As a pastor, I have noticed that I am often talking with men who are struggling in a variety of ways in life, and underneath it all is a consistent thread of anxiety. They’re anxious about their finances, anxious about their marriages and kids, anxious about their sense of purpose in the world. In fact, much of their demeanor can fairly be described as anxious. I can’t help but wonder if there’s a deeper source than many men realize.
Anxiety in this life is hardly surprising. Our fallen world provides plenty of opportunities for anxiety: broken relationships, poor health, and financial pressures are hardy perennials. The events of the past year have only poured fuel on those fires. We all have plenty of things to be anxious about; and it would be unrealistic and unhelpful to call for stoicism in the face of real burdens and suffering.
But I think that many men suffer from anxiety because they struggle to understand how the Lord has called and equipped them to love and lead those entrusted to their care. That is, I think many men are anxious because they lack faith to lead in their various roles and relationships because they struggle with what it means to be masculine in a world that tends to append the adjective toxic to that category.
There is an inherent quality of mission in masculinity in God’s world. When the Lord created Adam and placed him in the garden, He called him to “work and keep it.” This call exists alongside the command in Genesis 1 to, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion…” These two commands help us to answer the question: What are men for? In answering that question, three qualities come immediately to mind, and embracing those qualities can help us to work through our anxieties so that we can walk in faith as men in God’s world.
Men are Created for Responsibility
When the Sovereign Lord creates a man, He creates him with a call to embrace responsibility (Genesis 2:15). I’m convinced that one of the primary ways that we grow as Christian men is by embracing responsibility where we find it (2 Corinthians 2:16-17). Godly men gladly assume sacrificial responsibility. We step into problems. We seek out relationships (1 Timothy 4:14-17). We consider the future, consider our roles, and we take action to fulfill the callings that we have been assigned (1 Chronicles 12:32). Part of the problem with masculine anxiety can be that we’re not entirely sure where we’re responsible, and yet we know that it must be somewhere.
Men are Created for Provision
The responsibility of a man includes the call to provide for those that the Lord has entrusted to his care (1 Timothy 5:8; Exodus 21:10). As men embrace responsibility, those downstream from them find that their own burdens are lightened. A man who fears the Lord and who seeks to carry out his roles faithfully provides tremendous covering and provision for “his people” (Proverbs 13:22). He seeks to provide in every way: physically, spiritually, and with care. One of the greatest breakdowns in our society right now is in the epidemic fatherlessness that plagues so many of our youth. The absence of godly masculine presence is a terrible curse on a people (Zechariah 10:2-3).
Men are Created for Protection
Godly masculinity is a powerful force for good in every human society. Evil is all around us, and it is essential that men who fear the Lord recognize and engage evil for the good of those God has given them to protect (e.g., 2 Timothy 1:13-14). There is a sanctifying quality to godly masculinity that fights evil and works for the holiness of those he has been given: in his home, in the workplace, and in the church (e.g., Ephesians 5:25-28). The famous dictum attributed to Edmund Burke captures this point: “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”1For a discussion of the provenance of this quote see this webpage. Masculinity, then, is a call to fight—not with carnal weapons, but with “divine power to destroy strongholds” (1 Corinthians 10:2-4).
Men who fear the Lord and embrace the roles and responsibilities they have been assigned with faith will find that their anxiety can turn into fruitful action. As we are challenged and perhaps feel overwhelmed by what is before us, we can cry out to the Lord whose grace is sufficient for us (2 Corinthians 12:9). It is good to recognize our weakness and need, to turn to the Lord, and to receive His provision so that we can grow to walk in faith and to work for the good of those we care for and lead. In that way, we will glorify our God and point others to the sufficiency of His power to work in men like us—sinners, strugglers, but also saints redeemed by a mighty Savior.
- Where is anxiety present in your life? What relationships are presently challenging to you? What pressures seem all-consuming?
- How does God’s faithfulness in the gospel encourage and equip you to embrace the responsibilities He’s given you? How can you grow as a man for the good of others?