We can’t help but think that the recent global turmoil has something to do with it. Or that national political tension has had an impact. Or that financial issues, health issues, or broken relationships in our own lives are playing a part. But no matter what we chalk it up to, Americans have long been known as one of the most overworked and least healthy people in the world. Now we can add “most anxious” to that list.
That’s right, America is by far the most anxious nation on Earth.
San Antonio pastor and best-selling author Max Lucado recently wrote an op-ed for USA Today highlighting this massive problem. He quotes National Institute of Mental Health statistics that indicate 50 million Americans will feel the effects of a panic attack, phobias, or other anxiety disorders every year.
“The land of the stars and stripes has become the country of stress and strife,” Lucado writes. And it’s true; more than just a second-rate psychological symptom, chronic anxiety is a nationwide epidemic.
“It’s a feeling of dread, an edginess, a cold wind that won’t stop howling. And even when the storms abate, there is a sense that the next one is coming. Always...coming. Sunny days are just an interlude. You can’t relax. All peace is temporary, short term. Anxiety is a thief, taking our sleep, our energy, our well-being and our peace.”
To make matters worse, our digital age is immersing us in a what Lucado calls a “constant sea” of adrenaline that only fuels that anxiety:
“Every few seconds changes and new threats are imported into our lives thanks to smart phones, TVs and computer screens. In our grandparents’ generation news of an earthquake in Nepal would reach around the world some days or weeks later. In our parents’ day the nightly news communicated the disaster. Now it is a matter of minutes or even seconds. We’ve barely processed one crisis before we hear of another.”
But Lucado offers a straight-up solution: prayer. Rather than address the topic in vague spiritual suggestions, however, he offers four very practical steps:
“Don’t stew over the problems that are besetting you or your neighbor. Ask God for help as soon as you identify a need.”
“When we boil our concerns down to a specific request, they become right-sized. Vague threats loom larger than concrete challenges.”
Pray for and with others.
“When we consider the problems of others and enlist their help with ours, our concerns become more manageable.”
Pray with thanksgiving.
“Anxiety and gratitude cannot occupy the same space. When we catalog what are thankful for, our list of challenges grows less powerful.”
Just as these are facts and statistics we’re all familiar with, chances are that many of us have been given this prayer prescription as well. More likely than not, we’ve heard it so much, read it so much, and talked about it so much, that we’ve lost sight of what it really means.
But there is so much truth in prayer as Lucado shares it — prayer as something applied, practical, and real.
Maybe as we’ve become anxious we’ve also become numb, allowing ourselves to become desensitized to the mindset-shifting, life-altering, and world-changing power of prayer. Let it not be so.
Through rising tension, looming deadlines, packed schedules, and our often-inevitable immersion in a sea of digital technology…we need to take a step back.
Let us look to Jesus.
Let us listen to Jesus.
Let us trust that he not only holds the world; he holds us.
Only then can we become people of not only inward peace...but world-changing compassion.
For more on Max Lucado, visit www.MaxLucado.com. His latest book is Anxious for Nothing: Finding Calm in a Chaotic World (Thomas Nelson, September 2017). Follow him on Twitter @MaxLucado.
Article date: October 3, 2017
Image Credit: ©Unsplash
Cristina Rutkowski Ford is a Richmond-based artist, writer, and creative communicator. Along with writing, creating, and finding some semblance of balance in life, Cristina works for the Salem Web Network as a an editor for Crosswalk.com.