Burdened by Fear
If I was ever given the task of describing myself I firmly believe I could produce a list of fifteen characteristics or qualities before I would even consider listing peaceful as one of those attributes. I feel like throughout my life there was always something vying for my attention; some class, relationship, or future goal that managed to produce some sense of anxiousness in me. It became evident how serious of an issue this was when those things soon found their place at the forefront of my mind, consuming a significant portion of my thought-life, permeating nearly every aspect of my day. While I don't believe these areas of anxiety ever became truly overwhelming or crippling, I can remember many a sleepless night when I was left shoulders-shrugged in lack of direction, mind unable to conceive words to speak nor the ability of the tongue to voice them.
I felt conversation with friends and peers soon became characterized by this bizarre show of one-upmanship, this unspoken competition of attempting to convince the group you had the right to complain because your life truly was the most stressful. 10 page paper due in a week you haven't started? That's nothing. I have a 15 page paper due at midnight and my dog died this morning. The scores are tallied at this year's Anxiety Olympics and the competitors watch with envy as the gold-medal we trained all semester for is draped around the yoked neck of the irresponsible student with the deceased dachshund. It's a game everyone can play and yet no one really wins. Anxiety triumphs, and everyone is left in the same state of uncertainty and doubt, unsure how to live with the unsettling nervousness brought about by our overwhelming circumstances.
I have heard it said that willing submission to anxiety and worry is to enter into a state of temporary atheism, disbelief that God really is who He says He is, disbelief that He will provide and protect through even the most difficult of circumstances. In looking at these times of anxiousness in my life, I have been able to conclude for myself that the true root of the problem does not lie in the seriousness of these concerns or even the significance of their outcomes. While I may attempt to justify or rationalize my worries and fears, subconsciously reminding myself of their inherent value to the success or failure of my future, the true center of the problem lies not in wanting to be secure but in the predisposition of my heart to crave control.
In my desire for control I have completely removed God from the equation. In my worrying about nearly every aspect of my life I have effectively told God, Don't worry, I can handle this one, when in reality, I have no idea what I'm doing. In my anxiousness I am denying myself the opportunity to enjoy the peace God is so willing to give.
What is sin but the desire to possess power and control over oneself? What is sin but the pride that wells up within us to be like God? What is sin but the refusal to submit to the authority and control of He who is all-powerful and all-knowing?
Anxiety is the absence of peace, and to be anxious is to deprive ourselves of the peace God desires for our lives. That God desires this peace for our lives is abundantly clear in Paul's exhortation in Philippians 4:4-7,
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice! 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.
It is disconcerting how rarely I consider my own involvement in why I'm not peaceful. I feel as though we fail too often in thinking God will provide peace without ever thinking something is required of us as well. That something is first expected of us is clearly visible in the relationship established by Paul in the passage above concerning how one acquires the "peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension."
Be anxious for nothing.
The process is this:
Be anxious for nothing –> Lift your requests and concerns to God–> Peace abounds.
Peace is not the initiator. Peace is the product. Peace is the state that flows from submission and obedience to God. Too often we expect God to grant us peace when we are not willing to submit our fears, doubts, and concerns to Him. We desire peace without ever thinking how much we are responsible for our own unrest. God wants us to live lives characterized by peace, and yet we continue to live life ashamed of our past failures, overwhelmed by our present hardships, and consumed by our fears of the future.
This is not the desire of God for His people. God desires transformation from our previous wickedness, conformation to the image of His Son, and freedom from the fears that bind us. God desires peace for our lives and only in Him can we attain such peace. Submit your anxieties to God, cast your burdens at His feet, and allow the peace that surpasses all understanding to permeate your life.
In Christ, there is no anxiety. In Christ, there is no reason to be afraid. In Christ, there is no reason to be fearful of the future, for we know our future is secure in him, regardless of our present circumstances or difficulties. Like all things, the future rests solely in his hands. Knowing this, let us confidently relinquish our doubts, our fears, and our anxieties to him who is able to graciously grant to us freedom and peace. In Christ, there is hope. In Christ, there is rest.
Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light. – Matthew 11:28-30