Dallas Police Officer Amber Guyger was charged last night with manslaughter in a tragedy that has gripped our city. Botham Jean, a twenty-six-year-old Dallas resident, was killed when Guyger entered his apartment, apparently by mistake, and shot him.
Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings said that Jean’s death meant the loss of “a potential leader for this city for years to come.” Jean worked with PricewaterhouseCoopers in downtown Dallas and led worship in his church.
In other news, five people were wounded in a Tennessee nightclub shooting early this morning. Seven people were injured in a knife attack in Paris last night. An Australian man has been charged with murdering his three young daughters, their mother, and their grandmother.
And the National Hurricane Center announced this morning that Hurricane Florence poses “an increasing risk of life-threatening impacts” to the East Coast. South Carolina, North Carolina, and Virginia have already declared a state of emergency.
Are you “almost anxious”?
For those of us who follow the news, it’s not surprising that more Americans than ever before are stressed, depressed, and anxiety-ridden. Nearly forty million Americans experience an anxiety disorder in any given year. Anxiety disorders are the most common and pervasive mental disorders in the US.
Some people struggle with anxiety on a level that becomes a barrier to their enjoyment of life, a condition known as being “almost anxious.” Others struggle with more serious issues that develop into debilitating anxiety disorders. Such people need to seek the help of medical and counseling professionals.
For all of us, however, anxiety is an ever-increasing problem. What does God’s word say to those who are anxious today?
Take control of your thoughts
Dr. Luana Marques, writing for the Harvard Medical School’s Health Blog, advises: “If you find yourself thinking, ‘I can’t do this,’ ‘I’ll never get this assignment done,’ or a similar negative thought, challenge this by asking if it is valid or helpful. You will likely find that these thoughts are merely fueled by your anxious brain, so stopping them in their tracks is important.”
Paul testified to the Corinthians: “Though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:3-5).
What God enabled Paul to do, he will enable us to do. But we must do what Paul did if we would experience what he experienced.
The apostle submitted his mind and life to the Holy Spirit and likewise taught us to be “filled with the Spirit” (Ephesians 5:18). He spent time in God’s word and worship and likewise taught us to “be transformed by the renewal of your mind” (Romans 12:2). He focused his mind on what is godly and likewise taught us to “seek the things that are above” (Colossians 3:1).
Focus on the present
Dr. Marques also advises: “If your thoughts seem to be spiraling out of control, take a few minutes to practice mindfulness. Focusing on the present moment takes your thoughts away from the past and future, helping you re-center yourself.”
Jesus taught us a similar life principle: “Do not be anxious 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?” (Matthew 6:25).
God wants us to trust our past to his grace and our future to his providence. While we need to plan for the future, it’s important that we keep our focus on the present. There’s an old saying: “Today is the tomorrow you worried about yesterday.”
Confront our fears in faith
One more word of advice from Dr. Marques: “Identify situations that make you anxious, and approach them instead of avoiding them. For example, if you are afraid of public speaking, talk in front of others as often as possible. Over time, you will find the discomfort fades away as you face the very things that used to cause you anxiety!”
After Jesus’ execution, his disciples hid behind locked doors for fear of the Jewish authorities (John 20:19). But when they received the power of the Spirit at Pentecost, these formerly-frightened disciples went into the crowd to speak the good news of God’s grace (Acts 2:4).
Peter, the apostle so terrified of Jesus’ enemies that he denied his faith before a serving girl (John 18:17), boldly preached the gospel to the crowds (Acts 2:14-30). He refused to back down even when on trial before the same authorities who arranged Jesus’ execution (Acts 4:19-20). And tradition says that he was eventually crucified upside down because he would not recant his commitment to his Lord.
Now the same Holy Spirit who empowered Peter and his fellow Christians is ready to empower us.
“We do not lose heart”
Let me close by stressing again that some anxiety disorders need professional help. God calls and uses physicians and counselors, just as he calls and uses pastors and missionaries.
But when we deal with a lower-level sense of anxiety, God’s word invites us to name our fear, submit our mind to the Spirit, focus on the present, and trust him for his best. When we do, we discover that our Father “gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control” (2 Timothy 1:7).
When Botham Jean was a senior at Harding University, his favorite verse was 2 Corinthians 4:16-18. Paul states: “We do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.”
Let’s make his testimony ours, to the glory of God.