By Joe Kovacs
We live in a frantic, pressure-packed world full of trouble.
Everything seems to be happening at a faster pace than ever, and millions of Americans are now suffering from stress, anxiety and sometimes even depression because of it.
The news itself confirms it. A recent story from U.S. News and World Report blared the headline, "Stress Is Keeping Americans Up at Night."
It has the results of a survey by Bankrate.com indicating a stunning 69 percent of Americans say they occasionally lose sleep due to something they're worried about. Yes, about seven in every 10 people.
The top fret-maker for many people is relationships, with 41 percent in the survey saying it keeps them up at night. A close second at 36 percent was financial concerns preventing people from plunging into a good night's sleep.
After relationships and money concerns, 30 percent of people say work stresses them out, followed by 28 percent blaming health, and 14 percent indicating politics was causing their insomnia.
The research indicates issues surrounding the family are especially worrisome, as they're "the biggest source of stress among people who lose sleep because they're up thinking about their relationships."
"If you're economically secure but someone in your family is not, you might worry about what's going to happen to them," says Jennifer Ailshire, a University of Southern California professor who has studied the tie between poor sleep and family relationships. "You could have worries from a relationship because you're actually in conflict with someone. Or it could be a very good relationship, but you're concerned about a sibling or a parent or an adult child who themselves are going through either economic hard times or their own relationship issues or maybe health scares in their life."
Meanwhile, college students are pressing the panic button more than ever.
The College Fix reports "the number of college students looking to counseling for help for mental health struggles is drastically increasing across the nation, according to studies, campus counselors, and many recent news reports."
"Data over the past five years from counseling centers nationwide have shown that the top two reasons students come for counseling are anxiety and depression," Karen Nakayama, director of the Counseling Center at Fort Lewis College in Durango, Colorado, told the Fix.
"Currently, anxiety is number one and depression is second. In the past, depression was first and anxiety was second," she said.
No matter what people are concerned about, it seems like worrying is on the rise. But can it be stopped, or at the very least, reduced in some measure to get people back to sleeping normally?
The advice from the Bankrate survey may seem typical. It quotes Brad Klontz, associate professor of practice at the Financial Psychology Institute, who says writing about what's worrying you can help.
"Dump this stuff from your brain onto paper. And I think part of us relaxes when we believe that maybe we're perhaps going to take some steps to fix this stressor," Klontz said. "Get over the shame, come up with a list of things you need to do and then start asking for help."
Ailshire at USC suggests other ways to calm you down before bed, including exercise, yoga and even meditation. Those ideas may work for you and they may not.
But the obvious and best answer to the problem of our personal fears and anxiety is rarely, if ever, mentioned in today's news stories. Perhaps because it involves the G-word. It's a word that some people find more offensive than the F-word or the N-word. And what is the G-word? The word is God.
Yes, folks, your very own Designer and Creator actually has quite a bit to say on the matter of anxiety and stress, but many people don't know about it, don't put it into practice or outright reject it because it comes from the Holy Bible.
So let's crack open the Good Book and see what it has to say.
First of all, Scripture is no stranger to people who have all kinds of stress, anxiety and turmoil in life. Here are some examples from the Psalms:
I am faint and severely crushed; I groan because of the anguish of my heart. (Psalm 38:8 CSB)
So I confess my iniquity; I am anxious because of my sin. (Psalm 38:18 CSB)
I am weary from my groaning; with my tears I dampen my bed and drench my couch every night. (Psalm 6:6 CSB)
King David wrote many of the Psalms, which are actually songs, and he was personally familiar with severe cases of stress and anxiety. Just imagine how many sleepless nights he endured dealing with his adulterous affair with Bathsheba, her subsequent pregnancy and his secret plot to kill her husband Uriah the Hittite, not to mention the agony he went through not knowing if Bathsheba's child from his sinful union would die or not after being stricken by God. (The child did die.) All that would make anyone quake.
And stress was not relegated to the Old Testament only. The Bible says the best of all men, Jesus Christ, knew first-hand what it was like to suffer intensely, even before He was flogged and nailed to wood. In his final prayers, Scripture says:
Being in anguish, he prayed more fervently, and his sweat became like drops of blood falling to the ground. (Luke 22:44 CSB)
So there is no doubt the Word of God is familiar with what human beings go through at their most turbulent times. Anxiety and fear are serious problems, and can be extremely distressing.
But there are numerous statements from your Maker that can help us deal with anxiety when it does strike. Interestingly, yoga, exercise and writing down one's worries are hard to find in Scripture as cures for the problem.
One famous song by David says: "When I am afraid, I will trust in you. In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?" (Psalm 56:3-4 CSB)
So David does acknowledge his fear, but immediately notes that when he's afraid, he will trust in God to help. It's no secret that "In God We Trust" is one of America's mottos, but do we really trust in Him? Or do we merely claim to?
God says through the prophet Isaiah we shouldn't fear, since He is personally with us providing divine strength and help:
Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be afraid, for I am your God. I will strengthen you; I will help you; I will hold on to you with my righteous right hand. (Isaiah 41:10 CSB)
For I am the LORD your God, who holds your right hand, who says to you, 'Do not fear, I will help you. (Isaiah 41:13 CSB)
The Bible is replete with statements urging us not to fear, because fear does not help relieve stress or anxiety. It only makes the situation worse.
In the New Testament, Jesus gives a good-sized discussion about fear and anxiety, and He instructs us to put them out of our minds. It may take some effort on our part to accomplish that, but He provides some simple examples to demonstrate why we should put our faith and trust in God instead of worrying ourselves sick:
"Therefore I tell you: Don't worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Isn't life more than food and the body more than clothing?
"Consider the birds of the sky: They don't sow or reap or gather into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Aren't you worth more than they?
"Can any of you add one moment to his life-span by worrying?
"And why do you worry about clothes? Observe how the wildflowers of the field grow: They don't labor or spin thread.
"Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was adorned like one of these.
"If that's how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and thrown into the furnace tomorrow, won't he do much more for you -- you of little faith?
"So don't worry, saying, 'What will we eat? ' or 'What will we drink?' or 'What will we wear?'
"For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them.
"But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be provided for you.
"Therefore don't worry about tomorrow, because tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own." (Mathew 6:25-34 CSB)
By calling people "you of little faith," Jesus is saying that if we're constantly worried and anxious, we actually have very little faith. God clearly takes care of the animals and flowers, and says we're worth much more than those parts of creation. And our Father in heaven knows we need to have nourishment and clothing. The solution is to seek the kingdom of God and the righteousness of God, and all our needs will be provided. In other words, our top goal must be entrance into His eternal kingdom, and He'll gladly give us everything we need.
At the end of a similar discussion in Luke, Jesus added:
"Don't be afraid, little flock, because your Father delights to give you the kingdom." (Luke 12:32 CSB)
The apostle Paul also addressed the subject of fears and anxiety, saying:
Don't worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6-7 CSB)
This is not only a directive against fretting, but it also tells us to have direct discussions with God in prayer, letting Him know what's on our mind and what we'd like Him to do. That's when the supernatural peace of God becomes divine protection for our hearts and minds, allowing us to experience tranquility.
Paul also noted:
For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but one of power, love, and sound judgment. (2 Timothy 1:7 CSB)
What he is saying is that when we become followers of God and receive the Spirit of God in us, we won't be afraid, because God's Spirit is not one that causes us to be afraid. Instead, because we receive power, love and sound judgment, our hearts and minds with be filled with those better things, instead of being afraid all the time.
In the final book of the Bible, in Revelation 21:8, it actually states that "the fearful" or "cowards," depending on the translation, will join murderers, idolaters, liars, the sexually immoral and those who practice witchcraft in the lake of fire, which is the second death. This is serious stuff, a matter of eternal life or eternal death.
Thus, we all need to make every effort to stop being afraid, and put our complete faith and trust in the One who is with us, strengthens us and helps us. We need to stop rebelling against God's instructions and instead become His obedient children. Then, He will grant us the peace of God which surpasses all understanding, and we can have our minds at rest, enabling us to get the physical sleep we all need.
As the song says, God "gives sleep to the one he loves." (Psalm 127:2 CSB)
Copyright 2018 Joe Kovacs. All rights reserved.
Joe Kovacs is the author of the new book Shocked by the Bible 2, as well as his previous books Shocked by the Bible and The Divine Secret, all on sale in bookstores and Amazon.com. Learn more at www.shockedbythebible.com