Friends under anxiety

IMG_8838

 

Anxiety in a man’s heart weighs him down,
but a good word makes him glad. Proverbs 12:25

Anxiety weighs down a friend. Especially crushing is the unspecified general feeling of dread. So what is the good word capable of lifting the weight and letting gladness spring up in the heart?

I don’t know. I’m sure there is no formula for the “good word.” The good word is discovered in the give and take of friendship. A person under anxiety will seek connection. But it seems from my own experiences that those first attempts at connecting often go wrong or are dissatisfying. Those of us “outside” the weight may be busy, may diminish the feelings and the situation, and just may miss the bid for connection.

And therein is the danger for friends under anxiety. When the bid for connection doesn’t deliver quickly the brain and body moves on to something else in a hurry. Like a baby goose imprinting on its mother those of us under the weight of anxiety are all likely to latch on to something or someone that “makes us feel better” for the moment.

So, what’s the good word that makes one glad? Think about it. What’s it been for you? 

Well for me, most often it is a word delivered by a friend. It may be as simple as “I’m glad to see you” and accompanied by a smile. Usually its a word delivered after listening and questioning. This good word both recognizes the anxiety and calls me to courage. This good word might be buried in a story. But usually “this good word” highlights a good and noble quality possessed by me and calls it forward as a strength.

This good word… may also point to reasons for hope and faith outside of me to which I may intrust myself. Even if I initially resist this kind of good word from a friend, it still has landed in my heart… even for a moment. This is what the Gospel does; it grounds us in the reality of God’s tender mercy and powerful strength for us. And so I believe that though the good words of formal blessings may seem strange to our common conversation patterns, they are powerful for us. Here are three:

Romans 15:13
I pray that God, the source of hope, will fill you completely with joy and peace because you trust in him. Then you will overflow with confident hope through the power of the Holy Spirit.

 
Romans 16:19-20 
19
But everyone knows that you are obedient to the Lord. This makes me very happy. I want you to be wise in doing right and to stay innocent of any wrong. 20The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. May the grace of our Lord Jesus be with you.

 
Numbers 6:24-26
24May the LORD bless you and protect you.
25May the LORD smile on you and be gracious to you.
26May the LORD show you his favour and give you his peace.
You probably have friends under anxiety. I hope you will connect with them and see if the Spirit of God generates a good word between you. A good word cannot be rushed!

I pray for you, that our Sovereign LORD would give you His words of wisdom so that you may know how to encourage the anxious. May He waken you morning by morning and open your understanding to His will. (Drawn from Isaiah 50:4)

Advertisements

Facing the squeeze of anxiety.

IMG_0491

4 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. 5Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; 6do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

8Finally, 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. 9What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.

Philippians 4:4-9

Conflict produces anxiety in most of us. Whether we are simply uneasy about a relationship, struggling with having disappointed another person, dealing with feeling out of place in a social setting, unsure of our performance on a test, or facing raw hostility  — anxiety alerts us: this is important. So if it is important — talk with God about it.

Paul gives exhortations in verses 4-9 in the context of a larger call for peacemaking between two conflicted leaders, Euodia and Syntyche, who were part of the Philippian church. Even peacemaking makes most of us a bit nervous. So no matter what side of a conflict you are on or if you are entering into conflicted relationships the anxiety there can choke your best intentions.

Each of the exhortations in these verses disrupts a product of anxiety.

Anxiety robs us of joy, so rejoice. However, the Apostle Paul directs us in to the Presence of Jesus to find matters of rejoicing in the Gospel. (vs. 4.)

Anxiety dampens our consideration of others and creates self-centredness, so consider the Lord’s closeness.  Notice how Paul reminds us of the closeness of Jesus and calls us into a considerate, reasonable, gentle approach towards others. (vs. 5)  Jesus is at hand, close, not far. He is Immanuel, God with us. He is keeping an eye on us and our lives, thoughts, actions, and attitudes are not unobserved by Him.

Anxiety paralyses us by limiting our access to the resources available to us, so Paul directs us to pray. (vs 6-7) When we pray we are accessing the abundant, unlimited, generous God who has shown himself through Christ Jesus. When we are making our requests known to God, we are giving voice to what has stirred up our anxiety and we are simultaneously entering into the peace of God. Even though the circumstances may not yet have changed — we are being changed.

Anxiety clouds our thinking, fixates on the negative, and creates a stingy story line, so think about… I love how Paul directs the believers to regulate their thinking. (vs 8-9) When in conflict, the storylines we create about others and ourselves are most likely to not be characterized by what is true, honourable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent and worthy of praise. Jesus provides us with much that is true, honourable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent and worthy of praise in the Gospel and in Creation, so we are exhorted to discipline our thinking into those things and realities. Why? Our thinking will be expanded beyond the shrink wrap effect of anxiety and into the abundance of God.

To anticipate the next time you face the squeeze of anxiety you may find it beneficial to print out this text and keep it around where you may be drawn by the Spirit into these life-giving processes and into life provided by the God of peace.

Scarcity and worry. Part 3.

IMG_5541

32For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. 33But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. 34 “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble. Matthew 6:32-34

One of the traits of an entrepreneur is that she is asking, “What do I want to do next?” I believe there is a related and similar question for the follower of Jesus.

However, scarcity and particularly worry about scarcity can keep us from asking the question and from giving our lives to the answer. Jesus is resetting the internal automation of the disciple. His Spirit is turning our affections and our questions towards Him.

So Jesus assures His disciples, My Father cares for you. My Father knows you. And now He assures them, if you are seeking His kingdom and His righteousness, God will add the “things” you require.

Here’s the question followers of Jesus are free to ask and to give themselves to daily: “My Heavenly Father, would you show me what you are doing in the world, and how you would like me to be a part of it?”

The question must come with a declaration of intent: “Lord, even as I go about the work of this day, I’m available to you for your Kingdom and for doing life in your ways.”

We really do have a hard time acting like we believe the Lord has an abundance of what we need for the trouble of this day. How often has obedience to Him been stopped in its tracks by worrying about “what if I don’t have enough… ?”

Let’s give our selves to the Lord Jesus Christ again believing He has enough.

Scarcity and Worry. Part 2.

IMG_2480

30But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. Matthew 6:30-32

Scarcity creates focus. The authors of Scarcity: Why having so little matters so much, call it tunnelling. Our mind focuses in on what we “need” and excludes all the rest. For those of us who have faced a deadline, we now how this works for us. But over time it also works against us. We can be so keyed into an outcome and a task that we miss that important call or even miss the signal at the intersection. Costly!

Jesus knows it too. He knows that scarcity creates a worry and a perpetual focus on the stuff of earth: “What shall we eat? What shall we drink? What shall we wear?” He knows we doggedly run after these things. And we do it to our detriment.

So Jesus would ground us in the reality of our Heavenly Father’s knowledge. He knows we need them all. But He also knows we need the freedom of dependence on God.

No doubt death, decay, and the broken nature of our world makes “getting what we need” a challenge. And for some it is desperate. But even when its not desperate if we have conditioned our soul to lust after these, we may fill our stomachs and clothe our bodies, but our souls will be empty.

Trusting our Heavenly Father to care for us even in these basic matters of life opens us up to His supply and His Presence so that we enter into His joy in both our work and our rest.

Scarcity and your worry. Part 1.

IMG_1944

25 “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? 26Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?

Matthew 6:25-27

Chronic scarcity can ruin the soul. Not having enough preoccupies a person so that they miss opportunities in each day to experience God’s grace and provision. Most of Jesus’ audience at the Sermon on the Mount would have been intensely familiar with the grinding weight of poverty. Jesus shows them how money and wealth, or rather the lack of money and wealth, generates worry.

Perhaps you aren’t worried about money, clothes or food today. You might be worried about having enough time, knowledge, strength, happiness, professional attitude, control, wisdom, or patience. Worry actually turns you toward yourself and away from engagement in the Lord’s good work prepared for you.

Worry wastes life. One of Jesus’ first “abundance directives” shows the disciples the waste of worry. He wants them to anchor their minds on this truth: I am valuable to our Heavenly Father! Often when we worry we diminish the presence and truth of God in our lives, in this very moment.

Have you rejoiced in the mercy and grace of God today? Let your mind turn this truth around like a diamond in your hand.

My Heavenly Father treasures me. He values me. Not for what I can do for Him or be for Him; its all mercy and grace! He considers me. Thank you Lord!