Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Be Anxious for Nothing

Anxiety, worry, stress, self-reliance, frustration. Sound familiar? They do to me. Giving my cares and worries to the Lord is a constant battle for me. Actually, I haven't known many people who won't admit that it's a struggle for them, too.

Philippians 4:5-7
Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near. 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 comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Why do we allow ourselves to become anxious and worried when the God who created us has declared to us that He cares and wants to hear us?

To really examine that, I think we have to look at several causes of anxiety, worry, and frustration. Obviously, this is not an exhaustive list, just a brief look at some of my thoughts on the subject.

1. Rebellion; entertaining rebellious thoughts; harboring anger and resentment.

When I was thinking about this topic, Cain actually came to my mind first. Remember what the Lord told him before he killed Abel?

Genesis 4:4b-7
And the LORD had regard for Abel and his offering, but for Cain and his offering he had no regard. So Cain was very angry, and his face fell. The LORD said to Cain, 'Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it.'

Why had his face fallen? Because he was resentful: the LORD accepted Abel's offering and not his. When I was a new believer, I thought this was arbitrary and wondered why God accepted one and not the other--was it the kind of offering? What?

No--Abel's sacrifice was accepted because of his faith, as we learn in Hebrews:

Hebrews 11:4
By faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain, through which he was commended as righteous, God commending him by accepting his gifts.

And Cain's works were evil, whereas Abel's were righteous (through faith, as we just saw), so Cain became angry. There is a lesson there for us, that we must cling to the Lord. We are not so unlike Cain that we could never follow that path--so we are warned by John to love one another and live righteously. The world will hate this.

1 John 3:11-13
For this is the message that you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another. We should not be like Cain, who was of the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own deeds were evil and his brother's righteous. Do not be surprised, brothers, that the world hates you.

But look at the love and mercy God displayed toward Cain even as Cain stewed in the first throes of murderous rebellion! Even then the Lord reached out to Cain, instructing him in righteousness, though Cain chose not to heed.

How does that relate to me, to us? I don't know about you, but there are many times that I am tempted to sit and stew in anger, worry, or frustration. I don't believe Cain's sole emotion as his countenance fell was anger: anger is preceded, usually, by some form of frustration (this is most likely in Cain's case) or worry.

2. Taking on a burden too big to carry.

This is probably my primary struggle--well, never mind, I struggle with all of these! :-) We load ourselves with burdens and then wonder why our shoulders hurt. What did Jesus say?

Matthew 11:28-30
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.

We were never made to carry emotional and spiritual burdens. God made us to seek Him.

Psalm 94:18-19
If I should say, "My foot has slipped,"
Your lovingkindness, O LORD, will hold me up.
When my anxious thoughts multiply within me,
Your consolations delight my soul.

Psalm 139:23-24
Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts:
And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.

The Lord alone is able to take our burdens. He wants to--He is our Shepherd and Comforter, Father, Friend.

Luke 13:34
O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not!

3. Seeking to control everything rather than seeking the Lord's will in every situation.

When Jesus visits Mary, Martha and Lazarus, without fail I see myself in Martha--but I want to be Mary.

Luke 10:38b-42
And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord's feet and listened to his teaching. But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, 'Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.' But the Lord answered her, 'Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.'

There are SO many things to point out in this passage! First, notice Martha not only does not choose "the good portion"--she tries to tell the Lord what to do! ("Tell her to help me.") ACK!

Martha is really reamed sometimes in sermons, but she was a righteous woman doing a "righteous" thing (showing hospitality to a stranger, serving guests)...but it wasn't the best thing to be doing at the time, nor was it done in love and peace, but in perfectionism and self-will. God shows up on our doorstep, and what do we do? Freak out about making everything perfect, BEING perfect. And in the process we're screw-ups.

The bottom line is that we cannot control anything except ourselves, and that by the Spirit (Gal 5:23). We must be in the life-giving Vine to have the peace that comes from knowing Him, being still, and recognizing what's important in any situation God puts us in.

Psalm 46:10-11
Be still, and know that I am God.
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth!"
The LORD of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our fortress.

May the Lord help us all to seek Him in everything and be anxious for nothing.


Rachel said...

Wow. So much here. All the comments I was carefully constructing as I read through have flown, ack!

I will say that one advantage of being a Messie like me is that you're not overly troubled with Martha-ish tendencies. True, when people come by, there's shame sometimes, but at least I don't let that annoying perfectionism get in the way of my walk with God. ;-)

Also, regarding Cain and Abel: I understood this better once I put it in the light of two children (especially when I had my own little case studies running around and being given expectations to meet). One does what God wants, and one says, in effect, "yeah yeah yeah God, you want that, but this will be good enough." Um, no. Thankfully nobody in my house has killed anyone over the resentment, but if looks could kill... ack.

I LOVE Psalm 46:10. Really love it. There's a long story as to why; maybe I'll write about it in my journal someday.

jodi said...

Thanks, Kristen. I have been feeling anxious today, so your post was encouraging.

I think what helps me fight anxiety and worry is thinking on God's character. Focusing on Him and His greatness, goodness, and incredible love for me - while remembering that He is the one in control - helps me let go and really trust Him on a much deeper level.

I find a lot of times my anxiety is rooted in distrust of God or false beliefs about Him. You know, He is out to get me or I'm being set up or thoughts of how God has somehow let me down. All lies. If I recognize them as such and meditate on the *truth* of who God is, I find peace and am able to embrace whatever is coming my way, knowing it is somehow part of His will.

Anyhow, I needed to be reminded of that this morning, so thank you!!

Kristen said...

Rachel--Just so you know, I am a total 'Messie.' That is NOT where my perfectionism rears its ugly head. ;-)

Jodi--AMEN! The devil is the father of lies. He likes to tell us lies about ourselves and about the Lord. You are so right: meditating on the TRUTH is the way to see clearly and get out of any funk.

I like what you wrote here: "Focusing on Him and His greatness, goodness, and incredible love for me - while remembering that He is the one in control."

Rachel said...

When I was a new Christian I read a line in a daily devotional that has stayed with me for years. I don't remember who was being quoted or even what the devotional was, but it went like this: "There are two facts about God which should be the comfort of every believer. God is sovereign, and God is good." I can't count how many times that has helped me to cast aside worry and rely on a good God who is in charge of everything to keep me and my loved ones right in the palm of His hand.

Kristen said...

Yes. It's so awesome to know that He can handle everything. There's nothing that's beyond Him. I always think of this (especially regarding my fertility situation):

Isaiah 50:2Is my hand shortened, that it cannot redeem? Or have I no power to deliver?

Kim said...

Sometimes, we are so self-centered that we don't even realize that we are trying control situations. We have a tendency to create God in our own image rather than seeing Him as He is, so tell ourselves that God is the author of a situation when really we've simply tried to take control.

Very thought-provoking thoughts.

jaygee said...

Kristen -- thank you for this post. Anxiousness is all about the wrong focus - us instead of God. I need to hear this every day.

JP Manzi said...

Great post Kristen, its hard to explain why we, most of time, rebel from what is good and holy to try to solve things under our own terms. He seeks a relationship with us and we tend to say "No thanks Lord, I can handle this" Its hard sometimes to put our full trust in God and being submissive. I will pray over this.

Kristen said...

Kim--that is so true. I find that if I spend time away from the Word, I get worse and worse about that. The Bible is so awesome because it reveals the I AM!

John--Me, too. Thanks. :)

JP--I know! It's totally absurd, yet we all seem to do it. I know that I personally need to make sure I am SLOWING DOWN every day to listen to Him. I am a "full steam ahead" type of person. I've run ahead of God before--it's embarrassing.

Humble_Servant said...

Kristen, once again a very timely post. I still have times of struggle with the issue of worry. I have to remind myself to turn it all over to our Lord. Jesus' words comfort me most of all.
Matthew 6:26-34 (NIV)
26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?

28“And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
What and awesome God we serve!!

Christy said...

Isaiah 50:2Is my hand shortened, that it cannot redeem? Or have I no power to deliver?

I really loved this scripture when I read it...another one came to mind too as I read your post for today (also very timely here!!)

Ro 8:28 And we know that to them that love God ALL THINGS WORK TOGETHER for good, [even] to them that are called according to [his] purpose.

No matter what happens...God is always the same, He loves us more than we can even understand, and he will take care of us! That's been a great comfort to me. This past year has been full of trials.

"I know the plans I have for you. Plans to prosper you, not harm you..."
Does anyone know the ref. for that scripture? I love that one...I thought it was in Jeremiah...

Hoping everyone has a blessed evening!

John Schroeder said...

What a great post. I have linked to it at my site here

Kristen said...

Thanks, John. I am bookmarking your blog. :)

Amber Lynn said...

That was very cool. I was just thinking about this today (or maybe it was yesterday). There are so many things to worry about and I think sometimes they might pop into our heads cuz God wants us to pray about them but instead we obsess and never get around to prayer.

thicket dweller said...

Kristen, I absolutely needed to read this today. Absolutely. I'm in a rush, but I will come back and re-read it. I think it was a word meant just for me, if I may be so egocentric.

Thank you.

kItttttt said...

whoa, that's alot of niceties u're getting. great great post.. i think everyone can somehow relate to this..

just like a person over-zealous in the right arrangement of chairs in church will risk forgetting she serves God.

thank you, kristen

Kristen said...

Amber Lynn--Yes, I agree. I've done that so many times it's embarrassing to think about.

Thicket Dweller, well PTL! That's awesome! He is good to know what we need and when. :)

Kit--you make me laugh. The "arrrangement of chairs" thing reminds me of a church I used to go to. The people were really sweet, but there were several people who would REALLY get their feathers ruffled...when the pastors changed the order of the service. Yep, you heard me right. No doctrinal issue, just when you do communion, when you sing the solo, when the message is preached. The pastors mixed it up one Sunday and did all the normal things at different points in the service than usual, and boy, the phone calls they got that week! SAD. SAD. SAD.

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