Coping with Fear, Worry, and Anxiety

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Today’s slice of the bread of life, the Word of God, comes from Matthew 14:22:

And straightway Jesus constrained his disciples to get into a ship, and to go before him unto the other side, while he sent the multitudes away. And when he had sent the multitudes away, he went up into a mountain apart to pray: and when the evening was come, he was there alone. But the ship was now in the midst of the sea, tossed with waves: for the wind was contrary. And in the fourth watch of the night Jesus went unto them, walking on the sea. And when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were troubled, saying, It is a spirit; and they cried out for fear. But straightway Jesus spake unto them, saying, Be of good cheer; it is I; be not afraid. And Peter answered him and said, Lord, if it be thou, bid me come unto thee on the water. And he said, Come. And when Peter was come down out of the ship, he walked on the water, to go to Jesus. But when he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink, he cried, saying, Lord, save me. And immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand, and caught him, and said unto him, O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt? And when they were come into the ship, the wind ceased. Then they that were in the ship came and worshiped him, saying, Of a truth thou art the Son of God.

If you do not worry, if you have never worried, if you do not plan to worry, do not listen to this message; it will be a waste of time. But if worry overshadows your life, listen carefully; the shadow can be dispelled.

We live in an age of anxiety. The image is the image of fear, not the image of faith. We respond to the old Scottish litany:

“From ghoulies and ghosties and long-leggety beasties, and things that go bump in the night, good Lord, deliver us!”

Leslie Weatherhead, famous English preacher of the closing generation, once observed that when an automobile breaks down it is more often the fault of the driver than the fault of the machine. The machine is tough and made to stand a great deal. But the driver of the car gets confused and makes a foolish judgment and the car breaks down, or is wrecked. Occasionally the machine does break down, but not so often.

It is the same with the human body. It is made to stand a great deal of stress. But frequently the “soul-mind,” the driver of the body, gets off beam and the body gets sick and breaks down. Doctors and psychiatrists tell us this over and over again.

What about the chemistry of fear? We are told that under the shock of a piano falling on her child it is often possible for a mother to do the impossible and lift the piano off her child. Immediately afterwards she loses that extra strength and cannot budge the piano. What has happened? Under the shock of possible injury to her child, adrenalin has poured into the mother’s blood stream, and under the stimulus of this powerful drug she does “the impossible” in order to save the child. This automatic reaction of the glands of our body to extreme and sudden fear can save our lives.

This is not the end of the story. Under the influence of continued anxiety – long-drawn-out fear and dread – the adrenalin continues to seep slowly into the blood stream and poisons us. Eventually it can bring about physical breakdown. That is why a psychiatrist who was concerned about his patients was heard to say, “I wish that my patients could understand that the love, the forgiveness, the care of God is available to them at all times and in all circumstances.” This kind of faith counterbalances fear and can bring healing to the physical body.

Doctors agree that emotional stress can bring actual changes in the organs, glands, and tissues of the body. Biofeedback is telling us much more in this field. It’s not so much “what I’m eating” as “what’s eating me” that’s getting us down.

But, back to the slice of the bread of life for today, and even an earlier account of fear in the Garden of Eden.

When worry moves beyond normal concern, it becomes debilitating and even destructive to health. Often children are closer to reality than we adults are. In a little book of children’s “letters to God” there is this:

“dear god, if i was god i wouldn’t be as good at it. Keep it up.” – Michelle.

Perhaps the world needs to realize this truth more deeply.

Fear is the great destroyer. Faith casts out fear. Subconscious fears eat out the inner strength of life; subconscious faith builds quietly the inner strength and brings peace.

Wherever he went, Jesus was always bringing sanity and health. “Fear not, be not afraid,” is Christ’s constant word to the disciples and to us. That is ultimate truth speaking. Christ might say to us,

You are able. The father knows you have need of these things. You can handle any situation that God calls you to. This crisis can he meet. God loves you and upholds you. He will not let you down. Ever!”

Was it not He who said:

“My peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you. Not as the world giveth give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”

In his first inaugural speech in 1933, Franklin D. Roosevelt, the newly elected president of the U.S., addressed a nation that was still reeling from the Great Depression. Hoping to ignite a more optimistic outlook regarding that economic crisis, he declared, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself!”

Fear often shows up in our lives when we are at risk of losing something – our wealth, health, reputation, position, safety, family, friends. All too often it is really only our “stuff” which we cannot take with us when we leave anyhow. It reveals our innate desire to protect the things in life that are important to us, rather than fully entrusting them to God’s care and control…

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