“Break the Silence on Anxiety

This message is a part of our Breaking the Silence series focused the issues of Suicide, Anxiety, and Depression.
Find the rest of the messages in this series here.

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The Debrief

Thursday, The Debrief will be available.

Sermon Notes

Since the 1980s, the Iroise coast in Brittany has received a supply of orange phones shaped like the cat Garfield. A local group that is committed to keeping the coast line clean posted this photo of what was a typical find of Garfield phones.The publicity caused a local farmer who knows the coast well to contact them to let them know that there’s often Garfield Phones and pieces around this coastal cave he’s familiar with. Inside the cave they found a whole shipping container partially buried under 30 years of rock and sand, but container was damaged and there were phones strewn about. New phones are pulled into the sea and deposited on the French Coast when a storm surge comes in.

Story source: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-47732553

After reading that story this week, I thought about the issue of anxiety and how it’s a lot like those Garfield Phones. Anxiety washes up in the lives of people all around us.

40 Million Americans suffer from Anxiety.

In the past 10 years, there has been increasing recognition of anxiety in young people by health care providers — one study found a 17% increase in anxiety disorder diagnosis.

Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics: 41% of College Counsellors reported that Anxiety is the top concern among students seeking help.

24% of College Students seeking help from College Counseling Services reported they were already taking medications to treat mental health issues.

This is serious because

The 2nd leading cause of death in youth ages 10-24 is suicide.

In our nation, there’s a rise in deaths of despair. There’s an addiction crisis and a mental health epidemic… Where’s all of this coming from? Why is this washing up on the shores of our communities and towns?

I think I’ve found the cave where all the Garfield phones are coming from- I think I’ve found the source of much of this anxiety. I’m no therapist or psychologist. I’m not a neurologist. I’m a pastor. If you struggle with Anxiety, Depression, and struggle with thoughts of suicide, I want you to see a mental health professional.

However, as a Pastor I think I can give you some help on dealing with Anxiety.

The most prevalent form of Anxiety is Social Anxiety.

Anxiety stems from a fear of the unknown or uncertain.

Social Anxiety stems from a fear of the unknown or uncertain as it relates to relationships and social status.

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America,

The defining feature of social anxiety disorder, is intense anxiety or fear of being judged, negatively evaluated, or rejected in a social or performance situation.

People with social anxiety disorder may worry about acting or appearing visibly anxious (e.g., blushing, stumbling over words), or being viewed as stupid, awkward, or boring. As a result, they often avoid social or performance situations, and when a situation cannot be avoided, they experience significant anxiety and distress. Many people with social anxiety disorder also experience strong physical symptoms, such as a rapid heart rate, nausea, and sweating, and may experience full-blown attacks when confronting a feared situation. Although they recognize that their fear is excessive and unreasonable, people with social anxiety disorder often feel powerless against their anxiety.

I first recognized the prevalence of social anxiety in our local community and culture at funerals.

 Working for a funeral home in my last year of college as a driver and host I would often see people terrified to walk in. They weren’t overcome with grief, but rather they were overcome with fear.

That’s why we’ve tried to emphasize that everyone is welcome here at our church. There is a whole group of people in our community that the number 1 issue that keeps them from coming to church keeps them from going to any social situation where there is an unknown…

Where there is uncertainty…

A funeral holds immense social pressure from family and friends to be there, but there’s a whole lot of unknown.

Many cultural factors play into the rise of social anxiety, especially for kids.

I think there are a whole host of cultural factors at play here, and I don’t have time to go into all of those, but just really quick think about the difference between the experience kids today have compared to the experience we had or our parents had.

Think about the size of schools, the stability of family, and the circle of friends.

The greater consistency and stability a child experiences at home the less anxiety and fear they will experience.

Social Anxiety is a more prevalent and complex issue today, but it is not a new issue.

Social Anxiety has been with us since the garden.

The search for status was definitely at play amongst the disciples.

Luke 9:46

Then there arose a reasoning among them, which of them should be greatest.

Luke 22:24

And there was also a strife among them, which of them should be accounted the greatest.

Matthew 20
20Then came to him the mother of Zebedee’s children with her sons, worshipping him, and desiring a certain thing of him.

21And he said unto her, What wilt thou? She saith unto him, Grant that these my two sons may sit, the one on thy right hand, and the other on the left, in thy kingdom.

Matthew 26:33

Peter answered and said unto him, Though all men shall be offended because of thee, yet will I never be offended.

It’s this same disciple, Peter who would write the words I want you to get a hold of today.

Peter would become this strong leader in the church.

There came a time when Christians were experiencing persecution and Peter writes a letter to encourage them. Some of these Christians were Jewish in ethnicity, but most were not.

These people were removed from their groups. They were moved from the people they called family and had given them an identity.

Talk about social anxiety, they weren’t just afraid of being judged- they were afraid of being judged and executed and they had lost their place, their status.

There are 2 factors I want you to grasp about these words. I believe they will give it this immense weight in your heart and life.

This encouragement comes at the end of the letter.  It might sound trite to you if that’s all of the letter you read. It may even sound kind of like when you tell a depressed person to cheer up.

Like, oh, good idea, which I had thought of that sooner.

First, Peter doesn’t begin this letter by telling these Christians to simply cheer up. He doesn’t tell them to simply pull themselves up by their bootstraps or stand up straight.

In the beginning of the letter he greets them as

1 Peter 1
3Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,

4To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you,

We have been born again.

We have been born into a new family and into an inheritance that can not be taken away. It will never fade or tarnish.

In the very beginning he highlights their new identity in Christ that can not be taken away.

Christ holds our identity.

I received an injury in high school that took my identity as an athlete.

If you experienced a divorce, lost a job, got arrested, or flunked out of school maybe you’ve lost your identity too.

Peter spends all of chapter 2 connecting these people to the chosen people of the Old Testament. He connects them to the long narrative of God’s faithfulness to his people through difficulty and trial.

He is showing them they belong to this family.

Secondly, Peter wasn’t writing to them as someone who had never experienced trial or persecution.

We read of Peter being arrested and then being supernaturally freed in Acts 12.

Peter had personally experienced laying his very life in God’s hands and letting him care for him.

Columbia River Bar

“The bar is where the river’s current dissipates into the Pacific Ocean, often as large standing waves. The deposition of sediment as the river slows, as well as mixing with ocean waves causes the waves. The waves, wind, and current are hazardous for vessels of all sizes. The Columbia current varies from 4 to 7 knots westward, and therefore into the predominantly westerly winds and ocean swells, creating significant surface conditions.[2][3] The current is focused “like a fire hose” without the benefit of a river delta.[4] Conditions can change from calm to life-threatening in as little as five minutes due to changes of direction of wind and ocean swell.[5] Since 1792, approximately 2,000 large ships have sunk in and around the Columbia Bar, and because of the danger and the numerous shipwrecks the mouth of the Columbia River acquired a reputation worldwide as the Graveyard of the Pacific.”[6]


When we humble ourselves and allow God to be the pilot,  we are in capable hands and have no need for fear.


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