised if they experience spiritual anxiety issues? I think we would be more surprised if they didn’t.
2. Spiritual anxiety is fed by the attempt to live by bread alone.
When Jesus said, “Man shall not live by bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of God,” (Matthew 4:4), He knew what He was talking about! Just as we need bread and other food to nourish us physically, we need a relationship with God through His word to nourish us spiritually. We can choose to neglect this truth, but there will be consequences and sooner or later they will bubble up in our lives. Spiritual anxiety can be life’s way of telling us that something important is missing.
God created us for life with Him. We can walk through this world without Him but its like driving at night without our lights on—we’re limiting ourselves and by doing so, and making things much more difficult than they need to be. More to the point, turning up the volume on the radio will not help us to see better! In the same way, eating more bread is not going to resolve our spiritual issues. Spiritual problems require spiritual solutions. Jesus said, “I am the Bread of Life. Whoever comes to Me will never go hungry and whoever believes in Me will never be thirsty.” (John 6:35).
3. Spiritual anxiety is fed by the lack of a real connection with others. When the internet got going in the 90’s, there was a lot of excitement. There was talk about how the whole world being wired would result in a global village—one huge family. Well, it didn’t quite work out that way and it wasn’t the internet’s fault. We found out that no matter how nice virtual relationships might be, they are simply no substitute for the face-to-face kind. And of course, the pandemic taught a new generation the same lesson.
If anxiety is getting trapped in our own heads, then people can help us to get out of our heads. But it has to be the right people—people who really know us and care about us—people we have a face-to-face connection with. We can’t get the kind of help we need virtually—there is a power that only comes from being in the presence of people.
God knows this and over and over in His word He talks about us taking care of each other. The Scripture speaks about us bearing each other’s burdens, encouraging and building each other up, praying for each another, rejoicing with those who rejoice and weeping with those who weep. These are some of the things involved in loving one another and to have relationships involving these things is a real blessing.