“It’s not the load that breaks you down, it’s the way you carry it.” Lou Holtz
Anxiety is part of our daily lives. It is the evidence we are alive and that we are still spiritually learning, challenging our minds and expanding our hearts. Some people call it our growing edge. Most of us are familiar with performance anxiety. I remember feeling anxious about my speech class my Sophomore year of high school. Somehow knowing I was to practice public speaking in front of my peers made me very uncomfortable. But, getting better at public speaking didn’t help me feel less anxious. It opened doors for me to speak in places I never dreamed including the Oxford Union Society which is a debating society in the city of Oxford, England. I had the privilege to debate in the same chamber as hundreds of others over the years such as Benazir Bhutto, President Ronald Reagan, Mother Theresa, Yasser Arafat, and Malala Yousafzai. I used the same podium Prime Minister Churchill used to make is address in 1945 that the war with Germany had ended.
You may have noticed a slightly different variety of anxiety plaguing our society. Global competition, increased longevity, 24/7 technology are some of the factors that drive the type of anxiety known as pressure anxiety in our contemporary lives. Pressure anxiety is different from the performance anxiety or general anxiety most of us experience. Performance anxiety is related to performing a task. Pressure anxiety is a perpetual feeling that if you do not continue to produce—you will be weeded out. There is no task to perform but there is a feeling that certain expectations and results must be met. For example, a corporation needs to meet third quarter sales goals in order to remain solvent or educators need to see improved test scores or lose important funding. Parents may feel this pressure as they consider what type of parenting their children require. The pressure is increased by the underlying feeling of uncertainty. We wonder whether or not we’ve got what it takes to meet the expectations and to gain great results.
72% of Americans feel stressed out.* That’s 3 out of 4 of us! Stressful feelings, pressure and performance can be ingredients of a whipped up life of chaos. They can block our ingenuity. They stand in the way of our creative, innovative and explorative process. The keep us locked in a tiny, ineffective jail cell. When I think about it, stress, anxiety and fear have been negatively effecting our God-honoring ordered world since we left the Garden of Eden. Sometimes, the harmful effects of all types of anxiety are tied to feelings of worthiness or self-loathing. I don’t think anxiety is evil but it can mess with our internal world if we are not fully convinced of our place with Christ in God. Just think about the chain reaction that follows the chaos-induced line of thought and why Jesus Christ must intervene. Jesus can and will intervene by your invitation.
This Sunday, we will talk more about anxiety and fear. Matthew’s narrative describes an epic story about Peter as he was challenged to expand his faith and get out of the boat. Not only Peter learned who Jesus Christ really is. I believe Matthew was sitting in the boat in the midst of a storm. How else could Matthew tell the story with such passion and detail? Peter actually did walk on water. But, when he focused on the circumstances instead of the one who called him, he began to sink. He lost faith in himself and reached out to Jesus.
Friends, you and I are called to do great things in the name of Jesus. Far too many of us are still waiting for the opportunity when Jesus has already called us to ‘come.’ Consider what you could accomplish if Jesus provided a clean slate for you with regards to anxiety and fear. What could the next chapter of your life include?
‘For we live by faith, not by sight.’ 2 Corinthians 5:7
*Pressure Anxiety: A Contemporary Plague : https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/thicken-your-skin/201503/pressure-anxiety-contemporary-plague