But you, O LORD, are a shield about me, my glory, and the lifter of my head. I cried aloud to the LORD, and he answered me from his holy hill. I lay down and slept; I woke again, for the LORD sustained me – Psalm 33-5
It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved sleep – Psalm 127:2
One of the great afflictions of our culture is anxiety. There are so many, overwhelming responsibilities and uncertainties that it is no wonder that people are stressed and worry about literally everything. We have financial burdens, relationship pressures, housing maintenance, hobbies, kids, sports, retirement, finding a job, securing an occupation and a host of others things. The problem has created an unparalleled opportunity for the drug companies to provide pills for stress, anxiety, depression, worry, tension, trauma, uneasiness, apprehension, despair, misery and hopelessness. Of course this does not solve the problem but medicates the symptoms. Of course, we can say this but most of us as Christians take advantage of such help on a regular basis.
We could debate the validity of “buying” into these medications to help us deal with the anxieties of life. I have some good friends who have suffered from anxiety, depression and disorders that seem to be more of an affliction than circumstance. They have sought medical help and have been given some medications to help them in the short term to get through some significant pressures. On the other hand it begs the question not to ask, “Should Christians be overwhelmed with anxiety or worry or stress to the point that is debilitating?
It is certainly a fair question. The Bible has numerous verses that instruct us not to worry or be anxious (Ps. 127:3; Is. 35:4; Jer. 17:8; Matt. 6:25, 27-28, 31,34; 10:19, 41; 1 Cor. 7:32; Phil. 4:6). Most of these address the normal ebb and flow of life, they do not address extreme circumstances. On the other hand how do we limit the power of a supernatural God in the lives of His people?
Psalm 33 and 127 set the platform for God’s people to be so confident that God is involved in their life and cares about them that He provides even when they are asleep. Ultimately our sense of peace in the midst of anxious times is related to our willingness to trust that God cares about us. Jesus commanded His own disciples to not be anxious about tomorrow for each day has enough issues to deal with. Certainly there are many Christians that we might lovingly call “control” people – they have a fear of being out of control and so trusting God is (frankly) very hard. Others get caught up in the pressure of daily things and forget to trust God. While we can provide some a context in extreme circumstances most of us may find ourselves a little embarrassed when we stand before the Lord and have to explain why our lives were filled with so much worry and anxiety when we had a loving Father that invited us to trust Him for the journey we have been on.
On the other side of the coin we struggle with faith and trusting others. We live in a world that we are taught to be constantly skeptical and suspicious of everyone. We assume that people are not trustworthy and everyone has an angle to manipulate us. While the reality is that are many great people who have an honest character, they are very generous and trustworthy it often must be earned rather than assumed.
One challenging element to this process (in my mind) is how Jesus kept pointing his disciples to having the faith of a child (Matt. 19:13-15; Mark 10:13-16; Luke 18:15-17). The example of child-like faith is so pure, so implicit, and so dependent that it is truly remarkable. We see this in our families: when parents are often worried and anxious about all kinds of things in life, little children are completely oblivious to it. Some will argue that children are naïve. That is true but the other side of that coin is that they so implicitly trust mom and dad that they don’t even bother to think about worry about many things. Mom and dad are the rock solid foundation of their lives and they will handle it. The one time that changes is when children see their parents worry and then they are infected by the tension that the parents are giving, even if the kids don’t know the issues.
I also get the fact that children can worry and be anxious about things too. But their worries are quite trivial from a parent’s perspective. They worry about losing a stuffed animal or a misplaced blanket. They get anxious if a sibling gets something they don’t. From a parents perspective this is often quite humorous because while it seem to be a big deal to small children, parents realize that these are not life and death issues – usually they are selfish worries.
Maybe for many of us, most of the anxieties in our life are more like the worries of children. God must smile at times at our worrying because we are often selfish about what we worry about. On the other hand I believe God would love to pour out His peace upon His children and provide a divine gift of peace when everything would justify worry.