Seven or eight years ago I was managing the software engineering department of one of General Electric’s businesses. At the same time I was planting a church in Burlington, Vermont.
It was a lot.
I was burning out and realized that one of the two had to go. While my heart was in the church planting, I knew the money was in GE. I was worried about being unable to support my wife and four children, pay my mortgage, among other things, if I were to leave GE. I experienced tremendous stress and anxiety over that decision; I was paralyzed by the fear of what might come next.
One day, while in the church before a service, I noticed a crucifix at the front of the church. I’m not sure why it caught my eye, but it did, and I had a remarkable experience in that moment. It is not enough to say that I was simply reminded of the sovereignty of God. No, it was much more like tasting or swimming in his sovereignty. It was God’s supernatural impartation of himself to me in that moment. The stress and anxiety lifted almost immediately. In that moment—in the face of his love, grace, and sovereignty—none of my anxious thoughts about the future had any weight.
This is not to say that I never had another anxious thought about that decision; the moments came and went. But I was never again paralyzed by them.
It was probably more than a year ago that Fr. Tim approached me with the idea of leading a healing conference on overcoming anxiety. It struck me as a good and timely idea. As a pastoral counselor, the most common issue I encounter in people is anxiety. While it is not always the problem of anxiety that brings a person to counseling, nearly everyone whom I see struggles with it to one degree or another.
I did a Google search on “anxiety” and “news.” If you were to do the same thing you would find hundreds of articles and blog posts to read. You would find a debate about the existence of an anxiety epidemic, especially among younger generations today. You would find any number of theories about what is driving the proliferation of anxiety (if there is one). You would find that a lot of people are thinking and talking about anxiety.
Whether there truly is a new epidemic of anxiety around us or not, the experience of anxiety itself is not new. What we now name as anxious feelings have been known in the past as worries, cares, fretting, burdens—even existential angst.
It has always been part of the human condition. For this reason the Scriptures have much to say about it. We see the problem of burdens or anxieties throughout the Bible.
The Psalmist writes, “Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my (anxious) thoughts (or cares), and see if there is any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”
We see that we can bring our burdens to God:
Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your burdens on him, because he cares for you. (1 Peter 5:6-7)
Cast your burden on the Lord, and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved. (Psalm 55:22)
We see that God walks with us through our pain:
For I, the Lord your God hold your hand; it is I who say to you “Fear not, I am the one who helps you.” (Isaiah 41:13)
We see that Jesus is ready to receive us:
“Come to me all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28)
The problem of anxiety is not new, and it is known to God. He knows and, more significantly, he cares. He is the one who helps us, gives us rest, and values us more than the birds of the air. I have seen this in the Scriptures and I have known this in my own life.
On September 28 and 29, Christ the Redeemer is partnering with us at the Isaiah 40 Foundation to offer a seminar on Overcoming Anxiety. It is my hope and expectation that as we invite the Lord to meet us in our anxiety, he will minister his healing grace to us there.