Yesterday, I preached a message from Matthew 6:25-33 dealing with subject of anxiety and worry. In his book, Anxiety Free, Dr. Robert Leahy reports that 18 percent of Americans will suffer from anxiety disorder. That is twice the number of people who suffer from depressions and if we add in those who report having some type of anxiety disorder at any point in their lives, the number increases to nearly thirty percent. Leahy says that “The average American child today exhibits the same level of anxiety as the average psychiatric patient did in the 1950′s.” Let that sink in for a minute.
I experienced my own bout with anxiety a few weeks ago when I ended up spending four days in the intensive care unit due to problems related to my blood pressure. When I first went in they were not sure what was happening or whether or not I was having a stroke. After a couple of days of not sleeping and under the constant concern about what was happening to me, I experienced wave after wave of anxiety, that honestly felt as if it would tear me apart. Anyone who has ever experienced a panic or anxiety attack knows the helpless fear that washed over your entire being in these moments. Amazingly, I have been preaching through the Gospel of Matthew for the better part of the last year and have just now come to Matthew 6:25-34. The experience of the past several weeks has helped to give me a renewed insight and appreciation for this passage. One of the first things that we need to notice in this passage is that it gives us the causes of our anxiety. Let me show you five causes of anxiety that I have found in this passage:
1.) Anxiety is caused by a limited worldview (v.25)
In verse 25b, Jesus asks “Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?” The simply truth is that we often get anxious because we develop a purely materialistic view of the world. In other words, we allow our hearts and minds to become so captured by the things of this material world that we neglect to focus on things of eternal significance. This is a great trap for the soul and ensnares us in the troubles and cares of this life, while neglecting the weightier and more significant issue of eternity. Our lives are more than physical and temporal, we are created for eternity. Maintaining a Biblical worldview, therefore, is essential for eliminating anxiety.
2.) Anxiety is caused by a low theology (v.26)
Sometimes our anxiety is caused simply by having too low of a view of God. Notice in verse 26, that Jesus says, “Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?” There are really three important truths taught in this verse. First, God is aware everything that is going on in your life. If He is aware of the needs of sparrows, He certainly is aware of your problems. Second, God is able to meet these needs. He feeds seemingly insignificant sparrows, surely He is able to feed and take care of you. Finally, YOU are important to God. If God cares for sparrows, surely He will take care of you and I who are created in His image. Meditating on these three truths alone will cure a great deal of anxiety.
3.) Anxiety is caused by overestimating our own ability (v.27)
At the heart of worry is the wrong-thinking that says we can control or determine our own destiny. Fundamentally, it is an overestimation of our abilities. In verse 27, Jesus asks, “And which of you by being anxious can add a single our to his span of life?” Here we see the acidic nature of anxiety most vividly. In the throes of anxiety we buy into the lie that merely by worrying about something, we can control or change the outcome. In reality, no one has ever changed a single thing by worrying about it. One night when I was in the hospital the nurse was concerned about my heartbeat and made the off-handed remark that she needed to keep an eye on it. That was all it took to set me into a tail spin of worry. In fact, that night I refused to go to sleep, even fighting against the medication they gave me to help me sleep, because I was worried about my heart beat. I was determined to watch it and make sure it didn’t go too low. As you can imagine, this was a futile endeavor and it nearly broke me the the next morning. It seems stupid and foolish now, but at the time anxiety had absolutely convinced me that I could control my own heartbeat. I imagine that if you looked carefully you could find places where the acid of anxiety is eating away at your life simply because you have overestimated your ability to deal with a problem by yourself.
4.) Anxiety is caused by underestimating God’s love (v.28)
In verses 28-32 Jesus reminds us of the amazing love of God, which brings us to the most important cause of anxiety— when we underestimate the love of God we end up neglecting the Gospel. I am convinced that the gospel of Jesus Christ is the single most important thing that we can study and meditate upon. The deeper I reflect on the gospel the further I am transported into the love of God. The gospel is the ultimate remedy for the acid of anxiety in our lives. Anxiety will eat away at our lives and take away our joy. The Gospel on the other hand takes further into the grace, mercy and love of Jesus. The more we understand how much God loves us, the more we learn to trust Him even when we are going through the challenges of life.
Have you experienced the acid of anxiety eating away at your life? It helps to share your story with other believers.