An Antidote to Anxiety

By Brandon Evans:

I don’t know about you, but the past couple weeks have not been relaxing for me. Caitlin and I have three energetic kids under the age of six and began major home renovations shortly before the pandemic. Then suddenly, life became more complicated. Ministry had to evolve rapidly. The kids are home. Always. Plus, Caitlin is an ER nurse and now going to work is a courageous act.
My mind has not been able to shut off.

My neck muscles are rock solid. 

My left eye has been twitching obnoxiously.

And our hyper-connected and socially-distanced reality has not helped calm me down. My phone buzzes with notifications constantly. My news feed has been blitzed with content that I can’t keep up with. I have been snacking on information around the clock, messaging back and forth, and Zoom-ified daily.
By nature I’m prone to anxiety. And I know I’m not alone in experiencing heightened anxiety right now over the complications caused by the pandemic. We were an overly-anxious society prior to it. And social media had already been correlated with high anxiety rates. Now it’s our exclusive source of social interaction.
Anxiety feels like an invisible cage. And now we are visibly caged in, too.
Covid-19 has been a shot of steroids for anxiety. Whatever worries we had before the pandemic have just been amplified.
Were you worried about your health before the pandemic? Now you are surrounded by snacks, luring you into their caloric web while the gym is closed.
Were you worried about a cold slowing you down? Now you are hyper-aware of a deadly strand of RNA.
Were you worried about finances before? Now there’s a Great Depression Part II on the horizon.
Worried about your kids before? How much screen time they are getting? Now the screen is our only babysitter.
Anxiety over what the future holds is a peace-killing, soul-sucking, endless hamster wheel of the mind.
But then Jesus comes along and says, “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on…” (Matt. 6:25)
And he points out the utter ineffectiveness of anxiousness. “And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?” (Matt. 6:27)
But Jesus doesn’t leave us with a mere “do not.” He never does. He reminds us that God is the ultimate provider (Matt. 6:26-32) and points us in another direction, the path away from unnecessary worry. He says, “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” (Matt. 6:33)
Oh ok, I’ll just seek first the—WAIT, WHAT DOES THAT EVEN MEAN???!!!!
It means that we are to trust God’s provision in such a way that our deepest pursuit is to know him and follow him in the present.
Not tomorrow. Today. Right now. Immediately.
Jesus’ anxiety antidote is effectively this: Don’t live in the problems of an imaginary future. Be present with him today.
We seek the Kingdom by seeking the King. This means to know him, and to be like him. In this specific instance, to display our dependence on God by being present with him. This doesn’t make us dependent on God. We already are. But our presence with him simply wakes us up to that fact, and that has a way of easing our anxiety about the future.
Being present with Jesus means an honest acknowledgement that we need him.

This means a prayerful plea for his comfort.

This means a hopeful trust that he is with us always, to the end of the age (Matt. 28:20).
Jesus is inviting us into an eternal present. And now, more than ever, we need to live in it.
This has been my single biggest battleground this week—living in the present, mindful of God, not vainly wishing things were different. This is not an easy discipline. It never will be. But it is a necessary one. It always will be. The future looms. When will the curve peak? Next month? Next year? What will the economic fallout be? When will my family catch the virus? These are unanswerable questions and there will be surprises.
But Jesus redirects us to the responsibilities of the present. “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” (Matt. 6:34)
Jesus doesn’t call us to be careless with our lives, but carefree. I’m not being cute with words here. There is a difference. Jesus isn’t against preparing, planning, or taking responsible measures to protect ourselves right now. He’s against us obsessing about an imaginary future that we’ve created in our heads, an imaginary future that is fueling our anxiety.
Anxiety doesn’t let go. We must fight against it. And our weapon is a presence with Jesus. This is not a trite religious sentiment to help us cope. This is the only way to have soul-rest in these anxious times. We can’t add an hour to our lives, but he can add an eternity.
So let’s be eternally present with him.