According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, “Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S., affecting 40 million adults in the United States age 18 and older, or 18.1% of the population every year.”
Luke 12 repeatedly speaks about anxiety and fear, and even earlier in the gospel book, we are told another story about anxiety featuring the sisters, Mary and Martha. While Mary listened at the feet of Jesus, Martha kept herself busy flittering about to make sure everything at the party was just right. Mary received the Words of Jesus easily, but Martha was so full of anxiety that she couldn’t enjoy His company. And so Jesus said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary” (Luke 10:41-42).
Jesus makes it clear that the anxiety we feel is not necessary, and it is right down distracting from the One Thing Necessary: himself.
Anxiety is a cruel taskmaster that drives one deeper and deeper into oneself. Sometimes anxiety is caused by biochemical disorders that can be treated with medication. But anxiety also comes from a wide assortment of causes and events, including Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. This is often caused by simply being a survivor or a witness to terrible events.
Mary received the Words of Jesus easily, but Martha was so full of anxiety that she couldn’t enjoy His company.
Fear is also a great contributing factor to anxiety. Fear makes us anxious about so many things. This has been a gift of the “24 Hour News Cycle.” In 1980, CNN was the first cable news network to broadcast the news, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It rapidly became apparent that if you were going to hold people’s attention for 24 hours a day, the news had to include more than just the facts. The rise of sensationalism in the past 40 years has led us to the now popular phrase, “Fake News.”
How much of our news is factual, and how much is pernicious gossip? Only history will have a clear answer to that question, but one thing is clear, a good amount of what is said has the effect of creating enough anxiety in you to keep you glued to the media source.
In contrast, Jesus tells us not to be distracted by the cares of this world:
And he said to his disciples, “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat, nor about your body, what you will put on. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. Consider the ravens: they neither sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and yet God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds! And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? If then you are not able to do as small a thing as that, why are you anxious about the rest? Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass, which is alive in the field today, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith! (Luke 12:22-28)
If he provides rain and sunshine for such simple things as flowers, how much more does He provide for us? If He clothes the flowers of the field in such beautiful array, how much more will He clothe us in beauty?
This is exactly what He does and has done for you in the waters of Baptism. He has clothed you in Christ Jesus (Gal. 3:27). What could be more beautiful than to be clothed in the robes of your God? What could be of greater honor or esteem?
The author of Hebrews says:
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God (12:1-2).
Is our attention starting to be turned from ourselves to the one who created us and all things? I hope so, for when we fix our eyes on Jesus, the author, and finisher of our faith, the alpha and omega, beginning and end, they are fixed correctly.
The ongoing treatment for our anxiety may well fall in these words, “for you.” Jesus Christ is for you. Jesus came and lived perfection for you, in your place because you could not. He suffered for you so that you would not have to. He died for you, and he took your punishment, for you and in your place on the cross. He rose from the dead, for you, and he promises that you too will share in his resurrection. He ascended into heaven with the promise that he goes to prepare a place for you.
He is the one needful thing, and he is for you. He is the one who does it all, and he does it all for you. When we look to Him, we find comfort for our anxious hearts, for we need not be busy Marthas worried about everything, but we can be restful Marys, sitting at the feet of the Master, receiving all things we need. So, “Fear not little flock, for it is the Father’s good pleasure to give you His Kingdom” (Luke 12:32).
Jesus Christ has finished his work of delivering you from the consequences of your sins and the brokenness of this fallen world.
One last thought. When the darkness of anxiety and depression starts to descend upon you, follow St. Paul’s words, “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things” (Phil. 4:8).
Jesus Christ has finished his work of delivering you from the consequences of your sins and the brokenness of this fallen world. There is no more true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent thing which is worthy of our praise to consider other than Jesus and his love and care for you.