Anxiety: A Normal Human Experience?
A few years ago, I was filling up my gas tank at a gas station near the San Diego Airport. As I was standing near my car pumping gas, I noticed a group of police cars with their sirens turned on pulling over a black sports car. The police stepped out of their cars, grabbed their handguns, and carefully approached the car. As I was watching this take place, I tried to remain calm, but honestly I hid behind my car and felt an overwhelming sense of anxiety—like any person would in that type of situation!
A NORMAL EXPERIENCE IN OUR WORLD
Anxiety is a normal human emotion. All people encounter normal anxiety (normal anxiety is different than an anxiety condition, which I discuss here). Normal anxiety means that we experience temporary anxiety as a result of stressors, dangers, impending deadlines, traumatic events, and major life changes.
It is normal to feel anxiety before a major exam.
It is normal to feel anxiety before a sports event that you are participating in.
It is normal to feel anxiety when you lose a job.
It is normal to feel anxiety when you are in the midst of a major life crisis.
It is normal to feel anxiety if you happen to be a spectator of a dangerous situation.
Since anxiety has been stigmatized, we forget how common it is. There are many anxiety-inducing events that occur while living life in a broken world. Many of these events are outside of our control, and the emotional reactions we have as a result of theses events are not something that we can control in the moment.
A NORMAL EXPERIENCE IN THE BIBLICAL WORLD
Did people in the Bible experience the emotion of anxiety?
Before answering this question, it is important to note that the people who lived through biblical history were normal humans. These individuals were not mythical characters with superhuman powers that prevented them from experiencing and feeling normal human emotions. These people lived in a broken world just like us, experienced tragedy and pain just like us, and were flawed and imperfect just like us.
The people in biblical history did experience anxiety. In fact, it is overwhelmingly clear that anxiety was a real and normal emotion in the biblical world. These people faced the same types of anxiety-inducing situations that we do—stressors, dangers, deadlines, traumatic events, and major life changes.
Here are a few examples of biblical characters who experienced anxiety:
“Do not regard your servant as a worthless woman, for all along I have been speaking out of my great anxiety and vexation." (1 Samuel 1:16)
“As for me, Daniel, my spirit within me was anxious, and the visions of my head alarmed me.” (Daniel 7:15)
“And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches.” (2 Corinthians 11:28)
“I am the more eager to send him, therefore, that you may rejoice at seeing him again, and that I may be less anxious.” (Philippians 2:28)
People like Hannah (the mother of the Samuel, an Old Testament prophet), Daniel (an influential Old Testament prophet), and Paul (who has influenced Christianity more than any person in history) all experienced anxiety. I find this incredibly helpful to know. These biblical character that I look up to spiritually experienced and sometimes struggled with anxiety just like I have. In my opinion, this makes their stories and spiritual influence more impactful. Why? Because God uses broken and flawed people to influence other broken and flawed people. They are relatable. God can take our weaknesses, brokenness, and pain and use them for good.
We are not alone. We are human. Anxiety is a normal human experience. And history is brimming with men and women who had major influence on the world around them while experiencing anxiety. We can find purpose in our humanity. Your life is important and you too can have a profound influence on the world around you.