May 9, 2019 | by: 0 Comments|
Lately I’ve been anxious, and after speaking with a number of other believers, I’ve found out that I’m not alone. I’ve been praying, and seeking to live Paul’s practical counsel in Philippians 4:4-7:
4 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. 5 Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; 6 do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
What is so wonderfully important in that counsel from Paul is his focus on the Lord Jesus Christ. We undermine anxiety through understanding God’s character, especially his sovereignty, goodness, and love. This is how Christopher Ash put’s it in his wonderful little book Where Was God When that Happened? He writes:
How can I learn to stop worrying and trust God more? Well, you can’t do it by making resolutions, or by being cajoled or rebuked by an impatient pastor! You can’t do it by focusing on yourself, your faith (or lack of faith), your anxiety or confidence, or your state of mind or heart. When you look at yourself, you are bound to be disappointed. You cannot pull yourself up by your own bootstraps. In fact, even praying about anxiety can be counterproductive, if praying just encourages you to be introspective. Stop praying! Or at least, stop praying about yourself!
In Matthew 6:25-34 Jesus tells his followers not to worry. But he doesn’t just tell them. He talks to them about their heavenly Father. Faith comes not from looking within myself, but from looking at the One who is the object of my faith. Faith comes from God’s revelation of himself in the Bible, which is the story - above all - of Jesus, who makes the Father known.
So stop worrying about worrying; that is a psychological monster that feeds by eating its own tail! Look upwards to see your heavenly Father revealed in Jesus. Read the truths in the Bible that this book tries to open up. Think about them. Talk with mature and trustworthy Christian friends about these truths, about this true God. Instead of praying about anxiety, try putting into words some of the truths of God’s fatherly goodness and love, and turning them into prayers of praise. Write them down so you think clearly. Then come back to them and discipline yourself to say them out loud. Train yourself to look up, rather than to look in. [Christopher Ash, Where Was God When that Happened?: And other questions about God’s goodness, power and the way he works in the world (Epsom, Surrey, England: Good Book Company, 2017), 79.]
This is good, wise, and godly counsel. In sum, we undermine anxiety in understanding God’s character. May the God of peace give us peace (2 Thess. 3:16).