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?
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:
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.