Blessed are those who trust in the Lord,Jeremiah 17:7-8
whose trust is the Lord.
They shall be like a tree planted by water,
sending out its roots by the stream.
It shall not fear when heat comes,
and its leaves shall stay green;
in the year of drought it is not anxious,
and it does not cease to bear fruit.
I have noticed, over the past year, that I have been anxious more than has been usual in my experience. It is a disquieting realization, given my track record as a markedly mellow human being. So I thought I should talk about it, examine it, and try to understand.
There is ample reason, of course, to account for this phenomenon. But there is also even more reason to live without anxiety.
I understand that I have been dealing with an unreasonable amount of stress, change, and uncertainty over the past few months, from Rebekah’s retirement to my parents’ growing needs and a whole lot more. However, given the way I have talked and written about faith over the years, it would be easy to conclude my current state of unease amounts to faithlessness or inadequacy in terms of belief.
So surely, if all I have written is true, this level of agitation and distress must be contrary to what an active Christian should experience?
Did not Jesus himself – and, later, Paul – teach that worry is a sin?
- “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life” (Matthew 6:25).
- “And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life” (Matthew 6:27)?
- “Do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble” (Matthew 6:34).
- “Do not be anxious about anything (Philippians 4:6)!
However, while Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled” (John 14:27), Jesus also understands exactly what it means to be distressed and to experience pressure. You can’t tell me that those hours leading up to the cross, especially when he prayed in Gethsemane, did not see anxiety drip from every pore of his body?
What Jesus teaches is that we are not to give up, not to be defeated by anxiety, not incapacitated by stress. We are not to step away from the truth that, “in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loves us” (Romans 8:37).
“I have told you these things,” Jesus encourages his disciples in John 16, “so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33)!
What I am learning, even as I share this deeply vulnerable post, is that the invitation of Jesus is – always – to allow God’s love and presence to be the central element of the stressful situation. So I need not be embarrassed by the anxiety I feel at this time, but instead what I need to do is to allow Jesus to minister peace: “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7).
And what I find, even in the middle of all this deep, pit of my stomach, emotional turmoil and visceral stress, is the same testimony Paul gave, that “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9).
Because this I know to be true, and I know it in my heart even when my inner being is tied up in knots, “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness” (Lamentations 3:22-23).
Peace to you all – and I mean that in absolutely every way – DEREK
I needed to be reminded of this today.
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As someone with experience dealing with clinically diagnosed anxiety disorders with loved ones, its not possible, on that level, to even consider that anxiety is a sin. On any level, it is certainly not a choice that anyone would make like most other things we would consider sinful. I get the point you are making, and it is great food for thought, yet, for this sinner – I’ll choose to believe that grace and forgiveness perhaps apply even more directly and completely (if such a discerning element can exist) to struggles with anxiety and depression, and other psychological disorders. Thank you, as always, Derek, for stimulating growth in my faith.
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You are absolutely right, David.
Derek, you are not alone. Our brains automatically switch into a fight or flight response in stressful situations. The amygdala, being in charge of emotions, can hijack the frontal lobes, in charge of responding rationally to a threat. Over a stressful amount of time, minor threats may cause more emotional reactions as our brains get stuck or used to that fight mode. Checking in with ourselves to notice how and when we respond to stress, trying stress management, relaxation techniques like deep breathing, writing in a gratitude journal, meditation, prayer, and a counselor if needed can help get the brain back on track. Anxiety can bring us closer to God as we turn to Him to find peace. Thank you for sharing your journey!
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That’s a great comment, Sandy. Thanks for your presence in the conversation, and your prayers too. Peace and blessings