‘Anxiety’ is like ‘worry’. It’s an unpleasant emotion that most people feel at some time when they’re faced with challenges. Mild anxiety, like just before a sporting event or an exam, can help people perform at their best. But when anxiety becomes more intense, causes distress, lasts for a longer time and interferes with daily living, then it’s a problem.
If I had sought help for anxiety from a Freudian psychiatrist, I would have been likely to have been asked about my relationship with my mother and my unconscious sexual desires. If I had sought help from some of my Brunswick friends in the 1980’s I may have been asked to rebirth myself through a tunnel of blankets, or write down my dreams, or cry from my window “I’m as mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore.”
A doctor these days may give me a prescription for Valium or send me to a psychologist for some Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. Therapies and medicines for anxiety are being constantly developed and applied, the particular treatment that one receives depends on to whom one was sent on the advice of a friend of a friend.
The opposite of feeling anxiety is having a sense of inner peace. The apostle Paul advised his readers that way to peace was to fill our minds with whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, anything that is worthy of praise.
It’s easy to say this, but it is harder to do. So much in our modern life force feeds our anxiety. Without trying daily news media feeds us buckets of whatever is untrue, the liars and untrustworthy, whatever is dishonourable, the betrayers of trust, the unjust, the impure, the shocking, whatever can be criticised, the shoddy, the bad, anything that is worthy of condemnation. If we are to fill our minds with the good, we need to make time; it is the gift which must be sought again and again, the gift which must be asked for, the door at which a person must knock. When we actively fill our minds with the good and praiseworthy then “the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Phil 4:7)
This is the gospel; and it’s good news.