What the Future Holds

“Our main business is not to see what lies dimly at a distance, but to do what lies clearly at hand.” ~Thomas Carlyle (1795-1881), Scottish philosopher, satirical writer, essayist, translator, historian, mathematician, and teacher

Nobody really knows what tomorrow holds. As the chorus in a song sung decades ago by Doris Day states, “Que sera, sera, whatever will be, will be. The future’s not ours to see. Que sera, sera” (quote source here). And James 4:13-14 (NIV) states: Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.” And Jesus stated in Matthew 6:34Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

In a May 9, 2018, article titled, America Really Is in The Midst of a Rising Anxiety Epidemic,” by Peter Dockrill, senior writer at ScienceAlert.com, technology columnist for Money Magazine, and former online editor of APC and TechLife, he states:

If you’re feeling stressed, uncertain about what the future holds, or even physically unsafe, try not to panic – you’re definitely not alone.

New survey results show Americans’ anxiety levels experienced a sharp increase in the past year, with almost 40 percent of respondents saying they felt more anxious than they did a year ago.

That’s a pretty big spike – following on the heels of a 36 percent jump between 2016 and 2017 – and it means this year’s national, averagedanxiety score’ has tipped over halfway on a 100-point scale: it’s now sitting at 51, with a five-point increase since 2017.

“This poll shows US adults are increasingly anxious particularly about health, safety, and finances,” says American Psychiatry Association president Anita Everett, whose organization sponsored the survey. “That increased stress and anxiety can significantly impact many aspects of people’s lives, including their mental health, and it can affect families.”

This year Americans reported feeling more anxious across the five key areas of the poll – health, safety, finances, politics, and relationships. Anxiety over finances saw the greatest increase since 2017 levels, with people concerned about having enough money to pay bills and other expenses. But that’s not what worries Americans the most.

The two things causing the most anxiety to people are health (with 68 percent of respondents feeling extreme or somewhat anxious), and keeping themselves or their family safe (68 percent), with finance a close third at 67 percent.

While anxiety over politics and its impacts on daily life is less common, it’s still a source of stress for more than half of Americans (56 percent of respondents). Not that these anxieties can really be broken down into neat, isolated chambers.

Arguably, these fears are often tied to one another, thanks in no small part to today’s 24/7 news cycle and the near-constant digital and social connectivity that frames modern life.

“They seem to parallel the different areas of tension that currently dominate political news and conversation,” psychiatrist and stress researcher Eric Bui from Massachusetts General Hospital told the Boston Herald. “It seems as if there may be a vicious cycle fuelled by these fears, which may drive rigid political stances and in turn fuel further fear.”

The responses, collected from a nationally representative survey of more than 2,000 adults over March and April, didn’t convey a lot of good news about people’s mental states.

Increases in anxiety were common to both men and women, and were seen across people of different race/ethnicity and of different ages. While Millennials are more anxious than older people, Baby Boomers saw the biggest age-related spike in anxiety, with a seven-point jump over 2017 figures.

And it seems we can’t even find solace in family, friends and co-workers – almost half (48 percent) of those surveyed reported feeling anxiety about their relationships.

Sadly, there’s no quick fix for any of this, of course. And while Everett counsels the importance of attempts to reduce stress – such as regular exercise, relaxation, healthy eating, and time with friends and family – it’s clear that external factors outside people’s control are a big contributor to this surge in negative feeling.

Whether it’s political upheavalphysical vulnerability, or the ever-clearer prospects of a looming environmental catastrophe, there are just so many factors that can induce our apprehension, and there’s no easy off switch we can reach for.

“We are wired to sense and react to threat,” psychiatrist John Sargent from Tufts Medical Centre told the Boston Herald“These are things that, in fact, you can’t control by an immediate action.”

But what is most striking is the single highest source of extreme anxiety in the 2018 resultsA stunning 36 percent of respondents reported that they felt extremely anxious about keeping themselves or their family safe.

When more than one in three people say they feel that way, you know there’s a lot of work to do. The survey results are available at APA’s website. (Quote source here.)

That’s a lot of anxiety floating around today in America. Is it just a coincidence that as anxiety is increasing in America that it coincides with the fact that Americans as a whole are becoming less religious and more secular in their beliefs?

In an article published April 22, 2016, titled, The World’s Newest Religion: No Religion,” by Gabe Bullard, journalist and deputy director for digital news at National Geographic, he states:

The religiously unaffiliated, called Nones,” are growing significantly. They are the second largest religious group in North America and most of Europe. In the United States,Nones” make up almost a quarter of the population. In the past decade, U.S. “Nones” have overtaken Catholics, mainline protestants, and all followers of non-Christian faiths.

A lack of religious affiliation has profound effects on how people think about deathhow they teach their kids, and even how they vote.

There have long been predictions that religion would fade from relevancy as the world modernizes, but all the recent surveys are finding that it’s happening startlingly fast. France will have a majority secular population soon. So will the Netherlands and New Zealand. The United Kingdom and Australia will soon lose Christian majorities. Religion is rapidly becoming less important than it’s ever been, even to people who live in countries where faith has affected everything from rulers to borders to architecture.

But “Nones” aren’t inheriting the Earth just yet. In many parts of the world—sub-Saharan Africa in particular—religion is growing so fast that Nones’ share of the global population will actually shrink in 25 years as the world turns into what one researcher has described as “the secularizing West and the rapidly growing rest.” (The other highly secular part of the world is China, where the Cultural Revolution tamped down religion for decades, while in some former Communist countries, religion is on the increase)….

Within the ranks of the unaffiliated, divisions run deep. Some are avowed atheists. Others are agnostic. And many more simply don’t care to state a preference. Organized around skepticism toward organizations and united by a common belief that they do not believe, “Nones” as a group are just as internally complex as many religions. And as with religions, these internal contradictions could keep new followers away. (Quote source and entire article here.)

So then, what if a genuine cure for all of this increasing anxiety is actually found in Bible (for example, see Matthew 6:25-34)? In an article dated October 19, 2015, titled, Use Anxiety to Your Advantage,” by Vince Miller, founder of Resolute, and guest contributor on desiringGod.org, he states that Jesus shifts our focus off of what is causing us to be anxious by placing it back onto Him (see Matthew 6:25-34):

[Jesus asks] “Which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?” (Matthew 6:27). The minutes, hours, days, or even years we expend being anxious amount to wasted, stolen time. Concerns about natural things regarding our bodies, health, retirement funds, the imminent political race, and ISIS are matters for God. He will be concerned about them because he cares for you, and wants to guide you into living a fruitful and productive life….

In Matthew 6:30, after continuing to prove the care and love of God, Jesus calls out our anxiety by saying, “O you of little faith.” The hard truth is that when we are anxious, we demonstrate lack of faith. We don’t trust God and instead take control, somehow believing we can take better care of our lives than God. It’s as if we say to the Creator of the universe, “I don’t need you, because I have to figure this out.” Then our hearts and minds circle and spin like hamsters on a treadmill. But we are worth more. Even when the situation seems unbearable, we can trust God.

We can go to him with our worries, even when our hearts feel unsettled about our marriages, children, jobs, retirement, health care, and so on. Even when we doubt, we can acknowledge our sin. Faith turns to God and accepts what’s been given, asking him to use whatever circumstance we encounter for his good and glory, and to refine us into his image.

Then, near the end of the passage, Jesus calls us to change our hearts by shifting focus. “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness” (Matthew 6:33). He tells us to move our minds from the worries of this life to issues of greater importance, to shift our focus to eternal values.

Breathe. Trust. Transfer your anxiety to God and place your concern where it belongs: on the things of God.

It is difficult to practice, but this is the road to supernatural living. When the mind is focused on what God is concerned about, anxieties dissipate, and God provides us with what we need. (Quote source here.)

Given all our anxieties about tomorrow, even our best laid plans can change. For example, during World War II, Hitler thought he would rule the world (he didn’t and ended up committing suicide). President Kennedy was making plans to get reelected in 1964, but he was assassinated in his prime in 1963. We don’t know about tomorrow; we only have today. And Jesus said that today has enough trouble of its own.

There’s a quote by Helen Steiner Rice (1900-1981) that states, Never borrow sorrow from tomorrow.” That’s still good advice.

I’ll end this post with these words from Proverbs 3:5-6Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding….

In all your ways . . .

Acknowledge Him . . .

And He shall direct your paths . . . .

YouTube Video: “Let God Be God” by Phillips, Craig & Dean:

Photo #1 credit here
Photo #2 credit here