Connecting the Dots...

Believing the Truth so that we can know (John 6:69).

6/25/2021 8:55:08 AM

Combating Anxiety Part 2

7/28/2017

If you read Combating Anxiety Part 1, you remember that I asserted that the practice of faith could take the measurable benefits of meditation to the next level. No one questioned me on that statement; so let me start today by stating that you should not believe everything you read on the Internet! Ha Ha. But all joking aside, I want to begin by backing up my previous claim.

In 2011, the American Journal of Psychiatry published the results of a longitudinal study that sought to establish the relationship between religiousness and the onset and progression of major depression and anxiety.  This study was significant for a couple of reasons. First, the study was not conducted directly with people experiencing depression and anxiety, but rather on their offspring. (A person who has a parent with depression/anxiety is considered at high-risk for also developing the disorder.) Second, the average age of the subjects in this study was 29 years. This is in contrast to most studies exploring depression and religion, which have tended to focus on older adults. The study found that in the 10 years of follow-up, subjects who both described their faith as highly important and specifically affiliated themselves with either Catholic or Protestant theology had a 76% less chance of experiencing a period of major depression or anxiety. This independent, secular research concluded that clinicians should consider religion and spirituality during psychiatric evaluations. I can site similar studies, but you get the point. [1]

Today’s Combatting Anxiety concept: If we can increase the benefits of stress-reducing, meditative practices by introducing the aspect of faith, then what you put your faith in matters.

Now that concept might sound obvious, but stop a minute and think. We put our faith in a variety of things every day.  We trust our alarm will go off at the programmed time. We have faith that the traffic lights will work properly on our way to work, market, and school.  And we expect the other drivers will comply. We believe that our cell service, Internet service, electronic devices and operating systems will perform as promised, etc. We have hope that our friends will not betray us. But what happens when an object of your faith fails you? You will probably experience a decrease in your willingness to trust that is tied to disappointment.

Disappointment has a way of maximizing skepticism and minimizing our willingness to believe. It stinks to be let down. Many people would say that they have experienced a significant amount of broken trust in their lives. Therefore, it is no wonder why there is a deficiency of optimism in people who are experiencing heightened anxiety. But there is a way to effectively combat this stress. Increasing your faith will actually displace doubt in your mind and thereby, lower your anxiety. As your faith grows, you will find yourself becoming more willing to believe in best-case scenarios again.  So, if you want to boost your optimism and decrease your stress, then maximize your faith. But how? Simple. The strength of your faith is directly related to the reliability of your faith object. Therefore, make it your objective to choose the very best faith object to put your trust in.  This makes sense, right? Believing in reliable things increases the likelihood of seeing what you are hoping for actually come to pass. Placing your trust in super reliable things pushes aside anxiety because the uncertainty of critical outcomes is eliminated in your mind. Why? Because you are convinced that your faith object will come through for you!

I would say that the current trend in our culture is to put our collective faith in the reliability of the sciences, empirical results and the expanding potential of intelligence. As a person with a bachelor degree in the engineering sciences and a master degree in behavioral science, I can tell you that this makes a lot of sense to me. However, let me give you at least three mysteries that science cannot answer:

1.    How did I get here? Why am I something, rather than nothing?

2.    Why am I here?  Where can I derive supreme purpose for my life?

3.    Where am I going? What happens after I die?

While science is a viable option for the placement of our faith, let me suggest an even better option.

The Bible promises that Jesus Christ, in all of his wisdom, goodness and power, is the ultimate faith object. He is the same yesterday, today and forever (Hebrews 13:8). He never changes. He is continually reliable. You can always count on him.  And he alone can answer each of these previous questions. Time and again the Bible encourages us to focus less on the uncertainty we face and instead let our minds gaze (meditate) upon Jesus, the ultimate faith object (Hebrews 12:2). Does trouble magically disappear when we chose to make Jesus the object of our faith? Ha ha. No way. However, when you begin to direct your meditative thoughts toward the ultimate faith object (Jesus), you put into play the first step for combatting anxiety in a surefire way. Or as the old-timers used to sing, “Turn your eyes upon Jesus, look full in his wonderful face. And the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of his glory and grace.”  More to come…


 

[1] Blazer, 2011. “Religion/Spirituality and Depression: What Can We Learn From Empirical Studies?”. http://ajp.psychiatryonline.org/article.aspx?articleID=181239.