College counselors and researchers are saying today’s college young people are the most anxious generation ever. They are anxious about friendships, dating, grades, their appearance, their hopes for a good job or career, anxious about money, and stimulated with new anxieties about what someone else might say about them in online social networks. Parents worry that they will miss out on the better life that each generation hopes for the next. Ours is a time of diminished job security. Fewer people attend church and many people distrust the government as well as other leaders. We become accustomed to responding to every “beep” from our smart phone because there may be a message we don’t want to miss. We are all part of an anxious era. And what am I really missing?
In contrast, Psalm 97 says Light dawns for the righteous, and joy for the upright in heart. Rejoice in the Lord, O you righteous, and give thanks to his holy name! (Vv11-12 NRSV). When I live in complete trust in God, my peace and calm allow me to live open to the world and ready to receive every bit of beauty, to notice and enjoy the immense variety of people, to marvel at the curious, mysterious endless array of natural wonders. I don’t want to miss a thing. But when I am bound up with anxious thoughts, frozen with worries about things over which I have no power to control, things that might or might not happen, my perception of the beautiful things of life fades out. God’s gifts of beauty are all around us in the wonders of nature, flowers, trees, animals, the ever-changing sky. And we miss God’s gifts in the people we meet every day. If, instead, we ask “How’s it going today?” or just take notice of someone’s face and give them a smile, we often can connect and both of us go on feeling better about life. There are wonderful stories untold, unless we have patience to wait for them. Some elderly person you know has had adventures you would never guess. Our friend, Joe, seems to have lived through many chapters of life with more joy and satisfaction than most of us. I have been blessed by hearing his stories.
If we are handicapped by anxiety, we miss out on these beautiful things. We are like someone walking through a museum of the finest artistic works who sees none of them because we are intent on finding a restroom, or just a place to sit down. Anxiety steals our appreciation of life and much of the joy of living. That’s one reason Jesus so often tells us not to worry, as in Matt. 6:25, “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?” Jesus also says one reason the Word does not flourish in some people is this: “Still others, like seed sown among thorns, hear the word; but the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful.” (Mark 4:18–19, NIV84)
So it must be pretty important to conquer our tendency to worry. It is like an enemy within. It is a spiritual battle. And the best defense is simple trust in God, in his goodness and mercy. “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” (Philippians 4:6, NIV84)
Don’t miss out on life by worrying about it.