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Friday, November 18, 2011

Anxiety

Worry. Fear. Guilt. Woulda, coulda, shoulda - what ifs... Do these rule your life? What causes us to have anxiety issues?

On the personal front we have worries that nag at our thoughts: what might others think of me if they knew XYZ? We have guilt: 'I shouldn't have________, I wish I hadn't __________' We have regrets: 'I could've done things differently. We have fears - of the unknown: 'What if I/he/she gets sick? What if I/they face pain or difficulty? What if God moves us from this place? What if my circumstances change? What if something goes wrong? What if I fail?'

Fear, anxiety and worry must be universal to being human. I, for one, thought I had enough worry-ers about me that I thought I could take a pass - I thought, 'I don't struggle with this!' But, having children, especially having them living inside your own body for a while, lends itself very naturally to fear, worry and anxiety.

I wonder, what does God's Word tell us about this? How should one who takes hold of God's Word as true deal with the natural fears that arise in life? What are my - or your - fears and worries? Why do any of us worry who also believe that God is sovereign, good and powerful? I suppose a short answer to this is that I fear even His GOOD will may involve pain or suffering for me or/and those close to me. While I understand suffering can be and often is good, it is still troubling to consider when the thought of any kind of discomfort is...well, discomforting!

His good will and sovereignty did not spare even His own Son from the worst of all suffering. What does that mean for us? I argue these thoughts back and forth in my head - He is King, Ruler of all - it is His right to rule and do as He pleases. There are scenarios that we all face or hear of that make us shudder - a foster child is returned to a homeless, unstable parent for example. Is God still in control?

I know the Bible does say, 'Do not be anxious.' But I always like to answer command verses with a question: How?
And thankfully, God's Word is not silent in answer to my query:
Perfect love casts out fear.
In everything...present your requests to God.
Give thanks.
Consider the lillies of the field and the birds of the air - they don't slave away at stuff and yet God takes care of them (loose Sarah translation).

As for regrets and guilt - didn't Jesus pay for all our sins on the cross? If we preach the Gospel to ourselves every day, it may go a long way to curbing fear, worry and guilt. The Gospel - the truth that Jesus died to save me - removes guilt.

Worry and fear challenge us (who experience such on occasion) to examine our hearts to see what we REALLY believe. It's easy to say, 'God is good, sovereign and powerful, and can be trusted.' If we say and believe it, fear will not rule us.

We might say, 'I believe Jesus loves me.' But when we fear or face true sufferings we are challenged in this belief. Will we hold to the truths we claim to believe or collapse in panic and fear?

I daresay it is the responsible, high-functioning types who struggle more with worry and fear. I am not this type, but as I grow in these weaker areas of mine (responsibility, namely!), I do find anxiety increases too! Perhaps we come to rely on or feel a sense of self-accomplishment when we undertake and succeed in managing life. Then, if something doesn't go right, we feel guilt. Instead of acknowledging Him in all our ways, we take upon ourselves burdens we were never meant to bear.

In ultra-responsible mode, we can easily slip into 'self-on-the-throne' thinking - and how disconcerting to discover, as we go along our merry-controlling-way, that we really have little control over the tiniest of details.

Perhaps it is physical sickness that alarms us the most - the healthiest of all people still get sick and even die. (I've heard the statistics for death - 100% of people of all time and history, except for those living today, have died.) People who abuse their bodies with poor diet and unhealthy habits (or, as some would have it, enjoy their bodies while they last!) often outlive those who are meticulously concerned with adequate sleep, exercise and nutrition!

Did worry/compulsive fear/neurotic control make any difference for the cancer patient who followed every regimen possible, but still succumbs to an illness that was unconquerable and perhaps God's merciful exit for him/her from this decaying world? I would say worry and fear rob us all of joy, life and peace. It wastes our days, hours, energies! It distracts us from living. It detracts from the glorious sovereignty of God.

It is commanded that we NOT fear - do NOT be anxious. IF we take this command seriously we must tackle it from all angles. It doesn't help to just 'try harder' not to worry - it won't work!

We need to ask what we fear, and why. Where are we failing to believe the truths we pretend to adhere to?

Read this verse from Revelation 1:

Grace and peace to you from him who is, and who was, and who is to come, and from the seven spirits before his throne, and from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood, and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father — to him be glory and power for ever and ever! Amen.

From these verses we see:
1. We receive Grace and peace from God.
2. Jesus' resurrection gives us confidence in Him as ruler over the kings of the earth. (All you who are into politics, this should give you a measure of comfort - how often are politics at the root of many of our fears and worries!?)
3. Jesus loves us - and has freed us from our sins (goodbye guilt and regret).
4. We can live confidently knowing we are here to serve God.
5. In all this, God is glorified forever.

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