Arthur Shearman, Worcester, England
Anxiety and nervous disorders rank among the major problems of this age. If not actual diseases in themselves, they lie at the root of many of the illnesses which are affecting people, young as well as old.
Many young people will tell you today that they "are worried sick", that they "just can't cope" and that they "can't take any more". These expressions of tension give some impression of the underlying stresses and strains being experienced by the younger generation. Great pressures are exerted in the realms of education, of family life and of moral values.
Frequently a young person is heard to complain that no one among the older folk understands "me"-that nobody is prepared to listen. In matters of sex, standards which pass as acceptable in society at large commonly challenge the Christian concepts of purity and decency. The struggles and dilemmas which young people face over these various issues tend towards anxious thought and worry, sometimes seemingly beyond the limits of the individual's endurance. It appears that the suicide rate among young folk today is at its highest level ever.
The increase of drug traffic and alcoholism among youth is confirmation in itself of the size of the underlying problem. The argument is sometimes advanced, "You can do nothing about the cause-it is too deeply engrained. But we can help dull the effects". Consider some of these "effects".
There is fear, the dread of the unknown, the terror of things that might happen, the perils which arise in an insecure society. There is failure, the inability to achieve what is needed to measure up to the required standards and to find acceptance in the eyes of others. There is frustration, the feeling that every door is shut in your face, that there is no love, no acceptance, even no point in living.
These effects can lead to another: a feeling of futility. In words that were used long ago, "vanity of vanities; all is vanity", Eccles. 1.2. Life is felt to be plain "boring". So "let's drown the boredom and monotony", "Let's run away from it", "Let's take a trip that makes us feel bigger and life more exciting". But so often the trip ends in tragedy and, even when it doesn't, there is always the return to the reality of the world from which escape was sought.
All that we have considered so far makes depressing reading. Thankfully, there is more to say. We are able to offer three vital remedies, each of which is associated with the Christian life, and each of which we believe can be applied to the problems created by anxiety and worry. As we look at each of these briefly, we need to remember that they are not magical remedies, not some forms of "spiritual opiate" nor just some slick answers to silence complaints. These remedies consist of sound values, and represent cures for care as prescribed by the Lord Himself.
1. The first remedy offered is that of trust and confidence in God. This puts God in His true perspective regarding all human needs. "Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee", wrote the prophet, "because he trasteth in thee", Isa. 26. 3-4. "Because"-this marks the all-important point. Instead of fretting, worrying, feverishly seeking to find some solution and usually yielding to introspection and fear, there should be the readiness to "trust in him at all times", Psa. 62. 8. "Trust in the Lord with all thine heart" was the counsel of one far wiser than we, Prov. 3. 5.
The Lord Jesus taught His disciples that the desires and demands of life should never be the subject of anxious thought. Rather, these things should be committed in trust to the Father in heaven, the One who feeds the sparrows and clodies the lilies and who knows all that we need, Matt. 6. 25-34. Remember, trust honours God!
The second remedy offered is that of prayer. This puts our needs into their true perspective. "Be careful (i.e., anxious) for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God", Phil. 4. 6. Young Christians often find it difficult to pray. Indeed, it is never an easy exercise specifically and believingly to commit our affairs to the Lord. If in nothing we are to be anxious, in everything we must be prayerful! The only ground on which we can enjoy the thought-surpassing peace of God is that of telling Him all our known needs, v. 7. Remember, there are no needs too small for Him to meet!
The final remedy for anxiety is that of submission. This puts us into our true perspective. It may well be that we suffer a lot of stress and strain because we will not allow God to have His way with us. Ponder the words of the apostle Peter, "Humble yourselves dierefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time: casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you", 1 Pet. 5. 6-7. These are glorious words with which to end our meditation. "Your cares" describe the needless anxieties and worries which express our weakness. "He cares" does not mean that He is anxious about our needs and concerns. Indeed, the word translated "cares" differs from that which occurred just before. Literally, Peter assures us that "it matters to Him about you". Here is a tranquillising message for us-each one of us is His personal concern! We must learn that it is in the humble acceptance of and quiet submission to the will of God that we are able to cast every care upon Him. Remember, He does not fail. He is always sufficient! Is there tension? Is there stress? Is there anxiety? Then trust, pray and submit, and thereby prove that your God is "the God of peace".