Approaching Anxiety

Image depicts an anxious teenager sitting in her bed

I recently had a conversation with a teenager where I was asking them to explain a certain behavior pattern they’d been exhibiting recently. Their face went blank—almost dead-eyed—and they didn’t speak for a long time. After a painfully silent two minutes, I asked again, “What’s going on? What are you feeling that’s leading you to act this way?” They said: “I don’t have a reason. Maybe there is no reason. Maybe this is just who I am.”

You’ve probably had a similar conversation with a student before. It’s possible you’ve had a similar conversation with yourself. One of the downsides of being a human being is that, more often than we’d care to admit, we have no idea why we do what we do. We just know that, in the moment, it made sense somehow.

What I want to share from the gospel on this isn’t the end all be all of the epidemic of anxiety today’s students are navigating. In fact, I’m barely going to touch on the intricacies of anxiety or mental health issues. You’ll find far more educated people to listen to and books to read on that topic if you want to get into the weeds on it—which I would recommend. What I want to share on for just a few minutes is how the gospel addresses the answer that teenager gave me: “Maybe there is no reason. Maybe this is just who I am.”

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. It’s the most rudimentary concept in all of Christianity—God created. If you were to share the gospel story with somebody, you would start at this point, and yet sometimes we forget the significance of this plot point in the gospel narrative. In the beginning, God created. In other words, there was nothing, and then God created and there was something. Out of oblivion came order because God creates. And from the moment God created…from that point on…there was order…structure…reason.

Because God created, nothing is chance, chaos, or without reason.

Without God creating? Sure, we can chalk up all kinds of things to random chance. Chaos. “This is just me” mentality. But since God created, that doesn’t work. There is something behind every action, every behavior pattern, every moment. There is order because God created. That means:

Nobody is anxious without reason.

There is a reason behind the anxiety your students face—possibly more than one. And that reason isn’t solely rooted in external circumstances. In fact, it’s almost certainly not primarily rooted in external circumstances. There is a reason for their anxiety, and it’s rooted in the lens through which they see themselves, God, or others.

But because there is order behind the anxiety in our hearts and minds, we know God is able to reorder our hearts and minds and deal with whatever the cause of our anxiety was. And that means we have hope for a future without anxiety.

Because anxiety has a reason, we have hope.

So when you approach students about their anxiety, I want to encourage you not to approach it as if “that’s just the way they are.” When God created, He brought all disorder and oblivion under His dominion. Yes, sin is a practical problem on earth, and so is the disorder that sin has brought. But there is a reason behind all disordered things humans deal with, and that includes anxiety. So approach students from a place of hope, knowing that when the gospel recolors the way they see themselves, God, and others, there’s hope that they’ll live anxiety-free.

Mike Haynes is a full-time youth pastor and the creator of G Shades Youth Ministry Curriculum. Feel free to reach out to Mike anytime over email at mike@gshades.org
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