Spooky Season and Matthew 6

October has arrived and brought with it chilly weather and spooky season. For those unfamiliar with that phrase, spooky season is about Halloween and the festivities that surround it. Trick or treating, scary movies, chilly nights, bonfires, etc. But have no fear, we are not going to be talking about Halloween today. We are going to be talking about anxiety and fear, though. October is the season in which our society takes a deep dive into all things spooky, so fear and anxiety feels like an appropriate topic. 
There is a lot of talk about fear and anxiety in our culture today. Often these terms are used as synonyms. But are they? Let’s define our terms. Fear is a reaction to something we know to be real. Anxiety is a reaction to something that might be real. Fear is often about something that is in front of us right now. Anxiety is a worry about something that is coming in the future. There is a significant amount of anxiety in our culture. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, 19% of American adults and 32% of American adolescents qualified for an anxiety disorder diagnosis. To clarify those percentages, that means roughly 40 million adults and 14 million adolescents are in that category. And that statistic is from 2010. Post-pandemic those numbers are likely MUCH higher. 
Fear and anxiety are pernicious and can very easily sneak up on us. We have all found ourselves lying in bed in the middle of the night gripped by fear because of some situation occurring in our lives at that very moment. We have all also found ourselves in that same position gripped by anxiety of something that is coming the next day or week or month. This is a universal human experience so what do we do about it?

As believers, we look first to the Bible. In Matthew 6, Jesus tells us not to worry about our bodies or what we will eat or drink or wear. He says that pagans worry about and chase those things, but we are to place our trust in our Father who will provide all we need. Jesus gives us the examples of the lilies in the fields and the birds in the air. The Father cares for them and if he cares for them how much more will he care for us. We have a God who knows us intimately, loves us unconditionally, and provides for all our needs. We can rest because we have been forgiven for our past and have been promised that our future is in his hands. We can enjoy the present and live in the present knowing that our father has taken care of the rest.
Once we have looked to see what Scripture tells us, we can look at what God has revealed to us about how our minds and bodies work. We can explore strategies that help calm us when we are afraid or anxious. The one we are going to highlight today is meditation. Now before you start accusing me of promoting Eastern mysticism, hear me out. Meditation is a Biblical concept and practice. Throughout the Bible we are told to meditate on the Word of God. Psalm 1 tells us that the blessed one delights in the Law of the Lord and meditates on it day and night. Mediation as it is presented in our culture is often based on the idea of emptying our minds and learning to be impartial observers of our thoughts as the float by. Research has proven that this is helpful but there is a better way. Biblical meditation is the work of filling our minds with the Word of God. This is the practice of choosing a passage of Scripture and reading it, writing it down, memorizing it, pondering it throughout our day, praying it. By meditating on the Word of God we are filling our minds with truth. We are preparing our hearts to be able to recall the reassurance of Scripture when we find ourselves with racing thoughts, racing hearts, and sweaty palms in the middle of a dark night. The Word of God is a balm for our souls. Meditate on it and see how God will bless your practice. 
A final note about managing anxiety. There are times when the experience of anxiety is so overwhelming that it affects our ability to function. When anxiety reaches the point that we have trouble leaving our house or engaging in relationships with our loved ones or we are skipping work or school, it is time to pursue professional help. Therapy has often gotten a bad rap in the Christian community. There are some good reasons for that over the years but much of the negativity and stigma around therapy is unwarranted. I can promise you that we therapists are not a scary bunch of people. Those of us who have chosen that line of work did so because we desire to help those around us. If you are finding that anxiety has become a crippling problem, reach out. Anyone on our pastoral staff would love to help and would be happy to help connect you with a trusted counselor in our area. 
As we wrap this up, I want to leave you with two things. The first is a reminder that we now have access to Axis Premium. This is a resource that offers ways for parents and kids to have one ongoing conversation about life. They offer conversation guides, parent guides, and an outstanding weekly email called the Culture Translator. They have a parent guide and conversation guide on anxiety, and they are EXCELLENT. If you haven’t signed up for access to this resource yet, you can do so by clicking HERE. The second thing I want to leave you with is a song. Jon Guerra has a song titled “Prettier Than Solomon” that highlights how we can trust in Christ in our anxiety. Hopefully you love it as much as I do.

Josh Cervone