A conversation with my dear friend this week brought up the thought – are we more anxious these days or do people just talk about it more? Surely in our age with wars going on around the world, economic and political uncertainty and the barrage of information about situations over which we have no control, we have cause for more anxiety. Our personal lives add stress and cause for fretting. Yet, God’s provision and promises do not expire. They weren’t for “back in the day when Jesus walked.” They are for you and for me today in this moment and age.
Surely there are many causes for anxiety and I never want to minimize the reality of panic attacks, anxiety disorders and overall fearfulness which can come as a result of old traumas, recent grief or physiological imbalances. These conditions can plague wonderful, God-honoring Christians and they aren’t a sign of weak faith that merely needs to pray harder, serve more, or memorize more verses of Scripture. The reality of anxiety in our lives has many roots. While holding that truth in our minds, let’s look at what God invites us into.
As we walk through Philippians, we come to this verse:
Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication
with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God (Php 4:6)
The word for anxious in Greek is merimnaō. It actually means “to take thought of,” “to be troubled with” or “to seek to promote our own interests." God is telling us not to dwell on anything that would cause us to be caught up in fear. We don’t need to be troubled. We can come to God in prayer.
You may wonder what the difference is between prayer and supplication. The original word "prayer" as it is used in this verse means setting aside a special place to talk to God as if in a sanctuary. The word supplication means asking and seeking. I love the image God is painting here. He wants us to set aside a private place and time to come to Him so we can present what otherwise troubles us. We have an invitation to a personal sanctuary in and with Him.
I was so intrigued to find that the meaning of “anxious” revealed a seeking of our own interests. There is a selfishness which comes from fear that causes us to hoard and rely on ourselves instead of trusting God’s lavish provision. We lean towards anxious self-reliance when we don’t trust in God. In Matthew 6:25-34 God reminds us we don’t need to think of what we will wear or eat, how long we will live or what will happen tomorrow. We can rest because God knows our needs.
Elsewhere Jesus tells Martha (Mary’s sister) that she is “careful” (anxious) and troubled of many things. He is encouraging her to trust Him and abide with Him instead of fearfully flitting about getting her external world in order. Sometimes it feels as though we can contain anxiety by ordering our world. Do you feel that way? We fear the disorder because it makes us vulnerable. Being vulnerable makes us open to hurt. Keep it tidy, stay busy, and we don't have to risk. We don't have to feel. Oh, I get you, Martha. I've been there done that.
God offers something greater and simultaneously harder. In order to find peace, we have to risk intimacy which means relinquishing control and allowing ourselves to come unglued before Him. In this quiet, private place of entreating, we can learn to be safe and pray. It means letting go and that's no small invitation. He is patient and He waits for our readiness. I have had to heal much from pains I held near and couldn't relinquish. My internal, unseen wounds plagued me and held me back. Let me assure you, God is relentlessly gentle. He won't give up. Never. He'll hang out, hang on, hang in. He's here even when every emotion in your body tells you elsewise. Imagine the person whom you trust the most in the world and then amp that care and safety on spiritual steroids. That love. That patient love is His for you. Come as you are and cast your cares on Him because He cares for you.
If you stand at the edge of the pool, longing to swim, to go deeper, to be known and simultaneously safer than you ever imagined, yet you can't bring yourself to jump into His arms, ask someone to stand with you, hold your hand and jump in together. Sometimes it takes that willing lifeguard to help us off the edge of our self-reliant hesitations. Jump in. The water is warm. You will not drown in anything but love.
We can experience such safety that we brim with thankfulness – not necessarily for what has passed, but for what we trust, in faith, is yet to come as we surrender to Him all that concerns us. Certain of His goodness, we can know that no harm will come to us even though we surely will endure hurts. We can present our requests and know that God who loves us will meet our needs. As a matter of fact, His Word promises He provides more than we can ask or imagine.
Today, as you go through your day, stay tuned into your heart. When you find yourself fearful or anxious, pause. Go to a quiet place, set aside for you and Jesus (even if that is the bathroom while your children are knocking at the door) and present your requests from the place in you that trusts Jesus, knowing God will surely meet your deepest needs. Oh, let Him in. Take the chance to be more intimate than you have dared so far in your walk up to this moment.
I pray you found a breath of fresh air here and a moment to reflect and recharge your battery. I do love hearing from you. If something you read here touched you, please share with me. Come join the conversation at the Hearts Homeward Facebook page. Let me know how I can pray for you or if something I wrote here touched you.