This is an election season in America, which means you are likely anxious, fearful, and worried. This is by design. And it’s only getting worse. For as long as there have been democratic elections, there have been politicians seeking to use the fears and anxieties of the people to win votes. But what has increased — and increased exponentially in the past few decades—is the rate at which we are being bombarded by such anxiety-producing political rhetoric.
In the era before the American Revolution, a citizen may have heard such anxious news a couple of times a month. By the time of Lincoln and the telegraph, the rate had increased to several times a week, and with the advent of the television, several times a day. In the age of the internet, though, we may be exposed to fear-mongering messages several times an hour.
Fortunately, we Christians have an antidote, for the Bible has much to say about anxiety, fear, and worry. In fact, there is a political leader in Scripture from whom we can learn much about dealing with anxiety and fear: King David. But before we consider how to cope with these emotions let’s look at what we should know about them.
Understanding Anxiety, Fear, and Worry
They aren’t interchangeable — The primary difference between fear and anxiety is the timeframe. Fear is an emotional response to a real or perceived immediate threat; anxiety is an emotional response to a real or perceived future threat. Fear is a warning system that alerts us to danger right now, while anxiety is a warning system of impending danger. Related to anxiety is worry: a repetitive pattern of thoughts and mental images that causes us to inordinately focus on our anxiety and fear.
We need anxiety and fear — What happens to someone who doesn’t feel physical pain? The answer is he or she suffers immensely. People with leprosy lack the ability to feel pain, and the results are that they often lose body parts due to repeated injuries. Pain sends the body a signal that something is wrong, and when we don’t receive the warning we cause even more damage to ourselves.