Anxious for an outcome


I’ve always had a busy mind. For as long as I can remember, my thoughts have continuously gone in a million different directions, all at once and all the time.

I have never been formally diagnosed with any sort of attention disorder, but if we’re all honest, most of us fall somewhere on that spectrum from time to time in life. There are so many things that demand our attention on a daily, if not hourly basis. We have places to go, people to see and things to do.

Add to that all of our hopes and dreams of a personal nature, and it’s easy to see an impending issue. There is a sort of supply and demand at play in our heads. The demand is seemingly infinite, while the supply is finite. As the saying goes, “The struggle is real.”

It is a struggle sometimes. When we cut through all of the random thoughts in our heads, we are left with a lengthy list of real-world responsibilities. As our minds continue to add to the queue, we begin to long for resolution. We come to the painful realization that the things that are requiring intellectual attention will eventually require physical action. As I type these words, I can feel the anxiety rising in my soul.

Anxiety is defined as “a feeling of worry, nervousness or unease, typically about an imminent event or something with an uncertain outcome.” As followers of Jesus, we’re often tempted to draw on the words of Jesus in Matthew 6:25-34 or Luke 12:22-31. In both passages, Jesus says, “Do not worry about your life…” Or we go to the words of Paul in Philippians 4:6 where Paul says, “Do not be anxious about anything.”

I’ve had well-intending people point these two passages out to me and say, “Just don’t sweat it, Jeremy. God’s got this.” At other times, people are a little bolder and more judgmental and say, “Worry is a sin.”

First, I would argue that to say worry is a sin is a bit of an overstatement of what the passages at hand actually say. Second, I would argue that it is also an oversimplification of what is actually going on in people’s hearts and minds. That is not to say that God won’t help us deal with unnecessary anxiousness because the text and my own life experience indicate that he will.

It isn’t as simple as flipping an internal off/on switch, nor is it always a right/wrong issue. At times, perhaps anxiety isn’t an issue at all but an opportunity.

In my own life, I find that my anxiety often results in a sense of urgency. If we consider the definition above, anxiety often finds its genesis in “imminent events” and “uncertain outcomes.” It is often the discomfort that comes from our nervous energy that drives us to prepare for what is to come and to put in the requisite effort to determine the outcome.

I realize this isn’t always the case, but as my mind flies from thing to thing, I find if I can order my anxiousness, I can create pathways to profitable resolution. Rather than leading to incapacitation, our anxious energy can lead to an urgency to get things done.

Interestingly enough, both Jesus and Paul move beyond a simple prohibition to a productive outlet. Jesus tells his listeners not to worry about the basics of daily life but to seek first God’s kingdom and his righteousness. To paraphrase, Jesus encourages his followers to move beyond the ordinary and everyday to that which is eternal, becoming who he created us to be and living the full life he has for us.

Likewise, Paul doesn’t stop with saying “don’t be anxious.” He tells his readers to entrust God with their anxiety through prayer. He then goes on to give them a list of productive ways to proceed. He encourages them to think about and pursue that which is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent and praiseworthy.

I have yet to discover a way to completely mitigate the anxiety in my life. If I’m honest, there are times when my mind is going wild and the anxiety overwhelms me. There are other times, however, where my anxiety creates a sense of urgency to act. To be completely honest, anxiousness that leads to an urgency to pursue God’s plans for my life for the good of the world might not be a bad thing.

I understand that there are psychological and biological factors that often play a part in our anxiety. If you are struggling with chronic anxiety, don’t be afraid to talk about it or to seek assistance dealing with it. There’s nothing wrong with seeking a helping hand.

The Rev. Dr. Jeremy Myers is the lead pastor of First Baptist Church in Seymour. Read his blog at Send comments to [email protected].

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