January 17, 2018 | Articles by Rev. David Bodanza
Anxiety is the plague of our world today, along with its close cousins stress, worry, fear and depression. We are busier than we have ever been, no doubt fueled and driven by the instant information that bombards us every moment. There is never a dull (or quiet) moment. These days we have constant stimulus and we are addicted to it. Technology is a blessing but there is also a price to be paid. The close neighborhoods of yesterday have faded into obscurity. When was the last time that you took a leisurely walk in your neighborhood and spent some time sitting on a neighbor's porch? Commuters often don't know their neighbors. Children cannot freely ride their bikes around for fear of abduction. A walk alone in the autumn woods maybe your last. Random acts of violence break out everywhere. A pretty, promising young teacher is stabbed to death by a 14 year old student. A TSA worker is gunned down. The list goes on and on but you get the picture. You see the picture on the news and it is not very pretty.
We live in the Age of Anxiety. The breakdown of faith in God and in reason coupled with the accelerated pace and high tension of modern life have produced intense anxiety in many millions of people, so much so, in fact, that it would be correct to call worry one of the most widespread and debilitating ailments of our time. Anxiety attacks us from every direction. Young people fear: Am I smart enough? Pretty enough? Will I get a good job? Will I find a husband or a wife? Workers worry: Will I get laid off? Did I do my job right? Will I fit-in with my co-workers? Will my boss be reasonable? Will I be get a raise or a promotion? Women worry: Will my kids be healthy and safe? Will my husband cheat on me? Will I get sick and die young? Heads of household fear: Will I lose my job? Will we be able to make ends meet? Will the car break down? We worry over the past: Could I have said that better? Could I have handled that differently? Was it my fault? Was it something I did? Seniors worry: Will my health hold up? Will my savings or social security be enough? Will I be alone? Will I go into a nursing home and be neglected? Will the state take our house?
Many self-medicate the anxious heart with drugs, cigarettes and the overconsumption of food and alcohol. Addictions arise from the human soul seeking an escape from a stark reality.
More and more, younger people seek their escape by immersing themselves in virtual reality. Problems there are easily eliminated with a digital weapon of no earthly consequence. Perhaps our children are becoming less able to draw the line between actual reality and virtual reality? Could this be?
We desperately need spiritual reality. We need God, the one and true living God. The God of the Holy Scriptures. The Scriptures tell us that the unbeliever is without hope and without God in the world. (Ephesians 2:12) However, for the believer, there are a multitude of precious promises. There is, as the old hymn says, "help for today and bright hope for tomorrow." One of the most amazing things about grace is this: access to God the Father through Jesus Christ the Son. Once access to God by humanity was extremely limited. There was a thick curtain that separated the Holy of Holies in the Temple from God's people. But, in the fullness of time, Jesus Christ the Son of God came to be born, live a perfectly sinless life and be crucified upon a cross. "For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time." (1 Timothy 2:5-6) When Jesus breathed His last on the cross, "the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom." (Mark 15:38) Through Jesus Christ, we now have access to God the Father. (Ephesians 2:18) One precious promise of this access says, "Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. 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." (Philippians 4:4-7) The Christian is invited to pray to God the Father and make his requests known. The Christian is invited to cast all his cares and worries upon God.
In a distracted world where no one seems to be listening and everyone is absorbed with their own problems, that is stupendous. The Almighty God will hear you. Not only will He hear you, He has the unlimited resources and power to squarely meet your needs. We are not to fret about things, we are to pray to God about them. William Law said, "He who has learned to pray has learned the greatest secret of a holy and happy life." E.M. Bounds said it well: "Prayer is the greatest of all forces, because it honors God and brings him into active aid." Prayer should not be
regarded "as a duty which must be performed, but rather as a privilege to be enjoyed, a rare delight that is always revealing some new beauty."
"Faith in a prayer-hearing God will make a prayer-loving Christian," said Andrew Murray. The Bible says, "Now this is the confidence we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him." (1 John 5:14-15) He will answer us according to His will. As Martin Luther aptly stated, "Prayer is not overcoming God's reluctance, but laying hold of His willingness." We must come in faith. "Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray. Is anyone happy? Let them sing songs of praise. Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective." (James 5:13-16)
One of the greatest ways you can love somebody is to pray for them, and let them know it. John Calvin once remarked, "Our prayer must not be self-centered. It must arise not only because we feel our own need as a burden we must lay upon God, but also because we are so bound up in love for our fellow men that we feel their need as acutely as our own. To make intercession for men is the most powerful and practical way in which we can express our love for them."
As we pray to God the Father through Jesus the Son, something happens. Did you catch it earlier? The Bible says, "the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." Anxiety will dissipate and disappear. We were not created to live independently of God. You cannot go it alone. What a tragedy to reject the hand that feeds! We live in troubled times. Yet, in Jesus, you may have peace. Jesus says to His people, "In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)