Are You Stressed Out?

There are three major issues we all face; anger, addiction, and anxiety. We all struggle with irritation and anger. We all deal with worry and anxiety. And we all find places other than God to find comfort when life is hard. When talking about addiction, Gerald Mays, in his book Addiction and Grace, says, “To be alive is to be addicted, and to be alive and addicted is to stand in need of grace.”

I think the same can be said about stress, worry and anxiety. To be alive is to be anxious and to be alive and anxious is to stand in need of grace!

Synonyms for Anxiety

Take a moment and think of all the words that we use to describe the experience of anxiety. Here are a few:

  • Fretting
  • Discontentment
  • Obsessing
  • Stressing out
  • Feeling angst
  • Worrying
  • Fear
  • Loss of control
  • Over-concern
  • Panic
  • Restlessness
  • Insecurity

That’s just a start!

The Experience of Anxiety

What about the experience of anxiety? What words come to mind when you think about when you are worried?

  • Heavy burden on your chest or back
  • Anger
  • Gastrointestinal issues
  • Racing thoughts
  • Fixated
  • Feeling out of control
  • Self-focused
  • Tunnel vision
  • Sickness
  • Loss of appetite
  • Uncontrollable breathing
  • Withdrawn
  • Sleeplessness
  • Dry mouth
  • Melt-down
  • Trapped
  • Excessive emotions
  • Agitated
  • Isolated

Here is how two experts describe the experience of anxiety:

Mental and physical bodily functions find in anxiety a meeting place that is unparalleled in other aspects of human life.

– John Nehemiah

Anxiety is often exhibited through disturbances in cardiovascular, gastrointestinal, and/or musculoskeletal systems...anxiety derives from the Indo-Germanic root, ANGH, which means narrowing, constricting, and tightening feelings, usually in the chest or throat. In such cases, people might not be consciously aware of the anxiousness, although it is being expressed through stomach aches, heart palpitations, difficulties in breathing, and the like.

– Allan Horwitz, Anxiety, A Short History

If you are honest, you can identify with these descriptions.

I remember when I was a pastor, my neck would seize up about every six months. The stress of pastoral ministry was exhibiting its presence in muscle spasms. I have also experienced lower back pain and elevated blood pressure during a stressful season, as well as many other physiological signs that are a part of the experience of worry. Because of anxiety’s physiological impact, it can even threaten to shorten our lives!

Can Scripture Comfort the Anxious?

I would like to focus on two short verses as a way of introducing how Scripture begins to speak to the anxious.

Matthew 6:34

Sometimes reading this entire (6:25-34) passage can actually increase your anxiety! It doesn’t seem like Jesus is being very tender in his tone. On several occasions in this short section he commands us not to worry. Let’s focus on just one thing in the last sentence of verse 34.

Each day has enough trouble of its own.

In his brief and simple words, Jesus offers comfort. What is Jesus acknowledging in verse 34? Each day has enough trouble of its own. He is acknowledging that it makes sense to worry. We live in a very troubled world. The longer you live, the more you understand that there are no guarantees. Life is fragile. We all struggle with worry. It is not just a struggle for a small select group. Some may worry more than others, but all of us experience it.

Hebrews 2:17

For this reason, he had to be made like his brothers in every way. In order that he might become a merciful high priest…

Living without worry
By Timothy Lane

Jesus was made like us in EVERY way. Though he was without sin, he identified with our suffering and much more. Because he became a human being, he understands our struggle. He has experienced more sorrow and stress than anyone, and he promises to be empathetic towards us in our stress and anxiety.

Right Now

Take a moment right now and look over your life; your childhood, teenage years, young adulthood, marriage, family and later adulthood. Take a moment to reflect on these various seasons of your life as you meditate on these two verses. Let these verses inform how you talk to Jesus as you draw near to him and as he comforts you with his grace, power and presence.

Copyright © 2016 Timothy S. Lane

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Tim Lane

Dr. Timothy S. Lane is the President of the Institute for Pastoral Care and has a counseling practice in Fayetteville, GA. He is a minister in the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA), having been ordained in 1991 and a member of Metro-Atlanta Presbytery. Tim has authored Living Without Worry: How to Replace Anxiety with Peace, and co-authored How People Change and Relationships: A Mess Worth Making. He has written several mini-books including PTSD, Forgiving Others, Sex Before Marriage, Family Feuds, Conflict, and Freedom From Guilt.

He has experience in both campus ministry (University of Georgia, 1984-1987) and pastoral ministry where he served as a pastor in Clemson, SC from 1991 until 2001. Beginning in 2001 until 2013, he served as a counselor and faculty at CCEF in Philadelphia, PA (Christian Counseling & Educational Foundation). Beginning in 2007, he served as its Executive Director until 2013.

In 2014, Tim and his family re-located to his home state, Georgia, where he formed the non profit ministry the Institute for Pastoral Care. His primary desire and commitment is to help pastors and leaders create or improve their ability to care for the people who attend their churches.  For more information about this aspect of Tim's work, please visit the section of this site for the Institute for Pastoral Care. He continues to write, speak and travel both nationally and internationally. Tim is adjunct professor of practical theology at several seminaries where he teaches about pastoral care in the local church.