Whoa!! Didn’t Expect That One
She put the phone down, shock slowly creeping through her.
“Did not have a clue that this challenge was on its way,” she mused to herself.
“So how does God want me to to navigate this situation? How can I process these uncomfortable moments in a way that would be pleasing to Him?”
As the temptation to worry seeps in, we can have an emergency plan in place. We can practice for the upcoming “bend in the road” just like someone practices for an upcoming game.
1. The Replacement Principle – Matthew 6:25
Jesus gives some guidance when it comes to anxiety.
Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about the body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?Matthew 6:25
Interesting to note that He says don’t be anxious about your life. In the verses to follow He reminds us that we cannot add one hour to our lifespan. God cares for us as He does for the birds of the air and the beautiful grass of the field. He states that the Gentiles (unbelievers) are seeking after, and continually anxious about, those things.
In contrast He says to seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness! That’s the cure for anxious thoughts that Jesus gives us!! Outward and upward focus! “What can I do for His Kingdom today? Who can I serve? Who can I encourage? Who can I share the gospel with? Who can I pray for other than myself and my problems?”
As believers, we are different in that we have a Heavenly Father that is looking out for us. He knows our needs and lacks no power to supply them … in His time … and in His way. He can also clearly distinguish our needs from our wants – often our fretting is about our wants. As a friend mentioned, “Most of the time, we have rich people problems. If we lived in the 3rd world with next to nothing, we would have none of these problems. We have problems because we have too much … and expect to keep it all.”
The anxiety battle is won firstly through the “replacement principle.” We can’t resist anxious thoughts by simply trying to not think anything. There are some men who claim they are thinking about “nothing,” but the mind is always processing or mulling over something. So, I must replace my anxious thoughts with some kind of active planning or pursuing whatever is good for the Kingdom.
2. The Stoking Principle – Philippians 4:8
“But I feel like I can’t help it,” you may say. “Anxiety is so powerful and takes over my thinking, my existence, and affects my sleep, my heart rate, my blood pressure, my digestion, my relationships, and my thoughts.”
What we allow our minds to feed on affects us. What we meditate on throughout the day and in our waking hours of the night slowly changes us.
“I cannot remember the books I’ve read any more than the meals I have eaten; even so, they have made me.”Ralph Waldo Emerson
Is there a grid of what materials are cleared to cross the threshold into the furnace of our thoughts? Wood is good. Materials with petrol or gunpowder are not. Have my thoughts cleared the Philippians 4:8 test?
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.Philippians 4:8
Are my thoughts true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, praiseworthy?? Or are they dark, pessimistic, desperate, slandering of God’s character, denying His nearness, or embracing some “bad karma” idea that you are getting what you deserve from years ago?
You are stoking materials into the fire of your mind that will eventually affect you. Paul gave us a list of good slow-burn thoughts that help us regain clarity. The very first on his list is “whatever is true.” “True” is whatever agrees with reality as known in the mind of God.
Thinking on what is really true cools the fire of most anxieties, which are mostly speculations about what will happen in the future without God in the picture – “I’ll get in so much trouble,” “I’m gonna die and leave my family in heartbreak,” “I could have been shot in the crossfire!” It is not true. None of it. Most anxiety magnifies the worse-case scenario and makes God disappear. It is the worst kind of speculation, imagining yourself alone in your trouble without God, His grace, His promises, or His people.
3. The Th(i)nkful Principle
Something bad happens and the fires of anxiety flare. Firstly, we’ve already seen that we can fight anxiety by getting busy with kingdom business at home, at school, at work, or in our community. Secondly, we have to watch our meditations and keep the combustible, harmful speculations out of the furnace. Thirdly, we need to think of what we can be thankful for in the situation and elsewhere in our life. This is the discipline of being th(i)nkful.
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.”Philippians 4:6
“In everything give thanks” is the Lord’s command because His meticulous Providence governs each detail of our lives, they are working for my good and His glory in His time, He is with me, He has measured what I can handle with His grace, I can cry out to Him at any time, and I have His Word, His Spirit, His promises, and His people around me. How will I respond? He is watching me. The angels in both kingdoms are watching. How will I respond?
Productive & Unproductive Anxiety
“anxious: (adj) uneasy and apprehensive about an uncertain event or matter: worried.
(from Latin anxius, from angere, to torment)thefreedictionary.com
Giving proper prudence to a matter or having proper fear for a dangerous situation is NOT what I am referring to here. You can address a dangerous situation with caution and not be overrun and controlled by anxious thoughts.
In this picture our youngest daughter is looking at a young lion cub in South Africa. That little lion is strong. Not respecting the danger associated with this animal would be foolish.
BUT there is another fear that is not good. It is a faithless fear. It is a fear that God is not really in control. God doesn’t care about me and my little life. Those lies can feed a sinful anxiousness.
Do you have a plan to handle anxiety when a Sovereign God ordains life to throw you a curveball? You could formulate your own, but here’s an example of what to write out in the back of your Bible:
- First run to the Lord in prayer and acknowledge that God is God and I am not
- God is with me right at this moment and knows more about this than I do
- God wants me to run TO Him with my cares not AWAY from Him and stew
- Begin searching for things that I can think thanks about even right in the storm
- Romans 8:18 tells me that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be
- Matthew 11:30 describes the Lord’s yoke as easy and His burden as light
- Even if everything else goes wrong, I can give thanks for Jesus saving my soul
- This life is a vapor and will soon be over; I will be made perfect and my troubles will be over!
“And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”Philippians 4:7