“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me” (John 14:1).
Much breath and ink is spent thrashing open the pages of the Bible and spitting out its words in an attempt to placate our incessant anxieties. We’re a culture of non-stop. Nothing ever stops – news, social media, entertainment, work, play … sin. When westerners figure out how to do something, it isn’t long before they figure out how to do it faster, cheaper and more consistently. For good or for bad, the average westerner spends many waking hours “consuming” things that other westerners produced. The news used to be in the physical newspaper and an hour or two on the TV. Soon after we figured out how to send the news to people electronically, The Cable News Network (CNN) came along in the 80’s and said, “What if we just never stopped broadcasting the news?” Now, instead of hearing about the news for an hour after dinner, the news is bombarding you at all hours of the day. You’ll get a notification on your phone through your news app or social media app when something happens in the world. And that’s just the news. Multiply that by email, text messages, social media messages then weather alerts then sports notifications and add the random dings that a phone needlessly produces for things like Google maps and Yelp (who really needs an alert when a restaurant opens?) and you’ll have a device that is always going off. On average, people receive 63.5 notifications per day. That may not sound like a lot (if so, you’re in deeper than you think). But, imagine how many times a day the president of the United States gets informed about something from his staff. It’s probably less than your phone informs you about the color of your neighbor’s dog’s Christmas sweater (but it’s so cute!).
We are bombarded with things. This leads to anxiety because the human brain cannot take in this much information. It’s like going to Walmart, every day, and trying to read the brand label on every product on every shelf. You’ll get dizzy and mentally tired and when you leave you won’t remember any of it. Add to this the drama (for good or for bad) of human relationships, the necessities of dealing with life and the trials that we humans face, and you’ve essentially produced a situation where you’re meant to deal with serious things while non-serious things are constantly vying for your attention – like a parent driving in a dangerous snowstorm and the child in the back constantly yelling, “Dad, why are dinosaurs green!?” “Can we get ice cream?” “Who is Elvis?” “Did you know that Johnny threw up one time 2 years ago?” “The Johnsons next door put a red Christmas sweater on their little doggie!!!” My chest is getting tight just imagining being behind that wheel.
Enter popular preachers. “The Bible has the answer!” they say. “You see, right here the Bible says, ‘Oh that you would slay the wicked, O God! O men of blood, depart from me!’ (Ps 139:19). This means that God wants to slay all your anxieties. How? Well let me give you 8 steps that I learned from psychologists.”
Things like this might sound Biblical because the speaker is starting with a Bible verse and then providing concrete means to avoid anxiety. But the problem is, the speaker is merely using a Biblical passage as a launch pad, from which he hastily jumps off, never to return, so that he can relay some pop-counseling, like “turn off your phone” (presented with much show and humor). Is this what the Bible says?
Jesus says, “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me” (John 14:1).
He tells us to refrain from worrying. How? Simplify your life? Be more decisive? Believe in yourself? Reduce the amount of notifications on your phone? No.
Jesus’ cure for anxiety has nothing to do with us, and everything to do with Him. Belief in Jesus is the cure for worry. We might feel better after following 8 steps to a peaceful mind, but we’ve only put a band-aid on the wound of worry. By all means, we should use the practical tips that the world has to offer (like limiting phone notifications). But, if that becomes the good news of the Bible, we’re trading treasure for trite tips. We need to drink deeply from the well of life-giving water as often as we can. Tips and tricks can be used when we have time, but never in the place of reverent worship. This isn’t some pious priorities soapbox, it’s the divine prescription for worry. If we are in awe of God because we wake up every morning to read His word and pray, and gather throughout the week to worship His name with other believers, those little phone notifications get ignored. When you’re in the throne room of grace, you couldn’t care less about Lassie’s little Christmas shirt or your Twitter feed. You can turn off the notifications for those things, but if you’re not enthralled with something else, or better Someone else, your wandering heart will find another thing to be anxious about. So, let’s turn off the popular Christian speakers who offer nothing more than the world, and let’s listen to what the Bible really has to say. That way, we can finally get some peace (Philippians 4:4-7).