Killing Anxiety


For a Christian, anxious thinking is illogical thinking.  

When a Christian is anxious, he is assigning more weight, more power, to his problem than to God.  This is, after all, the God He professes is sovereign and who He claims loves him.  And yet here this Christian is, worried and nervous and agitated and irritable.  

This is why Jesus commands His disciples not to be anxious in Matthew 6.  He designates anxeity a lack of faith.  Anxiety in a Christian is doubt in Yahweh.  My anxiety is a defect of trust in my heart.  

When it plagues a Christian, anxiety peppers his mind with questions and dreads that are each threaded through and through with doubt in the goodness and sovereignty of God.  

What will I do?  

What if __________ happens?  

But we can’t live without _________!

How am I supposed to do all this?

When I’m fearful and fretful about a job or a health issue or a relationship, I’m indicating that my heart believes that thing is more in control than the God of Jesus, the Lord of my heart, is.  If I’m anxious, then in my mind I’m assigning more power and authority to the problem than the Bible says it really has.  

Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble. 

Matthew 6:25-34

A Christian who’s anxious is giving more gravity to the thing he’s anxious about than he is to God.  In that sense, anxiety is like a check engine light in a car.  It can let me know that there’s a probelm under the hood:  A misfire in my faith. 

But by taking my mind captive and putting it under the Gospel of God and the Christian story, I can start to think of my problems and my sufferings accurately:  As trials that passed through the hands of my good Father in order to make me more like His Son.  By casting my problems and pains and fears in the light of the Gospel (hint:  by reading and believing my Bible daily), I’ll remember and believe that Yahweh is more of a determinative factor in my finances, my physical ailments, my marriage, my parenting, and my vocation than any problem I might be worried about is.  This God is good, and I can trust Him.  I should trust Him.  

Listen, for the anxious Christian, faith can always make strong what worry has weakened. Trust in Christ can restore all that anxiety has stolen.  

When we rightly view our Abba as having far more clout than our problems do, our sinful, foolish, illogical anxieties will flicker out.  Because after all, they needed doubt to breathe and smolder, and like a fire in a dies in a vacuum, anxieties can’t survive more than a few moments in the presence of healthy Christian faith.  

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Would He Be Enough?


Would He enough if I lost everything else?  

If my reputation were destroyed.  If my name were shattered and everyone who’s opinion I cared about most began to think I was a joke. 

If my family were taken away from me.  If the the deep and abiding love of my wife and children were somehow lost to me.

If all my material comforts were gone.  If television and good food and my house and the internet and books were all taken away.  If I had none of my first world diversions or enjoyments or hobbies.

If my job any my ministry and my vocation fell apart.  If I had no obvious successes, and after 20 or 30 or 40 years, nothing had worked out as I’d hoped.  If everything I’d tried to build landed flat, and I was branded a failure.  

If all the lives I’d wanted to see changed seemed simply static.  No growth.  No healing.  No apparent revival.  

If everything were taken from me but Christ, would He be enough for me to live on?  Would I feel like I still had my one most precious thing?  Would I be content despite my sadness, because I still had the thing my heart feasted most on:  The love of my Savior?  

Your inner impulses run like little workers on a sinking ship to protect whatever your deeest treasures are.  When whatever it is you most love, the thing you find the most peace and joy and satisfaction in, is being threatened, you’ll your nerves and behaviors all scurrying to protect it, to patch the hole and make sure no water breaches the hull there.  You can feel it when you lash out in anger over your reputation being damaged.  You can feel it when you protect at all costs your time in front of the TV.  You can feel it when you ignore prayer or family or work for social media and internet videos.  You will protect and gravitate toward whatever you most treasure, whatever you most enjoy.  

So am I worshiping idols?  Or is He that treasure for me?

Do I ask family or reputation or comfort to bear all the weight of my soul and my hope?  Or would He be enough?

I’ll answer in private.  And in prayer.  But I thought hearing the question might benefit some of you.

But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ.  Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.  For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead. 

Philippians 3:7-11

Love and Hate


A Christian should have many loves, because the God He sees and knows as beautiful is the God who made this world.  And, like everybody, all of his hatreds flow from his loves.  But with the healthy  Christian, this principle works out for the benefit of the wider world.

The Christian whose heart is in rhythm with God’s hates lies because they obscure truth. He hates death because it assaults life.  He hates suffering and injustice and idolatry because he loves men and God.  He has holy hatreds.  They are like a good knight defending a sacred castle, or a good husband defending his beloved.

A person who is still living in the flesh will have things, maybe many things, that look like deep loves, but when they’re fully unraveled will be shallower than they might’ve been, because they had something other than the Father and Son and Spirit for their center.  And so when those loves are assaulted, the hatred that defends them is anxious or bitter or self-righteous or joyless.  It’s hollower than the full-throated hatred for death and Hell and false gods that the saint who’s in the grip of the Holy Spirit has.  His are hatreds that say, “Come, join me in fleeing the wrath to come!  God is good, and He will wipe every last scar and tear away!  Come meet Him!”  The carnal man’s hatreds say, “Away from my beloved thing!  I will fight you tooth and nail to protect it!  Because I know, see, deep down, how frail a god it is…”

A Christian should love the sunset and summer and marriage and Gospel songs because the God who spoke light and love and song into being is His adopted Father.  He loves them because he loves Him.  

His loves are deeper, his hatreds are holier, and his heart is open and hopeful.

And so he has a good message to give his neighbor.

Poisonous Root

  

I have known people who have chronic physical pain, at least one with intense back and hip problems, who still smile and generally speak to neighbors and family with warmth. I know at least two people who have vicious relatives they have to interact with weekly and yet who still treat the offending family member with grace and relative cheer. They help to support and care for people who insult them and condescend them and gossip about them, and they, by and large, still live out their lives and help these family members with a measure of joy and optimism. I know a person who has been through almost constant financial hardships for at least the last fifteen years, and who still talks to strangers at the grocery store and his family at holiday meals about how his life is good and how he’s grateful to the Lord for getting him through some (often very long) difficult times. I knew happy kids at a Christian orphanage in Haiti, a place where no one had jobs or plumbing, and where none of the kids had parents or what we would think of as a home.  

I know other people who start to remove joy from a room after a few sentences of conversation. Who view life as unfair (chiefly as it relates to them), and view themselves as having been subjected to a particularly, uniquely tragic existence.  People who are offended very easily and who forgive with great difficulty.  They overlook almost no wrong that is done to them, but their eyes somehow miss their own poisonous tongues and violent, heart-held grudges.  

What’s the difference between these two groups of people?  Why does the first set remain pleasant and hopeful through pain and the other become bitter or despairing?

Generally speaking, the answer doesn’t lie in the circumstances around them, but the kind of heart and attitude within them.   

Now, I am often in that second group.  I’m repenting of it and seeking Jesus’ grace for change in it, but I still often am.  But I’m blessed in that two of the people closest to me are in the first group, and as I’ve watched them go through every bit the pain I have (and if I’m honest, more), I’ve been forced to acknowledge that the roots of my bitterness and anger are my own sinful motivations and idolatries and sense of entitlement. 

The good part is that healing and forgiveness and change can happen when turning from my sin and believing in Jesus’ grace for me have occurred.  Repentance and faith can lead to the Holy Spirit’s changing the darkest, angriest parts of my heart.  

If you think you might be in that second group, I’ll exhort you with the same words I need to hear:  Resist the temptation to blame your circumstances for your sin.  Their may be legitimately difficult circumstances around you, you may truly be being harmed by others, but the heart is where sin comes from.  

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.  If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us. 

1 John 1:9-10

There is no forgiveness without repentance, and almost as tragic is that there is no change, either.  To continue to lay the blame for your anger, grudge holding, or gossip on the doorstep of your circumstances is chain yourself to that way of life indefinitely.  

Bitterness, like all sin, kills.  Kills relationships, kills the heart, and can even kill the body.  And of course, in the end, after eating your earthly life from the inside out, kills your soul by sending you to Hell.

But praise be to God that Jesus gives life.  Full-throated, self-spending, unimaginable life.  

By grace through faith in Him alone, Jesus can work back the poison of the bitter person’s heart.  Purer blood has never been bled, and it’s offered free of charge to every sinner who asks in faith.  

Trade death for life.  

It hurts, having that poison spilled from your veins, but a lot less than dying.  

Plus the good part lasts forever.  

See to it that no one fails to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” springs up and causes trouble, and by it many become defiled.

Hebrews 12:15

60 Seconds on Free Will

  
The reason why grace is grace is that the freest will in the universe is God’s.  If in salvation man’s will were determinative, if a human being’s will to be saved was the scale-tipper instead of God’s will to save him, then God would ultimately be beholden to His creature’s will.  The deciding factor in why He saved the human would be the human’s will, not His own grace.  

But I firmly believe, and Scripture confirms for me, that grace is the deciding factor in my salvation.  I know I was dead in sin and a slave to Satan, and that it was God’s grace that made me alive together with Christ.  And grace is unhindered, un-obligated, totally free favor.  For grace to be grace, the hand that bestowed it must have been just as free not to give it as to give it.  If the determinative factor were outside the giver, it wouldn’t be gift.  It’d be payment.  

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. 

Ephesians 2:8-9

Praise be to the God who frees bound wills and awakens dead hearts.  

Just like any other slave, the human will only gets loosed when a stronger hand breaks the chains.  

The will is a slave that the grace of Jesus can make free.  

And the fact that it’s in bondage until He does so is one of the reasons we call God’s saving work “grace.”

30 Seconds on Work

  

If work is about trying to prove yourself, you’ll never be really content or happy with it. But if it’s about diligently trying to bring beauty out of and order to creation? That’s something you can live with.  

In short, if your work is your identity, you’ll end up paralyzed or miserable. But if it’s a vocation, it can be rewarding and meaningful.

Work can’t bear the weight of your heart. It wasn’t meant to. 

The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it.

From Genesis 2

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

From Matthew 11

30 Seconds On the Heart

  
It isn’t enough to merely do what is right.  Or say what is right.  A healthy heart loves what is right. 

The religious teachers Jesus rebuked often had the externals right. 

And he said to them, ‘Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written, This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’

As a parent, I want my kids to see that I adore Jesus, not merely that I try to follow His words from a sense of obligation.  And so the story of Zacchaeus, where he gives away his money without a command from Jesus, simply from an organic love of God and man that the Holy Spirit brought forth in his heart, convicts me and drives me to my knees. 

Help me to love your Word and your Son, God.  To cherish them.  To taste them as honey and be willing to sell my fields to have them, if need be.  

When God changes your heart, the behaviors will follow.  

Try it any other way and the wicked stuff’s still down there.