“Anxiety in a man’s heart weighs him down, but a good word makes him glad.”
– Proverbs 12:25
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.”
– Philippians 4:6
“Worrying is carrying tomorrow’s load with today’s strength – carrying two days at once. It is moving into tomorrow ahead of time. Worrying doesn’t empty tomorrow of its sorrow, it empties today of its strength.”
― Corrie Ten Boom
Worry, for most people, is a daily practice. I use the word “practice” purposefully. My definition of practice is a continual action that is refined and improved through repetition. Our dedication to worry is much the same. We have practiced too well, and we have become experts at the very thing that Christ wants to take away. Now anxiety and worry are not in themselves bad things; they can help to predict risk and danger. But we need to understand what anxiety is. “Man,” as Epictetus said, “is not worried by real problems so much as by his imagined anxieties about real problems.” Anxiety is built on the basis of possibility. Anxiety is about what could happen, not what is happening. Our culture is a culture of “should,” not “could.” We are a culture of options, and those options lead us into a “paralysis of choice.” Our life in North America is very different from the rest of the world, where, in some places, they are fundamentally thinking through the lens of, “What can I do?” We think through the lens of, “I can do so many things; what should I do?” It’s not just about “what option do I have?”, but it’s instead, “what should I be choosing?” This idea of “should” vs. “could” has created an environment of anxiety, and we spend a lot of time practicing this anxiety of possibility. In a world where it seems like there are risks around every corner, we must also remember that there are true things to worry about.
“Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.”
– 1 Peter5:6-7
This tells us a couple of things:
- The birthmark of a Christian is a bullseye.
- Christ is the solution to your anxiety.
Peter wants to tell these young Christians that there is an enemy on the prowl, and that they need to pay attention. The thing to remember about a prowling predator is that they don’t often go after a weak member in a group; they go for the ones that are isolated and alone. We must remember that amidst anxious seasons. Community is pivotal, and especially a community that continually pushes you back to Jesus.
I’ve always lived by the idea that I should never bring God’s character down to the level of my experience. By that I mean that God’s goodness is never in question through any circumstances of my life: He is good, regardless of what I am going through. In this season, our options have become limited. We can’t go wherever we want, purchase whatever we want, or see whomever we want. Our regular anxiety of options has now been undone by anxiety through limits. These limits can serve as amazing opportunities. Artists love limits. Every illustrator has a canvas, and every poet has rhythm and metre. Tzvetan Todorov explains, “Both the sculptor and politician strive to produce perfect artworks out of a resistant material: in one case, marble; in the other, human beings.” Limits create artistry, limits create opportunity, and limits create ingenuity. Jesus was well accustomed to limits. In fact, you could see the incarnation as an acceptance of limits. Jesus was within the limits of flesh, and humanity exceeded any possibility of how life should or could be lived. In fact, Christ taking on limits allowed our salvation to be possible. Within limits, Jesus changed the cosmos, he changed history, and he has changed you. This season is a season of limits; how will you react?