Every morning the sun rises on a world struggling to avoid disasters. Open any morning’s newspaper or scan the Internet headlines and you’ll be met with a barrage of crime, dysfunction, and stories of sorrow. War in the Middle East. Measles spreading throughout the country. Homeland security busy with terrorist threats. Republicans yell at Democrats; Democrats accuse Republicans. Government officials make promises. Government officials break promises. Income is down so the state is behind on tax collection. Taxes will have to be raised. Agencies will have to cut spending. The repetitious stories go on and on, day after day without end.
Our world is filled with tension. Often the struggles in the marketplace slip through our front gate and sweep into our backyards. Even if the issues don’t directly touch us, the problems have a way of boring into our thoughts and feelings.
How can we face the strain of living in such turbulent times? Many contemporary writers, German existential philosophers, artists, and counselors have found a word that seems to describe best the gloomy sense of anxiety or depression arising from these difficult social conditions: angst.
Particularly common in the modern world, this sense of undefined fear comes with the tenuousness of the modern world, appearing like a dark cloud and settling around us. We dread “something” but can’t exactly grasp what it is. Angst is a general, internal, and personal fear that seems to come out of nowhere. Yet, the very real fear can invade and corrupt every area of our lives. A few aspects of the twenty-first century create this fear.
First, the anonymous character of contemporary life feeds our feelings of angst. A few of us still live on farms and in small enough towns to know virtually everybody in the village, but most of us come from metropolises where we don’t even know the name of our next-door-neighbor. We drive down four or six lane highways with our windows rolled up, in complete segregation from all the other cars filled with people we will never see again.
The pace of life is another problem. Timesaving gadgets surround us. Thus, we move even faster, at such a constant and rapid pace that we don’t have time to reflect on what is occurring around and within us. Because a thoughtful examination of our life seldom occurs, we tend to go from mistake to mistake. When people are not reflective, they slide toward manipulation and practice devious means of affecting the people around them. In time, they turn into a cog in a machine rather than a genuinely warm, caring person.
The forgoing are important factors in the contemporary feeling of angst, but we haven’t yet reached the cause that particularly makes this a modern problem. The loss of divinity particularly causes angst.
Our society generally functions as if we’ve jettisoned God out of the human equation. No prayers at school. No mention of God in the movies or the arts. People often use the name of God as profanity. On and on the list of absences and abuses goes until we end up with the current philosophical view that in the beginning God did not create heaven and earth; we created God.
If God is gone, what’s left? Only me. Lonely, individual, singular, incapable me. People without God turn to “me” as their only hope. Inordinate self-centeredness causes “me” to agonize over my inability to control everything happening in the world. Existential emptiness ultimately produces angst. When we lose God, we have lost everything.
God’s plan has never been for His people to live in fear. To the contrary, the Bible tells us that our heavenly Father has given us a spirit of power, love, and self-control (2 Tim 1:7). Loving God sets us free from loving this world too much. The answer to angst is adoration! Praising, blessing, loving, and thanking God shifts our preoccupation with ourselves. Worship in community—the body of Jesus Christ—is essential to the life of the Christian. Worship reorients our perspective, and we get in emotional touch with the fact that God truly runs this world—and we can fear less for life.
Check out Steve Arterburn’s book Fear Less for Life here!Steve Arterburn is the founder and chairman of New Life Ministries and host of the #1 nationally syndicated Christian counseling talk show, New Life Live! heard and watched by two million people each week on radio and TV. Steve is the founder of Women of Faith conferences and serves as a teaching pastor at Heartland Church in Indianapolis, Indiana. Steve is a bestselling author of books such as Every Man’s Battle and Healing is a Choice. The above excerpt is from his book Fear Less for Life co-authored with Paul Meier and Robert Wise. Steve resides with his family in Fishers, Indiana.