How have we let our fears get the better of
us? What's the difference between fear and anxiety? What does it
mean to be anxious for nothing?
In this Q&A, best selling author Max Lucado talks
about his book, "Anxious for Nothing: Finding Calm in a
The book entered the
Christian Retailers Top 50 books list this month at #4 and has
reached #2 this month.
Christian Books and other Charts
In the following
question-and-answer, he shares insights he expresses in his
common is anxiety in American society?
Max Lucado: Anxiety disorders in the United States are
the number one mental health problem among women and are second
only to alcohol and drug abuse among men. Some say the United
States is now the most anxious nation in the world. The land of
the Stars and Stripes has become the country of stress and
This is a costly achievement. Stress-related ailments cost the nation
$300 billion every year in medical bills and lost productivity,
while our usage of sedative drugs keeps skyrocketing; just
between 1997 and 2004, Americans more than doubled their
spending on anti-anxiety medications like Xanax and Valium, from
$900 million to $2.1 billion. The Journal of the American
Medical Association cited a study that indicates an exponential
increase in depression. People of each generation in the
twentieth century "were three times more likely to experience
depression" than people of the preceding generation.
drives our anxiety?
Max Lucado: Change, for one thing. Researchers speculate
that the Western world's "environment and social order have
changed more in the last 30 years than they have in the previous
Think what has changed. Technology. The existence of the Internet.
Increased warnings about global warming, nuclear war, and
terrorist attacks. Changes and new threats are imported into our
lives every few seconds thanks to smartphones, TVs, and computer
In our grandparents' generation news of an earthquake in Nepal would
reach around the world some days later. In our parents' day the
nightly news communicated the catastrophe. Now it's a matter of
minutes. We've barely processed one crisis, and then we hear of
In addition, we move faster than ever before. Our ancestors traveled as
far as a horse or camel could take them during daylight. But us?
We jet through time zones as if they were neighborhood streets.
Our great-grandparents had to turn down the brain sensors when
the sun set. But us? We turn on the cable news, open the laptop,
or tune in to the latest survival show.
the difference between
anxiety and fear?
Max Lucado: Anxiety and fear are cousins but not twins.
Fear sees a threat. Anxiety imagines one.
Fear screams Get out! Anxiety ponders What if? Fear results in fight or
flight. Anxiety creates doom and gloom. Fear is the pulse that
pounds when you see a coiled rattlesnake in your front yard.
Anxiety is the voice that tells you, Never, ever, for the rest
of your life, walk barefooted through the grass. There might be
Philippians 4:6, the apostle Paul wrote
"be anxious for nothing."
Isn't that kind of extreme?
Max Lucado: Right! "Be anxious for less" would have been
a sufficient challenge. Or "Be anxious only on Thursdays." Or
"Be anxious only in seasons of severe affliction." But Paul
doesn't seem to offer any leeway here. Be anxious for nothing.
Nada. Zilch. Zero.
Is this what he meant? Not exactly. He wrote the phrase in the present
active tense, which implies an ongoing state. It's the life of
perpetual anxiety that Paul wanted to address. The Lucado
Revised Translation reads, "Don't let anything in life leave you
perpetually breathless and in angst."
The presence of anxiety is unavoidable, but the prison of anxiety is
optional. Anxiety is not a sin; it's an emotion. (So don't be
anxious about feeling anxious.) Anxiety can, however, lead to
sinful behavior. When we numb our fears with six-packs or food
binges, when we spew anger like Krakatau, when we peddle our
fears to anyone who will buy them, we're sinning.
Christians struggle with the myth
that they shouldn't ever feel worried or experience anxiety?
Max Lucado: Yes! We've been taught that the Christian
life is a life of peace, and when we don't have peace, we assume
the problem lies within us. Not only do we feel anxious, but we
also feel guilty about our anxiety! The result is a downward
spiral of worry, guilt, worry, guilt.
You long to be "anxious for nothing." You long for the fruit of the
Spirit. But how do you bear this fruit? Try harder? No, hang
tighter. Our assignment is not fruitfulness but faithfulness.
The secret to fruit bearing and anxiety-free living is less
about doing and more about abiding.
Our aim - our only aim - is to be at home in Christ. He's not a roadside
park or hotel room. He's our permanent mailing address. Christ
is our home. He's our place of refuge and security. We're
comfortable in his presence, free to be our authentic selves. We
know our way around in him. We know his heart and his ways. We
rest in him, find our nourishment in him. His roof of grace
protects us from storms of guilt. His walls of providence secure
us from destructive winds. His fireplace warms us during the
lonely winters of life. We linger in the abode of Christ and
Don't load yourself down with lists. Don't enhance your anxiety with the
fear of not fulfilling them. Your goal is not to know every
detail of the future. Your goal is to hold the hand of the One
who does and never, ever let go.
what does a life without anxiety look like?
Max Lucado: With God as your helper, you'll sleep better
tonight and smile more tomorrow. You'll reframe the way you face
your fears. You'll learn how to talk yourself off the ledge,
view bad news through the lens of sovereignty, discern the lies
of Satan, and tell yourself the truth. You'll discover a life
that's characterized by calm and will develop tools for facing
the onslaughts of anxiety.
It'll require some work on your part. I certainly don't mean to leave the
impression that anxiety can be waved away with a simple pep
talk. In fact, for some, God's healing will include the help of
therapy and/or medication. If that's the case, do not for a
moment think that you're a second-class citizen of heaven.
Watch Max Lucado Explain How to Pray for Healing
God to lead you to a qualified counselor or physician who'll provide
the treatment you need. This much is sure: It's not God's will that
you lead a life of perpetual anxiety. It's not his will that you
face every day with dread and trepidation. He made you for more than
a life of breath-stealing angst and mind-splitting worry. He has a
new chapter for your life. And he's ready to write it.
that God' sovereignty gives Christians an inside track to peace.
Max Lucado: Sovereignty is the term the Bible uses to describe
God's perfect control and management of the universe. He preserves
and governs every element. He's continually involved with all
created things, directing them to act in a way that fulfills his
divine purpose. That's why the most stressed-out people are control
freaks. They fail at the quest they most pursue. The more they try
to control the world, the more they realize they cannot. Life
becomes a cycle of anxiety, failure; anxiety, failure; anxiety,
failure. We can't take control, because control is not ours to take.
The Bible has a better idea. Rather than seeking total control,
relinquish it. You can't run the world, but you can entrust it to
God. This is the message behind Paul's admonition to "rejoice in the
Lord." Peace is within reach, not for lack of problems, but because
of the presence of a sovereign Lord. Rather than rehearse the chaos
of the world, rejoice in the Lord's sovereignty, as Paul did.
Sovereignty gives the saint the inside track to peace. Others see
the problems of the world and wring their hands. We see the problems
of the world and bend our knees.
you say to those who feel God is far away when life is most
Max Lucado: The Lord is near! You're not alone. You may feel
alone. You may think you're alone. But there's never a moment in
which you face life without help. God is near. God repeatedly
pledges his proverbial presence to his people. Don't assume God is
watching from a distance. Avoid the quicksand that bears the marker
"God has left you!" Don't indulge this lie. If you do, your problem
will be amplified by a sense of loneliness.
It's one thing to face a challenge, but to face it all alone? Isolation
creates a downward cycle of fret. Choose instead to be the person
who clutches the presence of God with both hands. We can calmly take
our concerns to God because he's as near as our next breath!
prayer affect anxiety?
Max Lucado: Peace happens when people pray. "Cast all your
anxiety on him because he cares for you" (1 Peter 5:7 NIV). Casting
is an intentional act to relocate an object. Let this "throwing" be
your first response to bad news. As you sense anxiety welling up
inside you, cast it in the direction of Christ. Do so specifically
and immediately. Find a promise of God that fits your problem, and
build your prayer around it. These prayers of faith touch the heart
of God and activate the angels of heaven. Miracles are set into
motion. Your answer may not come overnight, but it will come. And
you will overcome.
gratitude calm frayed nerves?
Max Lucado: Gratitude is a mindful awareness of the benefits of
life. It's the greatest of virtues. Studies have linked the emotion
with a variety of positive effects. Grateful people tend to be more
empathetic and forgiving of others. People who keep a gratitude
journal are more likely to have a positive outlook on life. Grateful
individuals demonstrate less envy, materialism, and
self-centeredness. Gratitude improves self-esteem and enhances
relationships, quality of sleep, and longevity.
If it came in pill form, gratitude would be deemed the miracle cure. It's
no wonder, then, that God's anxiety therapy includes a large,
delightful dollop of gratitude. The anxious heart says, "Lord, if
only I had this, that, or the other, I'd be okay." The grateful
heart says, "Oh, look! You've already given me this, that, and the
other. Thank you, God."
you encourage someone
who doesn't know how they'll survive
life's current storm?
Max Lucado: Paul's answer to that question is profound and
concise. "The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will
guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus" (Phil. 4:7). As we
do our part (rejoice in the Lord, pursue a gentle spirit, pray about
everything, and cling to gratitude), God does his part. He bestows
upon us the peace of God.
Note, this is not a peace from God. Our Father gives us the very peace of
God. He downloads the tranquility of the throne room into our world,
resulting in an inexplicable calm. We should be worried, but we
aren't. We should be upset, but we're comforted. The peace of God
transcends all logic, scheming, and efforts to explain it.
How do our
thought patterns shape our perspective on life's difficulties?
Max Lucado: There are many things in life over which you have no
choice. But the greatest activity of life is well within your
dominion. You can choose what you think about. You can be the air
traffic controller of your mental airport. You occupy the control
tower and can direct the mental traffic of your world. Thoughts
circle above, coming and going. If one of them lands, it's because
you gave it permission. If it leaves, it's because you directed it
to do so. You can select your thought pattern.
For that reason, the wise man urges, "Be careful what you think, because
your thoughts run your life" (Prov. 4:23 NCV). Do you want to be
happy tomorrow? Then sow seeds of happiness today (count blessings,
memorize Bible verses, pray, sing hymns, spend time with encouraging
people). Do you want to guarantee tomorrow's misery? Then wallow in
a mental mud pit of self-pity or guilt or anxiety today (assume the
worst, beat yourself up, rehearse your regrets, complain to
Thoughts have consequences. Healing from anxiety requires healthy
thinking. Your challenge is not your challenge. Your challenge is
the way you think about your challenge. Your problem is not your
problem; it's the way you look at it.