Thursday, May 17, 2007

Turning Anxiety into Opportunity

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6-7).

Anxiety is the smothering death of spiritual joy. Anxiety is like a boa constrictor, it wraps itself around the lifeline of faith until it strangles the life out of you. It is a subtle, creepy, suffocating killer. Notice that this exhortation not to worry comes on the heels of the exhortation to "Rejoice in the Lord always! Again I say, rejoice!" Paul knew about this deadly stalker called anxiety, and he would have your faith loosen its terrible grasp over your soul.

The reason that anxiety is so deadly is because it betrays our faith in God. It is a manifestation of our inward distrust of God and of our pride. How is anxiety a mark of pride? It demonstrates the proud belief that we actually believed the well-being of someone or something rested in our control. Not that we are without responsibilities as stewards, but we must recognize that ultimately our stewardship is always upheld by the providence of God.

For example, I am given the magnificent privilege of having and raising a son. As a father, this means that I clothe, mentor, feed, discipline, reward, and lavish love upon my little boy. If danger comes, I will defend him to the death. I will try to teach him to be wise to keep him from and untimely end. But in all this, I recognize that if my Master does not oversee my labor, then I work in vain. While I worry that my beloved may be riding his bike in traffic, I forget that even if he is doing something so terribly stupid, the Lord sees him and gives him breath in that moment. Neither my worry nor my watchfulness can eliminate the necessity for divine providence.

Yet I confess to you, dear read, that I worry. I confess that this worry is born out of a deep love for my son and my wife and my church. One of my friends is a police officer, and when I heard recently that he arrested two armed robbers I felt a bit unnerved. Due to the fact that I've watched too many "COPS" shows, I knew that this was a dangerous situation that could have ended much worse. This caused me to contemplate on the fact that my friend is exposed to this sort of danger each and every time he goes out on patrol. Anxiety is the natural response to such thoughts if we truly care for our brothers and sisters. So what is a believer to do?

I believe that anxiety can be a healthy thing if we learn how to wield it. Fire can be deadly, but it can also be an indispensable tool. When I feel that choking feeling of anxiety coming on, I turn directly to my Father with whatever is bothering me. If I am anxious for my son's well-being, I ask my Father to care for him. When I am reminded of my friend's danger in the line of duty, I ask my Father to protect him. When I am anxious for my wife, I pray for her. When I fret over the church, I bring my concerns to God.

The promise of praying in such a manner is that the "peace of God" will guard our hearts and minds through Jesus Christ. So I pray until I have peace. This peace has nothing to do with decision making, not in this context. This is the sort of peace that comes from knowing that God is in control and that He takes care of the precious things. The more precious it is to me, the more closely He guards it, for indeed the thing is precious to Him as well.

Think on what we do with our precious things. We stick our money in a bank behind a vault that a bomb wouldn't destroy. We buy expensive "lock boxes" in those vaults to guard our jewelry. Museums have laser security alarms, armed guards, and infrared cameras to deter thieves from pilfering our treasures. Only a fool would bury such a thing in his backyard or stuff it in a mattress. We trust others who are more qualified than we to watch them.

But look at us! We are clay pots; we are dust; we are the dew on the grass; we are a withering flower. If anything ever needed protecting, it is we. Our children are not hard like diamonds or enduring like jewels. For the sake of your faith, leave off the idea that you can protect such fragile things. Deep down, you know that you cannot. Do all that wisdom dictates, but wholly entrust your beloved things to your Father. His storehouse is never plundered; His fine things are never pilfered; He never leaves His guard post. He is a vigilant sentinel, never sleeping or slumbering, and He guards with fierce jealousy the things of His beloved. Woe to him, be he devil or man, who stretches out his hand to meddle with the treasure of God!

So do not be anxious, beloved. Our God is able to keep all the things which we commit to Him. When you feel the coils of worry dragging you down, let it be a kickstart for you to pray earnestly and specifically for whatever it is that is bothering you. Our God is faithful, and He will give you peace.


Even So... said...

The first line sealed the deal for me...

Lisa writes... said...

I heard it said some time ago, and it has remained with me ever since: my worry is rebellion against the authority of God, essentially saying God is insufficient to handle the issue, therefore I must worry.

Great reminder, Brad, to take those areas of life I am prone to be anxious over and bring them before the One who is All Sufficient and gloriously Sovereign over all!