The Age of Anxiety

The past 100 years have been the most destructive and the most progressive in human history. It was a century that experienced genocide and untold human suffering through two world wars. Yet it was also the era of great technological achievement for humanity—from men on the moon and medical breakthroughs to cell phones and the Internet. In spite of all the advancements, we’re living through times of great stress—personally, nationally and globally. We’re in the age of anxiety. How do we cope with the stressful conditions that surround us? Most worry but don’t know what to do. Is there a way to have lasting peace of mind?

One of humanity’s most critical needs is finding and maintaining peace of mind. Everyone searches for it, but can it really be found?

There are answers that are effective and encouraging, particularly when we face the emotion of paralyzing circumstances, the unexpected loss of a job, the death of a loved one, a failed marriage, feelings of betrayal, health problems. Troubles like these can produce prolonged distress. For the individual, coping is arduous and painful. Without oversimplifying or minimizing such traumas, we can be assured that there is a way to find peace of mind—a quiet, calm mental state that’s not subject to constant anxiety when pressures build. But that way is not where most people go for help.

Many look to self-help techniques to provide solutions. While popular books and tapes on the subject may provide a measure of relief, none addresses the fundamental deficiency of the human spirit. Solving our deepest problems requires more than an effort to simply reprogram our subconscious or learn the latest relaxation techniques.

The answers that bring lasting solutions are spiritual in nature and derived from the principles involved in exercising godly faith. But before we can exercise faith in God, we need to know that He exists and is personally interested in each of us. As individuals we need to think of Him as our Father. So the first step to having peace of mind is to understand that God cares for us in all circumstances and that He has a plan for our lives, both now and in the future. But how can we know that God even exists?

From rugged mountain panoramas to abundant rain forests, the earth fills us with awe. Its seemingly infinite variety is amazing to contemplate and even more difficult to explain in anything but flights of theory and imagination. Whales communicate by underwater sound, but how did they learn? Migrating birds fly thousands of miles and unerringly arrive at the same location year after year. How did they develop such precise guidance systems?

If the apostle Paul were alive today, he might well answer the question about God’s existence as he did in one of his letters more than 1,900 years ago: “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse” (Romans 1:20, New International Version).

Paul also said that “the living God . . . made the heaven, the earth, the sea, and all things that are in them” (Acts 14:15).

The simple belief that God’s existence is evident from what we see in nature has all but disappeared in a world that boldly proclaims humanity’s accomplishments. Yet that childlike trust is the starting point for a right relationship with our Father. But even if we know that He exists, how can we be sure that He cares? If the creation can teach us something of us His existence, perhaps it can teach us something about His concern for us as well.

In the shade of the giant sequoias of California, there’s a special kind of beauty. These magnificent trees have a tranquility and a majesty that belong to nature alone. They capture our attention, not only for their size, but also for their longevity. Some have stood for centuries and bear witness to all the disorder of the past 2,000 years or so. For example, the General Grant Tree is 267 feet tall and 107 feet around the base. Many years ago a fire scarred the General Grant, leaving an A-shaped gash in its trunk, but the tree survived and continues to grow. Fashioned with loving care, these monuments to God’s power testify to the fact that we can, when fire strikes us, do more than survive; we can continue to grow.

Peace of mind begins with the simple belief that our Father has made us with the same care and attention that He gave to the rest of His creation. What’s more, He cares for us above everything else He created. Jesus explained this fundamental truth as recorded in Matthew 6.

Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? . . . So why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; . . . Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?” (Matthew 6:25–30).

This speaks to a relationship between the Creator and His creation that is both simple and profound. It’s based on a quality of trust that we don’t hear much about in our sophisticated, high-tech world. Yet that simple trust is the basis of a faith that assures us God will use His power to intervene for our well-being. God’s intervention requires that we have our priorities in the correct order.

Jesus also said, “Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own” (Matthew 6:34, NIV).

Learning to trust God implicitly for everything is one of life’s great lessons, and it can take a lifetime to accomplish.

True religion is a way of life. More than a once-a-week, philosophical pacifier, it shows us how we should do business, how to treat our spouses and raise our children, and how to treat coworkers, employers, employees and neighbors. It shows us how to deal with everything that life throws at us, including the inevitable traumas.

If we believe that God cares deeply for us—and that He is willing to use His vast power to intervene on our behalf when He sees a willingness in us to conform our lives to His own on the basis of that belief—we can have a peace of mind that defies ordinary human explanation and transcends all human understanding, because it is of God. This is our path to a quiet spirit, to a mind free of troublesome worry.