Today’s typical evangelical has too much of Christ to be happy in the world and too much of the world to be happy in Christ. Of all the situational causes of anxiety, this might be at the top of the list for evangelicals.
By going to church they hear the name of Jesus Christ, they hear words like justice and love, and perhaps they even hear the occasional mention of a bloody cross. They’ve got a notion that this bread should fill them, that this wine should intoxicate them, that this gospel should satisfy them. Yet emptiness prevails.
By going to the world for endless pornography, news, and entertainment, they hear the language of vague and indefinite spirituality, they hear words like equity and privilege, and they even hear the occasional mention of a superhero sacrificing himself for the sake of Gotham. They’ve got a notion that the world is sinful, that its bread shouldn’t fill them, that its wine shouldn’t intoxicate them, that its promise of utopia shouldn’t appeal to them. Yet when it does, they begin to see no good in anything not of this world and no happiness in anything except in this world.
This is why Jesus warned,
“Watch yourselves lest your hearts be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and cares of this life, and that day come upon you suddenly like a trap. 35 For it will come upon all who dwell on the face of the whole earth. 36 But stay awake at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that are going to take place, and to stand before the Son of Man” (Luke 21:34ff).
Anxiety often comes when we’ve got too much of this world to be happy in Christ; when we live in this world as if we are never going to die. And so we follow the stock market, or our sports team, or current events, or politics as if the earth is our final abode.
The solution isn’t to unfollow these things. The solution is to follow the stock market, the sports team, and the Presidential election with the surety that eternity with Christ is our final destiny. Sin can’t drive out sin; only righteousness can do that. Worldliness can’t overcome the world, only Christ can do that (Jn. 16:33). The half and half religious experiment is a failure, as Faithful and Christian learned when they were put on trial in the town of Vanity. John Bunyan concluded this, “Christianity and the customs of our town of Vanity, were diametrically opposite, and cannot be reconciled.”
Jason Cherry is a teacher and lecturer of literature, American history, and economics at Providence Classical School in Huntsville, Alabama. He graduated from Reformed Theological Seminary with an MA in Religion and is the author of the book The Culture of Conversionism and the History of the Altar Call, now available on Amazon.