Attacking Anxiety

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For our anniversary dinner yesterday, Jill and I got take-aways from our favourite Chinese restaurant, Foo Wah, in Glenanda. Peter and Glynis Cable introduced this restaurant to us many years ago. As we drove into its parking lot, the atmosphere was eerie. There were only two other cars in a place ordinarily bustling with customers. As we entered to pick up our food, I heard the customer before me saying, “My customers are telling me they have no money to pay me. What can I do?” I felt sorry for him. I felt sorry for the proprietors of what has been, until now, a successful restaurant. The manager told us that half his staff would work this week and the other half next week. Alternating is the only way to guarantee his employees some income. A profound sadness struck me and, on the drive home, I began to mentally wrestle with my own anxieties. By the time we arrived home for a “romantic dinner,” I was much better. Having talked truth to my heart, I found myself trusting the Lord and resting in his loving and all wise providence, undergirded by the promises of his word. God’s truth helped me to attack my anxieties.

Solomon wrote, “Anxiety in a man’s heart weighs him down, but a good word makes him glad” (Proverbs 12:25). In other words, a good word is one of God’s means of attacking anxieties.

The word “anxiety” refers to fear, heaviness, care, or sorrow. The “cares of our existence,” Solomon says, “cause depression,” some translations put it. But a “good” or “gracious” or “kind” or “beautiful” word, literally, “makes one gleesome.”

The picture is a strong one, which highlights the power of healthy communication to transform one’s perspective. And in these days, we need such powerful words.

One day, God willing, our conversations will move beyond the coronavirus and the hardships and heartaches it has brought. But for today, at least, many are living with anxiety, fearful of the future, and many are burdened with the cares of today. How can we respond? How can we attack these anxieties? By preparing and committing ourselves to speak “a good word.” I’m not talking sentimental clichés and Pollyanna platitudes. Instead, I’m talking about the kind of words Solomon had in mind: kind words, gracious words, hopeful words, beautiful words, carefully selected words with a view to truthfully encouraging the anxious.

Platitudes such as, “Don’t worry, be happy” may make for a popular song, but they won’t do much for someone who has lost their income. But gospel words—God’s words—pointing the burdened to the one who owns the cattle on a thousand hills (Psalm 50:10) are a beautiful and helpful reminder. When people are anxiously grumbling about government-prescribed restrictions, responding with the good words about the King of kings who rules over everything (listen to Stuart’s good words this past Sunday about God’s sovereignty) can diffuse what otherwise may erupt into an ugly and cynical conversation. When your co-worker snaps at you, perhaps as a result of fears and frustration, a gracious word of sympathy will probably be more constructive than angry words (Proverbs 15:1). And when those around you are weighed down by uncertainty, what a time for the certain and therefore hopeful words of the gospel! The good news of what God has done for believing sinners through his Son’s death, burial and resurrection is not merely a good word; it is the best word. This gospel is the word that empowers us for another day of victoriously attacking anxiety. It is the word that will “make us glad.”

In the fight with you,

Doug