Whether it is an exciting internship (or lack of one), a launch into a new career or a move back home, almost all students are facing something unfamiliar as they wrap up their semester and head into summer break. When there is uncertainty ahead, it is understandable that one might develop anticipation anxiety.
Anticipation anxiety is the “worry about the future, the fear that bad things might happen or that you might become unable to accomplish what you set out to do,” according to the Anxiety & Depression Association of America.
Like a vice, this anxiety can grab a hold of our hearts and minds, keeping us stuck in a hold of fear. We might struggle to sleep at night or find it hard to concentrate when we are studying for our finals. Shortly put, we are down bad.
It seems that when we imagine the future, all too often, our minds quickly jump to what could go wrong. We fixate on the ways we can fall short or are overwhelmed looking at the massive undertaking that lies ahead.
In Numbers 13-14, we have the recorded account of what happens when the Lord asks Moses to send out spies to explore Canaan. The land is beautiful, the soil is rich and the fruit is plentiful — but the cities are large and strong, filled with great warriors.
The Israelites had seen God’s faithful hand in delivering them from Egypt and had literally tasted God’s provision in the form of manna; you would think that in the face of great opposition they would understand that their God would make a way. Yet that is not what happens.
When Caleb addresses the Israelites, encouraging his people to take the land that God had promised, the rest of the spies disagree. According to Numbers 13:32, they proceeded to spread a bad report and fear spread like a disease throughout the Israelites. All the tangible good that they were looking forward to was overshadowed by their fear of the power of their enemies.
In Numbers 14, we read that the whole community weeps aloud and argues about what to do. Ultimately, they decide they are too fearful to continue onto Canaan.
It is easy to judge the Israelites, but when I think about the uncertainties of my future, I realize I have the same anxiety. Instead of focusing on God’s faithful hand that has provided for me, I enlarge all the negative aspects of what lies ahead. I fixate on my shortcomings and I become extremely afraid of all the ‘what-ifs.’
I don’t think God wants us to focus on all that could go wrong. God truly desires that we walk with him and rely on his power for all that we do. Anticipation anxiety is the exact opposite of that.
How can we cure anticipation anxiety? With pure anticipation.
According to Collins Dictionary, anticipation is “a feeling of excitement about something pleasant or exciting that you know is going to happen.”
Throughout the Bible, anticipation goes by another phrase — living by faith. In Numbers 14, after the Israelites had decided they were not going to attempt to conquer Canaan, Caleb and Joshua were in great grief.
They had decided that they wanted to continue in faith and anticipation that the good that God had promised them would be theirs.
It is written that they said, “The land we passed through and explored is exceedingly good. If the Lord is pleased with us, he will lead us into that land, a land flowing with milk and honey, and will give it to us” (Numbers 14:7-8).
Caleb and Joshua were confident in what God had promised them and their minds were fixed on the best case scenario. They were in complete anticipation.
So while uncertainty continues to loom, or if you’re struggling to find reasons to rejoice, try to fixate on the good that remains unseen. Remember the faithfulness that God has shown time and time again in your life. Instead of living in a state of anxiety over what is to come, train your mind to anticipate what the Lord will provide.