Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Anxious for Nothing

I have been thinking about this phrase a lot lately.

"Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand. 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 4:6-8

It's a command of God, and a tall order to fill, very hard in times such as these. Everywhere you turn it seems the world is buckling under pressures beyond its control. The economy is bad, people's jobs are at risk, companies are closing, families filing bankruptcies. Yesterday here in Southern California the breaking news story in the morning was of a man who committed suicide after killing his wife and their five children. He sent a fax to the local news station indicating that his wife had planned everything and that both he and she had lost their jobs recently. Their anxiety must have been great.

Sources of anxiety are never lacking. This morning as I was laying in the chiropractor's office for what is supposed to be 7 minutes of relaxation, my mind started to reel. I could worry about my kids, our finances, our family's business, medical bills, our health. There's plenty to be anxious about.

Sometimes I think back to the years 2001-2004 when were battling out our child's adoption. We were on a veritable 24/7 anxiety cycle. In fact even after everything had been settled and it was finalized and irrevocable I had panic attacks for the months that followed. I would lay in bed at night and my heart would just rush. I found out later that it's not uncommon after a prolonged period of stress that your adrenal gland can actually misfire, and the panic attack comes because after having been on a sort of "high alert" for so long your body gets accustomed to being there. I would lay there in a cold sweat, so anxious. I suppose that was a different kind of "anxious for nothing."

The anxiety and worry it births really bring no good. Matthew 6:27 asks the question, "Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?" The truth of the matter is that worry doesn't add anything to your life, but it can rob you of so much, your time, your peace, your hope. I wonder what the statistics are of how much we worry about actually coming to fruition. Worry reminds me of the old dog who is chasing his tail, he never really gets anywhere, but he certainly can wear himself out. Proverbs 12:25 says it like this, "An anxious heart weighs a man down..." The only thing I am pretty sure I've ever gotten out of worrying is a few gray hairs.

I've been worrying lately. We have a lot of bills and debt. Our business is struggling. I can always worry about my kids. Jake rides his bike in traffic. Ethan still isn't totally settled in at his new school. It's been almost a year since the last time Victoria lost consciousness, are we due? Every time she gets sick, I worry. I think I've rebooted that old adrenal gland again too. I often wake up in the early morning hours with the overwhelming sense of anxiousness, and then I have to stop and decide, "what am I afraid of?" I have to come up with the source of the fear.

What about you? What is making you anxious today? Is it your finances? Your job? Are you worrying while you wait for those test results to come back? Is it the state of the economy? The state of your marriage? Bad news? Bad weather? Anxiety can be contagious. You can be feeling fine and someone starts to talk about something that worries them, identity theft, their children's safety, their investments, and human nature responds with the thought, "could that happen to me?"

And yet I am drawn back to the first scripture I shared. It's a command. The Lord says, "Be anxious for nothing..." I know how the rest of the passage goes, and when I feel the anxiety rising up, I do, I try to pray and focus, not in some Pollyanna foolishness, but because I know it's my only hope. If not in the Lord, then where lies my hope? It helps, it does, at least until anxiety tries again to rear its ugly head.

"Anxious for nothing..." Today I pulled up this passage to read it again and I looked at it in it's entirety. And something caught my eye I'd never noted before in its context. Not what comes after the command, but what comes before.

"The Lord is at hand."

Suddenly I realized it is not the prayer that resolves the trouble of anxiety, it is the knowledge that I, as a Christian, am not in this alone. Whatever it is that concerns me or overwhelms me is not mine to face alone. The Lord is here, right here, with me. I often hear a passage of scripture misquoted and it's a bit of a pet peeve with me. I have heard so many people say, with confidence. "I know the Lord doesn't give us more than we can bear." But it isn't true. What the bible says is that God will not give us more temptation than we can bear without making a way of escape (1 Corinthians 10:13), but He never said in life there would not be more than we could stand up under.

What he did say is this...

"Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light." Matthew 11:29-30 (NKJV)


"Be humble under God's powerful hand so He will lift you up when the right time comes. Give all your worries to Him, because He cares about you." 1 Peter 5:6-7 (NCV)

One of the things I love about my husband is that he is a gentleman. If he were walking and saw another weaker than him struggling with a load they were carrying, he would not even hesitate to take it from them and carry it for them, to lighten their load. Knowing his strength was greater, he would help them, and they would be foolish not to allow him to do it. Imagine if you will a little old lady trying to carry a television set or some such thing for herself. A man far stronger comes and offers to help and she refuses, you would think to yourself, what a fool.

And yet, isn't that what we do each day when we struggle carrying our anxiety and worries, overwhelmed and awkward beneath them, when there stands the Lord beside us, a true Gentleman offering to carry our load. Whatever the load, the Lord is big enough to carry it, and He is here, He is at hand.

Worry is sin. We miss the mark when we do it, and when we dwell in it, we hurt ourselve and hinder our walk with the Lord. He commands us not to be anxious, He tells us we don't have to because He is here, and that He cares for us. And yet the temptation to do so remains. Ahh, but what was that about temptation? God said he would make that way of escape. That is where the prayer comes in, the supplication with thanksgiving, it is our escape from the temptation to dwell in the worry and be ruled by anxiety and fear.

Anxiety and worry serve no good purpose but to draw us from the One who promises He will care for you, meet your needs, provide the way where there seems to be no way, and even in the darkest times, He promises to remain by your side and mine and see us through it all.

"Be anxious for nothing..."


Susan said...

Amen, sister!
This is my life verse! I make it my purpose to live by this verse....and the last 2 years has stretched me beyond what I ever thought I could handle....actually I couldn't handle it...I wasn't suppose to handle it. I was to give it up to the one who carries our burdens. I had to exercise my "do not worry about anything muscle." I am stronger, because HE has made me strong....and so have your timely prayers for and WITH me! Amen! and AMEN!

Big Mama said...

Love this. It's exactly what I needed to read tonight.