‘Inside Out 2’ Puts Anxiety in Its Place

The summer’s hit sequel offers wisdom for young Christians worrying about the future.

“I don’t, you know, feel God’s presence like I used to. What’s wrong with me?”

“I’m not sure if I really even believe in Jesus. Can I?”

“My Christian high school never taught me about racism in America. What do I do with what I’m learning? How can I ever go back to that kind of Christianity again? Should I?”

I am privileged to sit with Christian young people as they ask questions like these—questions about identity and development, change and growth. Who am I becoming? they want to know. And how is that related to who I’ve been until now?

That interrogation is at the heart of Inside Out 2, the smash-hit sequel of the summer. Pixar fans first met 11-year-old Riley in Inside Out (2015), when Joy, Fear, Sadness, Anger, and Disgust worked together to help her navigate a new middle school.

Now, Riley is about to start high school, trying to find her way onto the hockey team and through the complexities of puberty. Her adolescence introduces the five original emotions to new and disruptive company: Embarrassment, Envy, Ennui, and—most notably—Anxiety.

Anxiety plays a complicated role in our lives—paralyzing on the one hand and prudential on the other. Oriented toward the future, it helps us identify negative outcomes and work to make them less likely. Anxiety keeps us off ledges; anxiety prevents us from taking selfies with bears.

With Anxiety at the helm, we see Riley somewhat successfully navigate through the perils of adolescent life. She makes new, older friends by guessing at the kinds of things high school girls talk about, even risking a conversation with the hockey captain, Val, to make up for a rocky start …

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