Under Pressure — What Anxiety Tells Us

Under Pressure — What Anxiety Tells Us

Article by Matt Scheuneman
No longer are we talking about anxiety within the counseling room only. It is a persistent conversation amongst the church and the culture. Years ago, it was seen as a broken piece of you, stigmatized as unhealthy in our culture. Now, we are at a point in society where younger generations are almost celebrating their anxiety.  

In the church, we have not been consistent in discussing it well. Or, if it has been discussed, we cast it off as some demon through our worship and song. “Fear has no place here.” Case in point is this line from a Christian website – “Anxiety is a demon that can dig its ugly talons into us at the worst of moments.” I want to help us look at anxiety in a different light.

In all of us, we have emotions, and some of these emotions get really intense. Most heated are anger, sadness, fear, and shame. Why do we have these? Why do WE ALL have these emotions? If we all have them, wouldn’t that mean we are designed with them – or do they only come from a result of sin? If they are only a result of sin, how could it be that Jesus – perfect in nature – perfect in Spirit – would have these emotions as well?

Let me point to where Christ showed us the example of fear (the core of anxiety):
In the garden, Matthew writes– “And he began to become sorrowful and troubled… saying, ‘My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.’”

God designed us with an alert system to mobilize us to action. The question is, what meaning do we attach to the fear that then leads to an unhealthy action. Christ seemed to have fear in the garden, but He also had full-assuredness of his purpose and what meaning was attached to His fear. 

How terrifying to see the weight of the sins of the world coming to Him in full wrath from His Father. Yet, His fear did not lead to self-protection. It led Him to trust His Father and become our savior.

If we look at the world as it is now, we see an increase in the levels of anxiety, specifically for younger generations. Why the change? One large component is the rise in social media. But deeper than this, we have full, unrestrained access to all of the world’s information. Added to this access is the growth of society’s consensus that we expect perfection in all we do and what others do—this expectation is born within us from the first moments of Adam and Eve at that tree. Acquiring knowledge was as getting close to divinity.

Any image of a “role-model” within our world – from media, sports, social influencers to friends and colleagues- is promoted under this driven, striving, success model. The “beauty” (and terror) of social media is the ability to promote yourself and the achievements you have made continuously.

Culturally we have removed the barriers of access to anything we want. Yet, the tradeoff in all of this is the expectation to perform at unmanageable levels to attain affirmation. To attain the belief that “I am good.”

And here lies the core desire that so many of us long to meet. Can I convince myself and others that I am good?

The thoughts we begin to believe say that “you’re not going to make it!” “You’re going to screw up like last time.” “She’s going to get so mad at you!” “You’re going to let him down.” So much shame ways us down. It’s like shame, plus fear equals intense anxiety.

Christian, if you are in Christ, and He in you, your “Goodness” is no longer determined by your ability to perform. You are good because He says you are good.

Yes, people will be disappointed in us. We will hurt others through our sin. However, who WE ARE is Christ in us; this is the ultimate good. So the question could become, “what do I do with this anxiety – this fear?” First, listen to it. Stop running from it. What is the story it is telling you? How does this story line up with the gospel story in your life – to what Christ confirmed He would do in the garden and completed on that cross? If it aligns with who you are in Christ, it is alerting you to something that God intends you to mobilize in. That mobilization will be to protect, to pursue, and to ultimately tell His story. If it doesn’t line up with the gospel story, it is a lie – and so we cry out to Him in desperation for a better understanding of who we truly are! The demon we cast out is not the emotion. It is the false meaning we have attached to it.

There is truly a benefit to our anxiety if we will examine it. This might be the path to healing for you, as it will surely point you to your Heavenly Father, as it did for Christ in that garden.

Matt Scheuneman

Counselor in Biblical Life Ministry 
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