What follows is the foreword I wrote for Gospel Hope for Anxious Hearts: Trading Fear and Worry for the Peace of God, a collection of sermons by Charles Spurgeon.
Like a picture, a good Internet meme is worth 1,000 words.
One meme I love (but probably shouldn’t) is the one where a dog in a hat is seated on a chair in a burning house with a goofy smile. His speech bubble says, “This is fine.”
The meme comes from a larger comic that shows the spread of the fire in the house, to which the dog says, “I’m okay with the events that are currently unfolding”—trying to talk himself out of the great danger he is in. After another sip of coffee, the flames reach the dog’s arm and it begins to melt.
“That’s okay, things are going to be okay.”
The last square shows the dog melting in the fire that overtook the room he was sitting in.
Things didn’t end fine.
For many, this is a modern day parable of the anxiety in our lives. We are bombarded by stress in every area of life: family, finances, work, and church. Instead of running from the burning house to safety and peace, we tell ourselves, “This is fine.”
Anxiety is a lot like a fire. A difficult situation at work, a negative comment from your spouse, or thoughts about your child’s future can stoke the fires of anxiety. The more anxious thoughts you have, the more the fire grows until it blows up in an outburst of anger or a full-blown panic attack. The fire spreads from where it starts and, unbeknownst to us, overtakes other areas of our lives.
Some scientists suggest that 18% of us in the United States suffer from an anxiety disorder. They also argue that North America, with the US carrying its fair share or responsibility, is the most anxious place in the world today. Clearly, we have a problem. I’m no historian, let alone psychologist, but I would argue that we are the most stressed people in history. It appears our relative prosperity, advancements in technology, and countless life options has only caused more anxiety as we figure out how to raise our families, spend our money, and keep up with the Joneses’ perfect life. (And if only the Joneses didn’t constantly remind you of their perfect life on Instagram!)
Anxiety is an equal opportunity offender: it can strike rich or poor, male or female, believer or unbeliever, American or Indian or American Indian. Left unchecked, it can bring serious consequences (even if it doesn’t melt our faces off like the dog’s in the meme example):
- Physical effects of anxiety include headaches, heart palpitations, increased blood pressure, panic attacks, and an inability to relax or sleep. More serious physical effects of long-term anxiety include heart attacks, cancer, or diabetes.
- Psychological effects of anxiety might drain attention span, the ability to retain information, hinder work performance and communication skills, or lead to depression.
- Spiritual effects include a lack of joy and peace (see Matthew 6:25-34; Philippians 4:6-7), damaged relationships with God and others, and even choking out potential for saving faith (Luke 8:14).
The worst part is, we can get so used to stress that we don’t even notice it. Or if we do notice it, we give up trying to change. This is tragic because it misses the “peace that passes all understanding” that is always ours for the taking in Christ (Philippians 4:6-7). Our view of God shrinks as our anxieties grow.
I have believed worry is a sin for a long time. Sometimes when I notice I am worrying, I worry more, getting sucked into a never-ending downward spiral of anxiety.
What we need to do in such situations is focus on Jesus and not our anxiety. (Easier said than done!) As sinful people, we will always have sin to discourage us. Focusing on our sin is like trying to clean mud off of ourselves with a muddy cloth—all we will do will be spread around the filth and get frustrated! When we look to Jesus for help and cleanness, He hoses us down, dries us off, and comforts us in our situation. This is the continual hope we have in the gospel.
Precious Truths Forged in the Furnace of Affliction
Charles Spurgeon (1834–1892) was no stranger to anxiety; he struggled with several health issues off and on his entire adult life. His wife was often sick as well. His ministry faced sharp criticism most of his life and survivor’s guilt plagued him after seven people were trampled to death in an auditorium in which he was scheduled to preach.
Spending so much time in the furnace of affliction taught Spurgeon the gospel’s hope for trying times. He knew the peace of God in Christ could overcome the toughest and direst of situations. These struggles colored Spurgeon’s ministry and caused him to comfort thousands with the healing balm of the gospel through his preaching. He knew that only with a rock-solid faith in Christ’s love and acceptance can we truly say, “This is fine.”
In Gospel Hope for Anxious Hearts: Trading Fear and Worry for the Peace of God, readers will find ten sermons by Spurgeon on anxiety, fear, and rest. My hope and prayer is that as you read, your soul will be lifted to see the beauty and sufficiency of our Risen Savior and the glorious, yet immensely practical hope he offers us today.
“The man who is full of care, is ripe for any sin, but he who has cast his care on God stands securely, neither shall the evil one be able to touch him!” — Charles Spurgeon
Available today in paperback and Kindle: Gospel Hope for Anxious Hearts: Trading fear and Worry for the Peace of God.
 Now internet-famous, this originated in the web comic Gunshow. (See “This is Fine” on KnowYourMeme.com.)
 See “A systematic review of reviews on the prevalence of anxiety disorders in adult populations” on Wiley Online Library. Accessed September 28, 2016 from http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/brb3.497/full.
 Gary Collins shares this and more in Christian Counseling: A Comprehensive Guide Third Edition (2007), pages 141-149.
 This isn’t to say there may be a place for biological treatment to stress. But trust me, I’m not the guy you want to hear talk about that.
 For more on Spurgeon’s sorrows, read Spurgeon’s Sorrows by Zach Eswine. For more on controversy in Spurgeon’s life, read The Forgotten Spurgeon by Iain Murray.