In just a few short weeks the world will celebrate Christmas again and despite the joyous carols, mysterious gifts and Christmas pudding, there will be a lot of underlying anxiety in many households. It seems as if the cumulative anxiety and stress from examinations and the end of the school year just rolls into the Christmas season.
It is wonderful that we can come together as family and friends over the Christmas period, but the festive season is known for being a time of great anxiety and worry for millions of people. December may not have the highest monthly suicide rate in a calendar year, but it certainly comes very close. People are not always as filled with Hope, Joy and Peace as we would like. We may even feel a little more like Ebenezer Scrooge who proclaimed: “Bah humbug!” expressing his grouchy attitude towards all things Christmassy.
WHAT MAKES YOU ANXIOUS?
In a public survey it was discovered that an average person’s anxiety is focused on the following areas:
40% – things that will never happen
30% – things about the past that can’t be changed
12% – criticism by others that are mostly untrue
10% – about health issues, which get worse with stress
8% – about real problems that will be faced
Can you relate to these statistics at all? Do we worry about things that may never actually happen or things we have no control over? Arthur Roche commented on how a small amount of anxiety begins to grow and grow over time until it eventually causes great damage.
He said: “Anxiety is a thin stream of fear trickling through the mind. If encouraged, it cuts a channel into which all others thoughts are drained.”
DEALING WITH ANXIETY
So what can we do about this?
Is there actually a solution to the excessive levels of anxiety we are facing in modern times?
What advice does the Bible give to us and where can we seek help?
Well, firstly we can turn to a few well known Scriptures and see what advice there is to help us through the difficulties we may be experiencing.
Solomon suggested that we had nothing to gain from all the striving and anxiety and perhaps he is right. He says, “What do people get for all the toil and anxious striving with which they labour under the sun?” (Ecclesiastes 2:22). In essence he is saying “what’s the point of all our stress and anxiety?”
Paul’s words in Philippians 4:6 offer some further insight, but threaten to make us all feel a little like frauds – “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” Wow is that even possible for us to get right? How do we not get anxious about the many things in our lives? That is a tough ask.
However, perhaps Paul is providing us with a solution and encouraging us not to dwell too long on our anxiety, but rather to turn that worry into prayer. Let us turn the beating of our hearts into a prayer rising to the Lord.
JESUS AND ANXIETY
People in Jesus’s time were dealing with their own anxieties. They were worried about having enough employment, financial means, material things and they also had to deal with pressures from the political authorities. Jesus gave them some sound advice when he says:
“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life” (Matthew 6:25)
And then a few verses later he says:
“Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?” (Matthew 6:27).
Later on he challenges them with these words:
“Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (Matthew 6:34).
The word for ‘worry’ in this context is actually more close to the understanding of “excessive worry.” If you like – it is worry on top of worry! If we are caught up in anxious worry, then in some way we imply that we aren’t willing to trust in God’s ability to rescue us out of this difficult time of trial. We subsequently take the issue into our own hands and try to figure it all out by ourselves, without any help from the Lord.
FACING YOUR ANXIETY
As we come to the end of this article I ask you to reflect on where you are struggling with anxiety and worry at the moment. Don’t hide from this, but be honest with yourself before the Lord. Begin this process by using these words as your foundation. “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts” (Psalm 139:23). And remember that if you need to seek help, don’t be embarrassed to do so – you will be surprised at how many people can relate to what you are going through.
God bless you and may Christ be real to you this Advent season. May Jesus grant you Hope, Joy and Peace.