Antidote for Anxiety

When I’m frustrated and angry over some injustice, Psalm 37 is my go-to Psalm. It deals with the wicked and the unrighteous, the prosperity they enjoy in this life and the consequence of their evil doings when they have to face God. Psalm 37 reminds me that God will vindicate the righteous in due time. But as I prepared recently to preach from this Psalm, I found that–for me, anyway–the real treasure is found in the first eleven verses as David deals with an issue that most of us struggle with fairly regularly.

Anxious worry–which David refers to as “fretting”–is something I come by honestly. My mom was an anxious worrier, and her mother before her. There is much in our culture and in our world to provoke anxiety. News media focus on the negative, sensationalizing every terrorist plot, every tragedy, anything having to do with health issues, and so on. Our modern technology which promised us a more carefree life has instead enslaved us. (Just notice the anxiety you feel when you misplace your mobile device!) And all too often the doctors, hospitals, and pharmaceutical companies we trust to take care of us when we are sick have proven to be more concerned about the bottom line of their financial statements than curing our health problem.

(I could go on, but I prefer to be more of a “glass is half-full rather than half-empty” kind of woman!)

Here’s where those first eleven verses of Psalm 37 come in. King David penned this Psalm in his old age, after he’d lived long and accumulated much wisdom. The first two words are, “Fret not.” He says it twice more in the following eight verses, which should catch our attention. Now granted, he is saying this in reference to fretting over the godless who are prospering, but I think it’s applicable to most any kind of anxiety we experience.

David goes on to offer some very good, very wise advice…

  • Trust in the Lord and do good
  • Take delight in the Lord
  • Commit your way to the Lord
  • Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him
  • Refrain from anger and turn from wrath

Trust in the Lord and do good.

Only when we trust in the Lord are we truly free to do good. When I fret over my possessions or achievements, comparing myself to others and coming up wanting, I invariably struggle to do good. Instead, I become self-referenced and bogged down in a scarcity mentality, that state of mind that says we are “never enough” or that we never have enough–whether that is time, sleep, energy, material possessions, significance, recognition, or…well, you fill in the blank. Scarcity mentality essentially says that I don’t trust that God has provided what I truly need and that he will continue to do so. Doing good, then, becomes a threat to my own security, for in doing good to and for others, I run the risk of not having enough for myself.

Trusting in the Lord and doing good leaves less time and energy for fretting. We have less inclination to give in to anxious worry because we aren’t thinking about what we lack, but what we can give.

I invite you to ponder that a bit to see if there is any truth in it for you. I’ll speak to the rest of David’s advice in my next post…

 

 

It’s not fair!

I can imagine Moses saying…

“What do you mean, Yahweh? I can’t enter the promised land??? I’ve led this ungrateful, foolish, recalcitrant people all over creation for forty years! I’ve listened to their constant grumbling and grousing, settled their petty arguments, and interceded on their behalf when they’ve flagrantly defied you. You do remember that whole golden calf incident, right? And now you are telling me that, because of one moment of completely understandable frustration on my part, you are not going to allow me to enter the promised land? Not even set one foot on the land I’ve been marching towards all these years? It’s not fair!!!”

And David…

“Why can’t I build you a house, Lord? You’ve been drug around all these years with nothing but a tent. It just looks bad that the GOD of Israel lives in a tent, for heaven’s sake! I want to build you a house. After all, you made me King David! I want to do this for you. And you won’t let me because of all the blood I’ve shed? I did it for you! What about the incident with the Philistine and the slingshot? I was just a kid, yet I fought for you, Lord! All this blood on my hands–it was all shed for your people at your command! I want to build a house for you. It’s not fair that you are denying me this privilege!”

Bottom line: God is sovereign!

That may not seem fair to us today. It’s hard in our independent culture to submit to a sovereign God we cannot see or fully understand. But God’s plan is good. It is perfect and it is fair. And some day it will all come together and make perfect sense for those who believe. It most likely didn’t seem fair to Moses or David at the time, either! Yet both men came to accept this truth. Indeed, from an eternal perspective, Moses is enjoying the Promised Land and David lives in God’s Mansion!

What’s your rant? We all have at least one. Most of us have a whole collection.

We can and–dare I say?–should pray for the faith to believe that God’s got this, and for the strength to trust the bottom line:

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My part to play

David and Paul. Two very famous men in the Bible, each in his own right. Both were warriors, David employed slingshots and swords while Paul used words. One man remembered for his adultery, the other remembered for his zealous persecution. Both transformed by God’s love for them, and their love for God. Two men separated by hundreds of years, each instrumental in God’s plan for his Kingdom.

Did either of these men know the impact their lives would make? I doubt it. Scripture tells us that each knew that God was with them, guiding and empowering their ministry. They surely dreamed of the legacy they wanted to leave, but I can’t imagine that they could begin to comprehend how their actions–their very lives–would impact the Kingdom of God for all eternity.

I, too, have a role to play in God’s Kingdom. From where I sit today, I can hardly imagine that it is anything near the magnitude of David’s or Paul’s contribution! Nonetheless, by God’s grace, I still have something to give. To allow false humility, fear, or low self-esteem to dissuade me from doing my part is to throw a monkey wrench into God’s plan.

Surely Nathan knew that confronting the king was taking his life in his hands, yet Nathan responded obediently to the Lord’s direction. He went to David and pointed out that he had despised the Lord and done what was evil in God’s sight. Rather than killing Nathan, David confessed his sin, repented, accepted forgiveness (and the consequences of his adulterous behavior), and was restored to his role in God’s plan. While Nathan was a prominent figure in David’s life, in comparison to David, his role in God’s big picture plan is minor.

Or what if Ananais had submitted to his fear of Saul, rather than to God’s instruction that he go lay hands on blind Saul so that he would regain his sight? What a critical moment in God’s plan! Yet we never hear another word about Ananais.

Not all of God’s faithful are renowned.

I cannot clearly see the whole picture of God’s plan. Yes, I understand some of it and, the more I study scripture and pray, the more revelation I have. But I can’t fully realize the impact of my contribution to the whole of the story. I can only do what I can in this time and this place, obedient to God’s instruction. Today I can pray for someone to be healed. Today I can point the way back to God’s grace and forgiveness. Today I can trust that, whatever my role–whether it is known throughout history like David or Paul or Nathan or Ananais, or whether it is only known by those in my little corner of the world–it is an important part of God’s plan.

So is yours. You have a part to play, too. And when we all play our parts well, we join Jesus in bringing God’s Kingdom near.

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