The anatomy of anxiety & anger
In Matthew 6, Jesus links anxiety to the future: “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear” (Matthew 6:25). Anxiety is: there’s something you think you need or want, but you’re not sure you’re going to get it. That uncertainty causes a twinge of anxiety.
Anger is similar. “What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You desire but do not have, so you kill” (James 4:1-2a). Anger is: there’s something you think you need or want, but someone or something has blocked you from getting it.
Anxiety = “I want, but might not get…”
Anger = “I wanted, but didn’t get…”
They are siblings.
The antidotes to anxiety and anger
1. Grow in your knowledge of your sin
Anxiety and anger originate from: “I want…I long for…I desire…I love…” Do you hear the entitlement in these words? At the root of them both is pride. Meditating on passages like Romans 3:10-18 and Mark 10:18 has a humbling effect. Humility greatly reduces the extent to which anxiety and anger will be problems for us. In fact, humility is the secret to a happy life.
2. Grow in your knowledge of Jesus Christ
In Luke 8, Jesus and the disciples are rowing across the Sea of Galilee when a ferocious storm jeopardizes their well-being. In the midst of it all, Jesus is sound asleep. The disciples react with a mishmash of anxiety and anger. After frantically waking him, Jesus calms the storm and asks the disciples one question: where is your faith?
In other words, they would not have responded this way if they truly trusted Jesus.
They respond with a question: who is this?
That question explains why they reacted to this hardship with anxiety and anger. They didn’t really know Jesus. This story is truly profound. Trusting Christ isn’t a matter of welling up within us an energy or force. Faith isn’t an act of willpower. Faith, trusting in Christ, is a byproduct of knowing him. If you really knew Jesus, you’d trust him and that trust would curb our anxiety and anger.
3. Grow in your knowledge of God’s love
Anxiety and anger are rooted in: “I want…I desire…I long for…I love.” Whatever we desire, we also think will be good for us. We long for good stuff, good situations, etc. That’s why we get anxious or angry when those are threatened. So the million dollar question is: how invested in my good is God? Does God really want what’s good for me?
Of course, there can be no more emphatic answer to those questions than what he demonstrated in the cross of Jesus Christ. The cross demonstrates the lengths God is willing to go to in order to bring good into our lives. And it’s not just any good. It’s the ultimate good: life forever with him. Jesus Christ paid the highest price possible to give us the greatest gift imaginable! God’s love for us is indescribable and unfathomable! When you see that, you stop questioning whether or not he’s truly invested in your good which protects you from anxiety and anger.