It’s a suspicion, an apprehension. Life in a minor key with major concerns. Perpetually on the pirate ship’s plank.
You’re part Chicken Little and part Eeyore. The sky is falling, and it’s falling disproportionately on you.
As a result you are anxious. A free-floating sense of dread hovers over you, a caul across the heart, a nebulous hunch about things . . . that might happen . . . sometime in the future.
Anxiety and fear are cousins but not twins. Fear sees a threat. Anxiety imagines one.
Fear screams, Get out!
Anxiety ponders, What if?
Fear results in fight or flight. Anxiety creates doom and gloom. Fear is the pulse that pounds when you see a coiled rattlesnake in your front yard. Anxiety is the voice that tells you, Never, ever, for the rest of your life, walk barefooted through the grass. There might be a snake . . . somewhere.
The word anxious defines itself. It is a hybrid of angst and xious. Angst is a sense of unease. Xious is the sound I make on the tenth step of a flight of stairs when my heart beats fast and I run low on oxygen. I can be heard inhaling and exhaling, sounding like the second syllable of anxious, which makes me wonder if anxious people aren’t just that: people who are out of breath because of the angst of life.
A native Hawaiian once told me the origin of the name that islanders use for us non-Hawaiians—haole. Haole is a Hawaiian word for “no breath.” The name became associated with the European immigrants of the 1820s. While there are varying explanations for this term, I like the one he gave me: “Our forefathers thought the settlers were always in a hurry to build plantations, harbors, and ranches. To the native Hawaiians they seemed short of breath.”
Anxiety takes our breath, for sure. If only that were all it took. It also takes our sleep. Our energy. Our well-being. “Do not fret,” wrote the psalmist, “it only causes harm” (Ps. 37:8). Harm to our necks, jaws, backs, and bowels. Anxiety can twist us into emotional pretzels. It can make our eyes twitch, blood pressure rise, heads ache, and armpits sweat. To see the consequences of anxiety, just read about half the ailments in a medical textbook.
Max Lucado, Anxious for Nothing: Finding Calm in a Chaotic World(Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2017).
I have just finished a study of this fantastic book. It is available on Amazon, as well as a part of my Good Question Subscription Service.