Flatlander Faith

Apologetics from an Anabaptist perspective

Tag Archives: anxiety

Don’t be anxious for anything

We were going through self-examination before communion when a frail elderly brother stood and said “I want to say that I have peace with God, but it seems like I should do something to be able to claim that I have peace. I have prayed God to show me if there is anything I need to make right, but nothing comes to me. I don’t know where I’m at.”

One of the ministers called this brother aside and explained to him that if he had honestly prayed God to show him if there was anything in his way, and nothing came to him, that meant that he did have peace. There was nothing he needed to do. Whereupon the dear old brother was able to say “I believe by faith that I have peace with God.”

Jesus taught: “Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee; leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift” (Matthew 5:23-24). This is something we consider in self-examination — is there something that hinders me from coming to the communion altar with a clear conscience?

This is well and good, and Scriptural, but it can become a pattern. We expect that we need to find something to confess so that we can claim peace with God. And when we make that confession we feel a release of tension and believe we can now claim that our peace with God is unclouded by any transgression on our part.

Most of the time it is probably genuine, but perhaps there are more serious needs that we don’t want to deal with, yet we feel we have done what was expected of us and claim that all is well. Or, we may be like this old brother and feel we need to confess something, but their is nothing to confess.

What we are missing in both cases is that the peace of God cannot be purchased by our efforts, however sincere and earnest we may be. God does want us to keep our lives pure and uncluttered by things that would be a hindrance to ourselves or others. But all our efforts to maintain a pure and upright life do not earn peace with God. It is a gift. “When he giveth quietness, who then can make trouble?” (Job 34:29).

As I grow older the passage in Philippians 4:6-7 becomes more meaningful to me. (I have changed a few words to follow the French translation of these verses.)

Be anxious for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all intelligence, shall guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

The peace which God gives goes far beyond anything that we can attain to by our intellect. We may feel a certain relief by confessing a wrong, or making restitution for something we have done. We need to do those things, but that relief is not necessarily the peace of God. If we are simply doing things according to our own understanding and feeling satisfied in doing them, there is no keeping power in that. Only the peace of God can bring rest to our hearts and minds and guard them from intrusions of needless anxiety.

Non-drug treatments for anxiety and depression

There was a full page ad for Nexalin in a recent edition of the Budget. This is a device which emits a low frequency electrical wave that is said to produce positive results in treating anxiety, depression, insomnia, arthritis, chronic pain and similar conditions. These treatments are available at some chiropractors and other alternative therapy clinics.

I would like to suggest a better solution for these, and other, ailments — get a cat.  Research shows that owning a cat will lower stress, anxiety and blood pressure. Cat owners are less likely to suffer from depression and their risk of having a heart attack is reduced by 40%. There is research showing that the vibrations produced by a purring cat are exactly the right frequency to stimulate the healing of injured bones, muscles, tendons and ligaments. These vibrations also help heal wounds and swelling.

Besides, cats are just a whole lot cuter. You don’t need to make an appointment and travel to the nearest clinic offering this kind of therapy either. Your cat will make his own appointment to de-stress your day.

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Anorexia of the soul

I once knew a Christian lady whose husband was self-centred, domineering and prone to uncontrolled fits of rage.  She, on the other hand, was unselfish, capable and self-controlled.

At some point she developed an interest in fasting.  After a time it became apparent to brothers and sisters in the faith that she had become extremely thin, even emaciated.  We admonished her that this was not a healthy way to live, she needed to keep up her strength to care for her children.  Her response was that she felt so much closer to God when she fasted.  She felt that she was really much more spiritual than the rest of us; we were all much too ready to satisfy our carnal appetites.

After much counselling from a group of brothers and sisters, she began to let go of her attachment to fasting.  I felt at the time that the reason it was so hard for her to let go was because her out of control husband was making life miserable and this was one thing that she could do to feel she was in control.  And we were trying to take that away from her.

In Girls on the Edge*, Dr. Leonard Sax writes about anorexia among teenaged girl;s and young women.  The cases he describes sound very much like the situation I just described.  Girls say that when they don’t eat for a while their mind becomes really clear; they feel calm, relaxed and at peace.

Dr. Sax also writes about girls who cut themselves.  When a friend of my wife’s first talked about this, it seemed so outlandish that I could hardly fathom that such a thing could be happening.  Yet is has become an epidemic among teenage girls, with estimates that upwards of 30% might be doing it.

Dr. Sax says that many girls report feeling a sense of dissociation from their bodies, not really feeling the pain, but rather feeling a sense of euphoria.  Apparently the cutting releases opiate-like chemicals in the brain that give this sensation.

The mother of one of Dr. Sax’s patients described what was happening to her daughter as “anorexia of the soul.”  I have borrowed that phrase for the title of this post.

Anorexia and cutting are not social activities.  The girls that do these things are feeling anxieties and pressures and don’t know how to cope with them in any other way.  They don’t want others to know what they are doing.

Girls growing up today are pressured by the zeitgeist in many contradictory ways.  From a very young age they are pressured to dress and act in a sexually provocative manner, yet the nurturing side of femininity is disdained.  They are taught that their sense of worth needs to come from achievements at work, thus they are expected to be high achievers in school and at work.  Women who choose to dedicate themselves to home and family are almost viewed as being contemptible.   Is it any wonder that girls are confused and stressed beyond their capability to endure?

For those who are able to cast off the blinkers of the zeitgeist, it should be obvious that a Christian stay at home mother makes a greater contribution to the well being of our society than a career woman.  Mothers who are there when their children need them are rewarded with honest, conscientious young men and women who will not be a drain on the budgets and resources of the police services and social service agencies.   As Christian men we should be letting the women in our lives know how much we value their contributions.

* Girls on the Edge, © 2010 by Leonard Sax.  Published by Basic Books, New York

 

Why do young people today look so weird?

I remember when duck tail haircuts were all the rage among teenage boys.  I even  remember wearing a duck tail.  For readers younger than 65, a duck tail required hair long enough to be combed straight back and then parted vertically down the back of the head.  It required a lot of Brylcreem to keep it in place, which led to that generation being labelled “greasers.”

It’s not clear to me if the brush cut came before or after the duck tail.  The brush cut has been around a long time, but there was a time in the fifties when all teenage boys seemed to need a brush cut.  That allowed us to dispense with the “greasy kid stuff.”

The most outlandish thing I can remember about the girls is that one of them smoked.  But of course there were never any cigarettes seen on the school grounds.

But what’s with young people nowadays?  The piercings, the tattoos, the clothes?  Hey, does anyone remember when charcoal and pink were the “in” colours?  That was in 1956 and everyone needed to occasionally show up wearing that colour combination.  Ford even had a model available in two-tone pink and charcoal that year.  One of my cousins had one, now that was a really cool car.  A couple years later, one of the boys in my class refurbished a Model T, painted it pink and used it to drive to school.  That was even more cool.

Chris and I were telling the youth Sunday School class yesterday that the weird young people they see, the ones with the most piercings, tattoos and the weirdest clothes and hair styles, are really the most insecure.  That appeared to be a new thought to them, being as they are fine Christian young people without a trace of rebellion in them.  (Yeah, I know that may be a bit of an exaggeration, but really they are a fine group.)

It seems to me that peer pressure does two things to us when we are young.  We want to set ourselves apart from the older generation, because they are old, they just don’t understand.  However, we need to rebel in the way that our peer group approves.  The more insecure and anxious we feel about acceptance by our peer group, the more extreme we will be in embracing everything we believe will gain us acceptance.  Today is an era of extremes.

It is not only young people who feel anxious and insecure.  Parents are so bombarded by pop psychology about their own lives and the lives of their children, that they have become altogether disoriented.  There are no solid values anymore, only the latest babbling of the latest pop psychology guru.  Children are growing up today with parents who are afraid to restrain them in any way lest they cause irreparable psychological damage.

Yes, I know this may be a bit of an exaggeration too, not all parents are like that.  But when troops of young teenagers roam city parks in the middle of the night, where are the parents?  When a young man smashes a couple dozen side mirrors on cars in the middle of the night, then appears in court several days later with his thoroughly respectable, yet bewildered, parents, something just isn’t working anymore.

There is a French word that describes parents and teens in our day: they are déboussolé.  Literally that means “uncompassed,” although no such word exists in English.  People are disoriented and have lost the compass that would help them find their way.

Surely we don’t just want to teach our young people to avoid the type of appearance and behaviour we consider weird.  That really doesn’t give them the compass they need to guide them through all the pressures and temptations they will face in life.  They need to understand that the answer to anxiety and insecurity is to be rooted and grounded in the faith and love of Jesus Christ.  They should also understand that this is what all the other “weird” young people are lacking and that perhaps some of them will be open to hearing of a genuine remedy for their anxiety and insecurity.

A man who is now an older minister has told me of his younger years.  He was raised by a Christian mother, got converted in his youth, then strayed off into the hippie culture.  One day he was sitting with his friends, smoking pot and discussing the meaning of life.  Suddenly it came to him that he knew what it was they were all searching for.  A whole lot of young people are searching for that answer today, even though it may be hard for them to recognize it as the answer.

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