How to Struggle

This morning I read Romans 15, and I became fixated on one verse in particular. Verse 30 says, “I urge you, brothers, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to join me in my struggle by praying to God for me.”

Paul is wrapping up a long letter to the Christians in Rome, and in chapter 15 he is explaining his future plans. He is going to run an offering from the Christians in Macedonia and Achaia (think Greece) east to the poor Christians in Jerusalem. Then he is going back west to drop by Rome on his way further west to Spain. Why he didn’t just wire the money I’ll never know. I digress.

Paul is a bit apprehensive about returning to Jerusalem because, well, Paul’s “betraying” Judaism and becoming a Christ-follower was generally frowned upon by the Jewish establishment, and, thus, the general Jewish population in the region. Paul petitions the Romans to, “Pray that I may be kept safe from the unbelievers in Judea and that the contribution I take to Jerusalem may be favorably received by the Lord’s people there, so that I may come to you with joy, by God’s will, and in your company be refreshed,” (Romans 15:31-32).

I am struck by Paul’s vulnerability in his prayer request. Here is the greatest missionary of all time asking those he has discipled in the faith to pray for him because he is SCARED. He knows he is walking into a volatile situation in which he could quite literally be murdered if he falls into the wrong hands. But the poor Christians in Jerusalem need help, and he has the ability to help them. So he really does not think twice about going to aide them.

However, he still “urges” fellow believers to pray for his safety. “Dangerous conditions” won’t stop Paul from doing what God wants him to do, but the reality of the danger is still enough for him to plead for prayer. It’s like Paul thinks prayer really works or something… … …

I’m also struck by the verbiage Paul uses in his request. His “urging” the Roman Christians to pray for him communicates…urgency. He has a serious task before him and doesn’t take it lightly.

But beyond that, Paul describes a) the mechanisms by which he is urging the brothers to join him, or b) the mechanisms by which he and the Roman Christians are brothers. And those mechanisms are “our Lord Jesus Christ and the love of the Spirit.” Since there were no commas in the original language, it’s hard to say which possibility Paul meant.

Maybe all Paul means is he and the Roman Christians are brothers because they all were saved by God’s love exhibited through the Holy Spirit’s drawing each of them to Jesus (option b). And as spiritual brothers, they can and ought to join in each others’ struggles.

On the other hand, if the commas are right (option a), Paul is urging the brothers to join him in his struggle via Jesus and the love of the Spirit. It would seem these are the avenues of their joining together.

Perhaps, then, Paul means that their being Christians and their possession of the love of the Spirit make it possible for the Romans to truly unite with him in his struggle. Without the commonality of being believers, maybe it wouldn’t be possible for the Romans to join Paul in his struggle? Can non-believers reallyfully join in believers’ struggles when non-believers lack the correct perspective of prayer and God?

And/Or, without the love of the Spirit working through them, maybe it wouldn’t be possible for the Romans to have the motivation to join Paul in his struggle? I mean, how fun does that sound, anyway? If the decision is left up to us selfish humans, I’m thinking most of the time we won’t be chomping at the bit to join anyone in struggles…Paul is essentially saying, “Hey, you guys? Wanna  feel this incredible fear and anxiety I’m currently experiencing? It sucks big time! You’re gonna hate it. There’s a heavy weight on my chest, I toss and turn all night, and the panic attacks are coming every hour or so… but come on over and suffer with me! I’ll put on a pot of coffee, and you bring cookies.”

At any rate. Paul tells the Romans they can join together with him in his struggle by doing one thing: “praying to God for me.” 

I don’t know about you, but I don’t pray enough. I hardly pray at all, really. I’d never say this out loud (yeah, I would; I have no shame/filter/verbal boundaries), but I feel like prayer is pretty boring and is more of a chore than a privilege. I don’t like feeling this way; I know it is wrong. But prayer is a pretty passive thing to me most the time. I rattle off some thanks and some requests while God sits by trying not to yawn in my face.

But there have been a few times in my life where a friend desperately needed prayer, and I fervently prayed for him. About a year and a half ago, for example, a friend of mine was in a car wreck. He was airlifted, had emergency surgery, was in a medically induced coma in a trauma ICU unit for 6 weeks, etc. Things were broken, breathing was inconsistent, infections arose. He almost died numerous times. Due to the emotion of the circumstances, it was easy for me to “pray without ceasing.” I “joined” this friend and his family in their struggle for life. And there was nothing passive about it. Praying for him and them consumed my thoughts most of every day. Worship songs about depending on God and trusting God came alive to me in a whole new way. I actively worshiped God as I learned how to live what those songs say I believe. I grew spiritually, my friend eventually recovered, his family made it through the worst couple of months of their lives, and God was glorified.

It kind of blows me away that we believers have this ability to actually enter into someone else’s struggle. We can actively join together with them, experiencing at least some level of the pain they are experiencing. We can suffer along with them. And, yes, at first glance, this seems sadistic. Why would anyone purposefully subject themselves to suffering, esp. on someone else’s behalf? Hmm…I don’t know, why don’t we ask Jesus?

Jesus chose to enter our world and our lives to suffer on our behalves. In salvation He takes all the suffering for us. But in daily living He enters our lives and suffers alongside us when we are hurting or scared or anxious or depressed because we still live in a fallen world. He is with us always (Matthew 28:20), even when we’re broken-hearted (Psalm 34:18). We may forget He is there most of the time, but that doesn’t change the fact that He is, and He is feeling all the same emotions of the moment we are (Hebrews 4:15). And just knowing that makes our suffering a little more bearable.

There is something beautiful about us humans loving someone else like this. When we willingly volunteer to walk so closely with someone who is struggling that we actually feel their pain ourselves, we’re showing Jesus to them. A holy communion of sorts takes place, and we come to see that joining them in their struggle is actually a privilege. And the chief way we do this is by praying for them.

  When we struggle, we are to struggle together.

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What to Do When You Go through a Trial

Hi. My name is Kelly. I used to write here. Often. And I used to love it. And some of you enjoyed it, too. But in January, 2015, I started working on my master’s and all but totally stopped writing here. And I missed it. A lot. And some of you missed it, too. Fast forward 3 years, and my degree is complete. I had a lot of fun. I learned a lot of things. But now I don’t know what to do with myself. So here is me shaking off the dust and seeing if I remember how to write…

Yesterday, I sat down and read through the whole book of 1 Peter to get the bird’s eye view of the thing before we start dissecting it next week in the Sunday School class I attend. As I read through the first chapter, a sermon started welling up in me down around verse 7. It seemed particularly fitting for a friend of mine grieving a death in the family, so I tapped my thoughts out with my thumbs and sent them as a text message. Today, I sat down and turned that sermon/text into a post here.

(I don’t know why I think you care about all that back story, but I’m just going to go with it serves as a “practical application” of what follows. My preaching professors would not be happy with the application coming before the explanation, so it looks like those three years away were for naught. Oh well.)

Now then, in Peter’s first letter to early Jewish Christians, his primary goal was to encourage them to live godly lives as they endured terrible persecution for being Christians. This was back in the time of Nero, that Roman emperor who outlawed Christianity and thought it fun to light Christians on fire in order to illuminate his palace gardens at night. Most of the references Peter makes to suffering, then, are on par with levels of persecution we contemporary westerners know nothing about.

However, in 1 Peter 1:6, Peter expands his thoughts to include “all kinds of trials that produce grief.” And that is something you and I can relate to. The next verse reads, “[All kinds of trials that produce grief] have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory, and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed,” (1 Peter 1:7).

Trials produce grief for two purposes.

First, trials that produce grief have come so that your faith in God is proven genuine both to yourself and to those around you. It is when you are in the midst of trials that you and others will see whether or not you really trust God’s decisions to allow/cause your trials and whether or not you have faith in Him to perfectly handle the results/consequences of your trials. As you trust Him in the middle of trials, other believers will be encouraged to do the same, and unbelievers will see Jesus in you. Your attitude will pique their curiosity in Jesus.

Second, trials that produce grief have come so that praise, glory, and honor will be the results when Jesus Christ is revealed.

This may be Peter’s way of saying YOU–the under-goers of the trials–will receive praise, glory, and honor from Jesus when He returns. In other words, Jesus will give you an, “Atta boy!” or “Atta girl!” for persevering and handling trials faithfully.

An alternate take on this part of the verse is that Jesus will get praise, honor, and glory when He returns as a result of your handling trials well. Why? Because the lost will get saved when they observe believers going through trials with unwavering faith. You are experiencing these specific trials of grief so lost people can see how you handle things with the power of Christ, and then the Spirit will draw them unto salvation. Maybe not today. But at some point before Christ returns, and, as a result, there will be even more people worshiping Christ when He returns than there would’ve been if these trials had never happened to you.

No matter which interpretation is correct (perhaps they both are), it is important for you to remember this: you don’t save people. God saves people.

So while you are undergoing “all kinds of trials that produce grief,” just focus on walking with Him. Receive comfort from Him. Dialogue with Him. Tell others what He is teaching you. Describe to others what the Bible says about trials (which necessarily requires you to learn what the Bible says about trials…).

Make it your goal to stay close to Jesus in your grief-inducing trials, and your faith will be evident to others. 

Trials and Temptations

“…the Lord knows how to rescue godly men from temptations…” (2 Peter 2:9, NASB)

I hadn’t ever heard it put that way before. I could use a God like that because, frankly, I can’t rescue myself from temptations.

I know me. I know my flesh. I know the allure temptations have. I know my propensity to sin and my weak will to resist sin. I know my success rate at rescuing myself from temptations is embarrassingly low (like, 0%).

Because I know these things, I also know that any time I ever successfully resist temptation, it is only because the Lord enables me to do so. And He only enables me to do so because He is gracious.

There is nothing good in me. But out of His perfect love, He gives me the desire to obey Him (I can’t even muster that up myself…) and then empowers me to do so.

I pulled up the verse in the NIV and ESV and it read, “…the Lord knows how to rescue godly men from trials…”

What’s the difference between temptations and trials?

I’m not sure this is right, but here’s an idea I’ll lob out there for our consideration.

I think temptations are bad things we have a choice to be a part of or not. And trials are bad things we find ourselves in whether we want to be there or not. 

In other words, we (our sinful natures) happen to temptations, and trials happen to us.

For example, when we feel the pull to boast about something, that is a temptation. Our sinful natures take over and taint an otherwise good thing. Being successful at righteous things is an inherently good thing. But when we toot our own horns for the purpose of manipulating others to praise us or envy us, we mar that which was good. Excessive pride is a bad thing we choose to be a part of; it happens because of us.

On the other hand, when you’re laid off because your company is down-sizing, that is a trial. Assuming you are a good employee, you did nothing to warrant the lay off. No one asked you if you’d mind losing your job; they just took it from you. Nothing you could have done or not done would’ve changed the fact that you are now unemployed. Being laid off is a bad thing none of would choose; it happens to us.

So when the NASB says God knows how to rescue us from temptations, I think it is saying God knows how to help us not do stupid things. And He will, if we ask Him to… (That’s the catch, isn’t it? Too often we don’t ask Him and just go forth in our own stupidity and sin…probably because we don’t really want to overcome temptation in the first place.)

And when the NIV and ESV say God knows how to rescue us from trials, I think they are saying God knows how to help us through and out of tough circumstances we didn’t bring on ourselves.

In both cases, I am glad God has the necessary knowledge to help me out. I am also glad He is willing to help me if I want Him to. He is not not in control. He will act on His knowledge when the time is right. That brings me peace.

“…the Lord knows how to rescue godly men from temptations and trials…”

Trust

So, to understate things, Israel had some trust issues with the Lord. (I’m glad to know I’m not the only one.)

The Old Testament spends a lot of time chronicling the ways in which Israel failed to believe God would/could take care of them, despite His promise that He would and His continual actions that showed He would.  They were quick to blame Him when they experienced the fall out of their own unfaithful actions (…this is starting to sound like someone else I know…).

In one particular instance (Isaiah 50:1), an exiled Israel dared to accuse God of abandoning them, comparing Him to a man who divorces his wife and a father who sells his children to pay off his debts (an acceptable practice back then).

God is quick to flip the tables on Israel, correcting their out of touch spin they’d put on the situation. He tells them, essentially, “Oh, you’ve been ‘abandoned’ all right, but not because left you; I gave you warning upon warning upon warning to stop committing idolatry, but you wouldn’t listen. Your stubborn hearts left Me, and now you’re experiencing the natural consequences of the choices you’ve made,” (Isaiah 50:1-2).

If the story had ended here, it’d be nothing more than a he-said-she-said middle school break up. Yes, Israel would’ve been guilty of breaking their covenant with God to only worship and fully obey Him, but God also would’ve been guilty of breaking His end of the deal to never leave or forsake Israel.

Frankly, I don’t have time for a God like that.

Can I say that?

I don’t need a “God” who isn’t true to His word (even when I’m not true to mine). I’ve got plenty of humans that can let me down in that regard (in fact, all of them can, myself included). An untrustworthy, undependable God is not something I am in the market for.

But the story didn’t end there… after God gives the exiled Israel their reality check, something intriguing happens.

He says, “Was my arm too short to ransom you? Do I lack the strength to rescue you?”

Do you see it?

God switches verb tenses.

The first question is past tense – was God unable to save Israel from whatever problems they were experiencing, “forcing” them to run to false gods?

The second question is present tense – is God too weak to rescue Israel from her current bondage in Babylon?

Of course, the answer to both questions is no, so the switch in verb tense not only highlights God’s sufficiency in Israel’s past and present situations, it screams the theme of the entire Bible, “REDEMPTION IS COMING!”

Rescue is imminent! God is with us – He always has been – and He is ready to rescue and redeem the hard parts of our lives – of our souls – when we’re ready for Him to. God has never been insufficient in our pasts, and He isn’t insufficient now!

Yes, this is prophecy referring to Israel’s physical rescue from slavery in Babylon. Yes, this is prophecy referring to mankind’s eternal salvation through the person of Jesus Christ. But I believe it is also prophecy referring to the Lord’s rescuing of believers from their everyday trials and tribulations.

The Lord is going to redeem this whole messed up world one day. When He returns, Christ will right it all. But in the meantime, He wants to redeem the individual heartaches we have and stupid choices we make in each of our lives, one by one.

Does He lack the strength to rescue you? Presently? Now?

No, His strength never diminishes. He is the omnipotent One.

Do you lack the strength to trust Him to rescue you? That’s okay. He doesn’t call you to trust perfectly, and His rescuing of you doesn’t depend upon your ability to do so. But being able to trust Him sure makes things easier on you. So ask Him to help you.

“Let him who walks in the dark, who has no light, trust in the name of the Lord and rely on his God,” (Isaiah 50:10).

How to Grow Spiritually

Most mornings I read Oswald Chambers‘ daily devotional, My Utmost for His Highest. If you’re not familiar with him, Oswald is like a Christian superhero, right under C.S. Lewis, but well above Larry Boy.

Somehow I started reading Chambers straight out of the gate when I became a Christian almost 15 years ago. I like him because he’s not a fluffy devotional writer. (You know the kind of crap I’m talking about. Don’t make me name names.) He typically gets to the deeper heart of the believer with no sugar-coating in a few short paragraphs. He challenges. He calls you out. And he never ends his daily lesson with a, “Now go have a great day eating ice cream and playing with puppies!” kind of feel.

That being said, he doesn’t convey a holier-than-thou attitude either. A guy can’t have the kinds of insight into the depravity of man Oswald has without having experienced the depths of his own depravity first…and often.

All that to say, Chambers knocked it out of the park today. You really need to go read it. I’ll wait. In fact, you don’t even have to come back here; my thoughts won’t hold a candle to what Chambers wrote. But in case you do come back, I’ll finish the article for you below.

 

It should be pretty apparent that I am a “words” person. I like everything about words – learning new words, plays on words (but not puns – God is not a fan of puns, sir), applying one word a lot of different ways, comparing words, researching words, and taking the time to choose the perfect words to convey what I mean.

So I suppose that’s why Chambers’ opening line today blew my mind. He wrote, “Perseverance means more than endurance — more than simply holding on until the end.”

Immediately, my mind set about comparing perseverance and endurance to evaluate the validity of this statement. In English the word perseverance has a more purposeful sense of action, while the word endurance has a more passive connotation.

To persevere we put forth effort and work a plan in the hopes that we will achieve a goal. Persevering requires time and energy and often sacrifice. To persevere may be to physically do something, but it could also be the action of mentally and emotionally focusing on something (or the discipline of NOT focusing on something, as the case may be). We are active participants in this process.

To endure we hunker down and wait for the storm to pass. We don’t do anything. We let the trials and problems happen to us and hope that, in time, we will come out on the other side when the rain is gone. We are passive observers in this process.

As Chambers pointed out, perseverance is more than endurance, insinuating that endurance is part of perseverance. You have to have endurance to persevere. But the reverse is not necessarily true (although I think it can be at times). You can endure something – tolerate it, wait it out – without persevering – taking any action steps to overcome it – and be successful (for example, waiting out a tornado). But in some cases, if all we do is endure, refusing to take persevering action, we’ll never overcome our hardship (for example, if we are starving, and there is food on a plate in front of us, but we refuse to put the food on our fork and into our mouths, we will remain hungry.)

I’d venture a guess, if my definitions are correct (and that’s a big if), that there are times we ought to persevere and times we ought to endure. (Another article published today speaks more to this.)

But, to ride the coattails of Mr. Chambers, I think there is at least one aspect of our lives in which we ought never choose to endure but insist we persevere – our own spiritual growth and development.

Lest we get off on a rabbit trail about whether or not we have the power to spiritually grow ourselves, let me share the initial thought I had this morning that sparked this whole post: just holding on and riding things out is NOT spiritual growth. (I think that may have been where Oswald was going in this devotional, but I have yet to confirm with him since he’s busy being dead. In tomorrow’s devotional, however, Chambers definitely speaks to us doing our part being key to our spiritual growth.)

What I’m saying is if we are passive about our relationships with God, passive in the “growth opportunities” (otherwise known as trials) that come our way, passive in responding to the Spirit, passive in prayer, passive in being obedient (i.e., being disobedient), we aren’t going to grow spiritually. If we merely endure this life while we (im)patiently wait to get to the next life, we waste our lives and squander the opportunity to know Him intimately.

But if we persevere in our faith, actively reaching out to God through prayer and worship, actively studying the scriptures, actively responding to the Spirit’s promptings, actively focusing our emotions and thoughts on all that is lovely and true when so much around us is broken and false, we will grow closer to the One who made us to know Him and to make Him known. We will grow spiritually.

If we find ourselves spending most of our time enduring life as a Christian, all we’re doing is burying our heads in the sand. We’re fooling ourselves if we think that’s okay. Just holding on and riding things out is NOT spiritual growth. We must persevere in our personal relationships with Christ, doing whatever it takes to love Him a little bit more each day.

 

Spiritual Legacy: God Guides

About a month ago I started having a symptom that commonsense told me I should have checked by a doctor. It wasn’t bothersome, but knowing it might be a bad sign, I called the doctor. And she told me to come in.

Of course, she was pretty nonchalant. She gave me the once over, ordered a couple of labs, ordered a couple of imaging tests, and told me the various possible causes of the symptom. Her best prediction: a small, no-big-deal benign tumor that would need to be removed surgically. But cancer wasn’t completely off the table.

I had to wait a couple of weeks to go get my scans done. As you’d expect, the first few days it was difficult to keep my mind from playing out each possible scenario. I didn’t feel worried; I just wanted to know. I researched all the possibilities until I reached the end of the Internet.

And then I stopped thinking about it all together.

Because there was nothing else to read up on. Because there was nothing else for me to learn. And because God is good to give us peace when we need it.

He’s also pretty good about giving us well-timed distractions. Some of those distractions weren’t fun, but He also gave us lots of good news in those weeks I was waiting to find out my fate… like settling that our daughters will go to an excellent school next year (which is another awesome story all together) and my best friend having her first baby boy 13 days early so I could spend some of my waiting time rejoicing over him (thanks, Heather!).

And before I knew it, it was test day.

I still wasn’t worried, but I was ready to find out what was going on inside my body.

I had the first scan and spoke with the doctor about it. She liked it. She didn’t see any cancer. But it was the lesser detailed of the two kinds of tests I was scheduled for, and given the particular symptom I was having, she was eager to get to the second scan.

I stared at the screen as the technician spent 30 minutes taking pictures of my insides and talking me through each variance we were seeing. (Which I totally appreciate.)  She said she wasn’t seeing any cancers nor the benign tumor she would expect to see with the symptom I was having. So, in essence, she was giving me the unofficial all-clear. It seemed to her that the symptom was just an incidental thing with no discernible nor worrisome cause.

I had two thoughts in that moment: that’s good, and did I just blow everything out of proportion by even going to the doctor in the first place? The tests were expensive – had I just wasted a lot of my family’s money over a little symptom that wasn’t even really bothering me?

I tried to reassure myself with some truth while the tech finished scanning me. No, I hadn’t overreacted. This symptom can be serious, which is exactly why my doctor ordered the tests. It just so happens that the symptom isn’t serious in my case. And while I’m on the subject, I didn’t order these tests – my doctor did. And she’s a real doctor who went to medical school; I just fancy myself a doctor on account of all the hours I’ve logged on WebMD. If a real doctor wanted these tests, I didn’t overreact…

The tech kept on making conversation while she scanned. Well, it wasn’t really conversation because “con” means “with” and she wasn’t talking with me so much as at me. It was more of a monologue, really, all about her 4 kids and how her husband wants 5 but she’s 43 now and she’s too old to have another baby but they started having babies a little later in life and her parents would always say to her, “When are you going to have a baby?” and then she had her first baby and 7 months later she got pregnant with her second baby which really surprised her because she was nursing but it happened and then the second and third babies were 20 months apart and the last two are 23 months apart and the oldest is a boy but the three youngest are all girls so sometimes she thinks about having another baby because they really would like another boy in the family but after the fourth baby her parents said, “Slow down!” and she said, “You better watch out, I might end up with 12!” because they know a lot of families with 9 and 10 children and her husband would just keep on having them if she would let him…

And then she paused.

Her silence, although refreshing, caught my attention. Her sociable banter changed to a more formal tone as she told me she saw something “abnormal”. She was very forthcoming and explained what she was seeing was a mass, and she knew that because it was slightly gray, indicating it was solid and not fluid-filled.

She finished her scan and had the doctor examine the pictures.

I laid on the table and waited for about 15 minutes in a cool, dimly lit room, for the doctor to come do some scans herself.

I wasn’t worried; but I was feeling a little thrown for a loop. We had just ruled out my having the kind of tumor everyone was expecting me to have. And now, 3 minutes later, all of our attention is being diverted to a totally different kind of tumor, one no one had any idea was there?

The doctor came in and started scanning me herself and confirmed what the tech had seen was a tumor – completely unrelated to the symptom I was having. The doctor gave me a crash course on tumors, what they look like on the scans, and when they are cause for concern.

She identified mine (with 98% certainty) as a fibroadenoma, a kind of benign tumor, and told me they are the most common kind of tumor in women my age. Given it’s smaller size, the recommended approach to dealing with it is to measure it every 4 months for 2 years to see if it grows. If it grows, it could be a sign that it isn’t a fibroadenoma after all but a different kind of tumor that could be cancerous. All that to say, it’s something we need to keep an eye on.

How unpredictable life is… we really aren’t in control of much. I had walked into that doctor’s office with a list of exactly three things she could have said to me: you have a certain kind of benign tumor, you have a malignant tumor, or you are healthy. She didn’t say any of those things. She went off the board, and I left with a diagnosis of a different kind of benign tumor in a place we weren’t even “supposed” to be examining.

As I drove home, I marveled. Because I knew God was behind all this – the minor symptom that didn’t really bother me? He put it there so my doctor would feel the need to order imaging tests. And those imaging tests were God’s way of guiding us to the real problem at hand – a tumor we never would have known existed without the tests. And if this “probably benign” tumor turns out to be cancerous, we will have caught it early, all because God revealed it to us.

God is so personally involved in everythingWe may feel thrown for a loop or caught of guard, but He never is. He is always skillfully guiding us through this life, orchestrating every detail of our lives for our good and His glory.

 

Thoughts for the Anxious Christian

Anxiety is a broad term for a lot of different psychological and physiological responses. And people use it in a myriad of ways.

Psychologically speaking, some people say they are anxious when they are mildly worried about something. Others don’t consider passing worry to be anxiety until it becomes obsessively debilitating worry – worry that’s often irrational or over the top.

Still others reserve the word anxious for when their bodies are responding to the fear in their minds – increased heart rates, feeling hot, feeling claustrophobic, feeling unable to breathe, feeling like your having a heart attack, stomachaches. When physical anxiety is at it’s worst, most people call that experience a panic attack.

The nice thing (if there is one) about anxiety is that the Bible speaks to it in more than one place. To be honest with you, I’ve always read verses about anxiety from the stand point of mild worry. But the Lord has me in a season where anxiety means more than that to me, so I am looking afresh at the “anxiety verses”. Just because I’ve limited their meaning in the past to mild worry doesn’t mean that’s the only way God intended them to be interpreted.

On that note, I read this today:

6 Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. 7 Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. 8 Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. 9 Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings. 10 And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. 11 To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen. (1Pe 5:6-11)

Verse 6: “Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.” 
  • We should submit to the idea that our anxiety (however we experience it: mild worry, obsessive worry, depression, panic attacks, debilitating anxiety disorders, etc.) is God’s doing (either directly or indirectly); He is in control. He knows what’s best, and, as hard as it is, He has deemed this best for us right now.
  • He will deliver us from this suffering at the proper time. (The NIV isn’t a great translation here; thankfully, vs. 10 clarifies Peter’s meaning.)
Verse 7: “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.”
  • We are to continually place our anxiety on Him, not keep it ourselves. Whether it’s worrisome thoughts or physical anxiety, we should consciously give those things to God. We can do this through prayer: “Lord, I don’t want to worry about ____. I don’t want to be afraid of ____. I don’t want to feel ____. You take these things.”
  • I have a hunch that if God tells us to cast our anxiety on Him, it’s because He is willing to take it from us. In other words, it will be a fruitful exercise. I can’t prove this. So don’t go hanging your hat on it.
  • He cares for us! As alone as we may feel in the midst of anxiety, we are not. And because He cares about us, He wants our anxiety. He wants to free us from all levels of worry, just as we long to ease our childrens’ worried minds and take their physical pain from them.   
Verse 8: “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.”
  • Satan wants to devour us in the midst of our experiencing anxiety. This is an opportune time for him. I don’t know that he can cause our anxious symptoms (particularly physiological responses), but I am certain he tries to exacerbate them by drumming up our fears concerning them.
  • We need to say to Satan, “I will not be the one you devour!” in the midst of our anxious episodes.
  • We are not picked on by Satan because we are weak or less than; I believe we are targeted because we unashamedly identify ourselves with Jesus. We should consider Satan’s attacks an honor and not feel ashamed in anyway that we are experiencing them (1 Peter 4:12-19).
Verse 9: “Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings.”
  • We can resist Satan by declaring truth out loud, “God is good. He only allows that which is in my best interest. I refuse to believe otherwise. He is in total control, and I am safe with Him.” (Psalm 107:1, Romans 8:28, Proverbs 19:21, Psalm 4:8)
  • We are not alone! Believers all over the world and all over our own churches are experiencing the same kinds of anxiety in all its forms. As a side note, Satan seeks to divide and conquer us by isolating us. The more we share our stories with each other, the braver we all become to get the help we need to overcome our anxiety, especially the more debilitating forms.
Verse 10: “And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.”
  • We will suffer, but not forever; only for a little while.
  • We are personally called and chosen by God, and He Himself will restore us from this season of suffering. And when He restores us to emotional health, He will make us strong, firm and steadfast. There is no mincing words here; this is a promise
Verse 11: “To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen.”
  • It is by His power and as a testament to His power that these things will come to pass.
  • Amen is an expression of absolute confidence that it will be so. Peter is confident. We can be confident.
Whether you struggle with “normal” worrying from time to time or more intense anxiety, reread this passage of scripture the next time you feel concerned. There is power in the Word. I’d even encourage you to read it out loud. In some situations, doing so will be enough to quell the anxiety and empower you to cast all your anxiety on the Lord. Other situations warrant additional action steps. Either way, incorporating scripture will undoubtedly help us.