Oh, what a difference a few weeks can make. The world we are all living in today is far from what it was like just a month ago. So much of what each of us had placed our stability and security in is now gone, or at least not what we had always known it to be.
We all deal with significant life-change in different ways: control – exercise – fear – isolation – addiction – prayer – and so on. But every one of us, no matter what our maturity level, has to come to grips with some level of anxiety in our lives. There is a difference between anxiety and anxiety disorders. What I’m referring to here are regular feelings of anxiety.
Anxiety is a normal human reaction to stress. In fact, it can be a good thing. Anxiety motivates us to accomplish our objectives and to remain focused. It can warn you when you’re in a dangerous situation. It informs you to be extra vigilant about your environment — to fight or flee. On the other hand, an anxiety disorder involves intense and excessive anxiety, along with other debilitating symptoms.
In the gospels, Jesus presents the divine framework for overcoming anxiety and finding inner peace and stability in our lives.
When asked by the religious leader what was the most important commandment, Jesus replied, “Love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. And love you neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:29-31).
In this concise statement, not only was Jesus spelling out the purpose of life. He was also providing the five essential elements of a life with purpose.
Loving God with all my heart in WORSHIP
Loving God with all my soul in true FELLOWSHP
Loving God with all my mind through DISCIPLESHIP
Loving God will all my strength in MINISTRY
Loving my neighbor as myself on MISSION
Worship Helps Us See God, Ourselves, and Others Through His Perspective
When we love God with all of our heart, we are worshipping Him. High and lifted up. Exalted. Majestic. King of King and Lord of Lords. But also, as near and intimate to us as our own breath.
The more I contemplate the vastness of God and the smallness of this earth and all that is on it, the smaller my life situations begin to seem. He wants us to have an eternal perspective, living as if we are merely passing through this earth on our way to forever with God in the heavenly places.
The energy that drives anxiety is fear – a fear that I won’t be in control, or that I’ll lose control, or that my inability to control might lead to something bad happening to me or those I love, or that no one is in control, or that life circumstances (such as COVID-19) are bigger than any being at any level can control…
As we learn to spend time each day – throughout the day – in an attitude of worship, trust, and reverence before God, the “things of earth will grow strangely dim, in light of His glory and grace.”
Fellowship Requires Deep Transparency And Vulnerability
Ever since the fall of man through Adam and Eve’s choices in the garden, shame has caused every human being to want to hide. To not be exposed. Fearful that if we’re really known – fully known – we will be rejected and not loved.
Anxiety is not the result of being transparent and vulnerable before another human being. No, the anxieties of life exist as an unconscious response to the secret fears and uncertainties – some real and some only imagined – that are trapped in our hearts and not shared with anyone.
To love God with all of my heart, I must be willing to fully expose what’s in my heart. To a Christian brother or sister in confession and to a loving, forgiving God in repentance. Not just eighty or ninety percent, but everything.
God’s promise is found in James 5:16: “Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.”
By verbalizing the fears, worries, concerns, and anxieties of your heart to another human being, something deep and healing will occur within you. Like unplugging a noisy machine, the negative, persistent chatter of anxiety will lose its power source.
Discipleship Transforms Us Into The Likeness Of Jesus Christ
The Latin root for the word disciple is “pupil” or “life follower”. Being a true disciple means much more than just being referred to as a Christian. A disciple is called to be a disciplined follower of Jesus Christ, submitting our mind, will, and emotions to His.
I like to compare it to reconciling my personal checkbook to the bank’s monthly statement. If there is a discrepancy, it is wise that I assume the error is probably on the side of my personal record keeping. In order to follow the bank’s balance, I must make any necessary adjustments to what has been entered and calculated in my records so the two are in alignment.
Growing as a disciple of Jesus is much the same. I am to take a regular – even daily – inventory of my life. And through the reading and studying of scripture, I then compare the ledger of my thoughts, actions, and feelings to those reflected in the truths of the Bible. Where there is incongruence, the Holy Spirit will reveal to me what needs changed on my side of the ledger.
For me, the difficult part is not found in trying to figure out where I diverge from God. No, it’s in humbling myself to where I can actually surrender my need for comfort and control in order to move my heart to where God’s is.
God promises us that when we walk with Him, the weight will be lessened. In order for you – for me – to find relief from the anxieties of life, it is critical to identify the false beliefs that are evoking the fear and worry from within, and submit those to the absolute, unchanging truths found in God’s character and in His word.
Ministry Takes Our Focus Off Ourselves And Allows Us To See The Needs Of Others
During the many years Ann and I served in the Celebrate Recovery program at our church, I was always amazed at how an individual’s journey toward wholeness in Christ would accelerate when they progressed to the point of selflessly serving the needs of others. Something supernatural would change in them – every time!
Up to that point the participant had been working to understand their current situation, had been growing in their knowledge of Biblical truths, and had been experiencing new-found freedom from their hurt, habit, or hang-up. But all of that was still focused on self.
When they would get to some of the latter steps and principles in the program that required them to step outside their comfort zone and to become aware of and serve the needs of others, it was as if a light bulb would come on in their heart.
From serving meals at a homeless shelter to working out with another guy or gal to mowing a shut-in’s lawn, time after time I was proud to witness as God punctuated the healing work within these men and women.
During this time of anxiety in your life, it is paramount that you get outside yourself and be attentive to the needs of others. Even while respecting social distancing and appropriate guidelines, there are still countless ways you and I can serve others. Be creative. Pray and ask the Holy Spirit to reveal to you someone who you can minister to during this time of uncertainty in our world. The benefit will be less anxiety and more fulfillment in your life.
“Give, and you will receive. Your gift will return to you in full – pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, running over, and poured into your lap. The amount you give will determine the amount you get back” (Luke 6:38)
Mission Is About Caring For Those Who Need The Hope That You Have Found
Several years ago, Gary Chapman authored a best-selling book entitled, “The Five Love Languages.” The premise of this book was the importance of us being perceptive of how others receive love and affection. Our human tendency is to love others in the way that we ourselves would prefer to be loved. Unfortunately, that often leaves the other person empty and unfulfilled.
Being on mission for Christ begins with an awareness of and a sensitivity to the needs of those around us who may be troubled, hurting, alone, or ill. Jesus calls His disciples to a radical type of faith – one that is lived out of grace and love as opposed to fear and self-protection.
Getting outside of what is familiar to us and taking the initiative to reach into someone else’s world can make all the difference, not only in their life, but in yours as well. We look the most like Jesus when we are serving “the least of these.”
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Life Training offers convenient sessions at our office in Louisville, Kentucky, as well as online counseling via Zoom or FaceTime. Our non-profit counseling practice has an outstanding track record for over a decade helping men and women, individuals and couples who are ready to move beyond anxiety, depression, and conflicts in marriage or other relationships find hope and healing in their lives. Contact us today at 502-717-5433, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org