4. Spiritual anxiety is fed by an emphasis on wealth and status.
The message should be clear: material wealth, the latest technology has to offer, creature comforts—none of them can satisfy the spiritual needs we were created with. And an over-reliance on them can actually hurt us. You can everything in the world to live with, but if you have nothing to live for, what does it really mean?
Parents, this really gives us something to think about. Our consumer culture is telling our children 24/7 that they are what they own, are they hearing a different message from us? More important, are they seeing a different message in the way we live? Jesus said, “Beware, and be on your guard against every form of greed; for not even when one has an abundance does his life consist of his possessions” (Luke 12:15 NAS 1995). On another occasion he asked the penetrating question, “What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, and forfeit their soul. Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? (Matthew 16:26).
5. Spiritual anxiety is fed by unhealthy expectations.
Too often the message of social media is, “This is what the perfect face and body look like,” or “This is what the perfect life looks like.” (And, if you don’t measure up, then too bad for you!). Not surprisingly, an increasing number of our young people are struggling with anxiety in regard to body image and status issues.
Then too, we are seeing too many young adults unprepared for the realities of the real world. Samuel D. James says:
Is it possible that too many parents in an attempt to protect their children, have failed to prepare them? We must recognize that the way we protect them is by preparing them.
Faith in God will get us through the storms of life.
Stated in its positive form, this is the principle we keep returning to. Here’s what faith in God does: it tells us 1) who we are, 2) why we’re here, 3) where we came from, and 4) where we’re going. If you want to give spiritual anxiety a kick in the seat of the pants, build your life around these things.
Who we are is people made in the image of God (Genesis 1:26-27). It’s no secret the world had all sorts of identity issues. This is why they fight over gender, race, face, and so many other things. Faith enables us to understand that our primary identity is none of these. It is the truth that we are made in the image of God. We are all known intimately and loved ultimately by Him. Furthermore, He put us on this planet that we might image Him through our attitudes and actions—that’s why we’re here. We came from Him and one day we will return to Him.
And we have something else—there is a fifth thing faith does for us: It provides us with an anchor in God. Not only is He bigger than us, He is bigger than anything else because He is the creator and sustainer of the universe. The answer to our vulnerability and mortality is the transcendence of God. None of this means there won’t be storms in our lives because there will, but what it does mean is that God will lead us through them. That’s why before His crucifixion, Jesus told His disciples:
Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in Me.John 14:1
It’s also why Peter told a group of disciples facing tough times:
Cast all you anxiety on Him because He cares for you.1 Peter 5:7
I remember a lady who showed up at church one day many years ago. She had all sorts of anxiety issues. She told me about many of them and how she slept with a gun underneath her pillow because she was in fear of her life being taken. What made her different than a lot of people was that she had grown up in church. She knew she needed to have a relationship with God but her anxieties were somehow blocking her from taking that step. She kept coming to church. We grew to love her and she us. Finally one day she confessed Jesus and was baptized. Her anxieties didn’t magically go away but what happened was she had a peace in her life that enabled her to deal with them and even laugh at some of them.
That was many years ago and we’ve moved a few times since then and so has she. It’s been years since we heard from her. The last time we did, she had experienced some storms—she had been through a divorce and had cancer. But her faith was as strong as ever.
It makes me think of a chaplain who was in an oncology unit visiting with the patients there. When he got to one room, the woman in bed was clearly praying, so he waited until she was finished. As he walked into her room he asked, “Have you been telling God about your cancer?” The woman shook her head and said, “No, I’ve been telling cancer about my God.”
That’s what the presence of God in your life can mean. We don’t have to tell God about the storm, we can tell the storm about our God!