Over the years of my life I have dealt with countless levels of fear. I have never seen any apparition, I haven't had to run and hide for my life, but what I have experienced are the thoughts that keep a person awake at night. What I have lived are the fears of what my next day might bring. Tomorrow...that is probably one of the most frightening words to have ever been concocted. Is that paper due? Do you have something early and you're afraid of never getting any sleep? Even if you didn't get any sleep are you afraid of disappointing someone for not having had enough rest to really do your job? Questions. So....many....questions....
I've been making my way through a book called "The Celebration of Discipline" by Richard J Foster. Perusing through the pages I came to a chapter almost totally dedicated to eradicating anxiety in someone's life. To save you some trouble of reading I'm going to list my personal notes and takeaways here, but I will be mixing it with some of what I've learned and experienced in my own walk. I do highly recommend you hunt down this book and get yourself a copy. If you're a fast reader, it totally isn't for you.
Finding your way out of anxiety can be broken down into three facets and their proper corresponding attitudes.
- What We Receive
- What We Have
- What We Give
1.) What We Receive. "We work, but we know that it is not our work that gives us what we have."
- We need to see that what we have is not a result of what we labored for. Everything is a gift from God. Everything. Now, I'm not saying that you can just sit around and God still provide, or that all of your hard work has been in vein, but just meditate on this. Though you worked, what comes to you is not something that is tangibly in your grasp that you decide.
- Matthew 6:31-32 (NIV) says, "So do not worry, saying, 'What shall we wear?' For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own."
- Richard J Foster mentions, "When we are tempted to think that what we own is the result of our personal efforts, it takes only a little drought or a small accident to show us once again how utterly dependent we are for everything." Overworking can be profitable but not always beneficial. Lets calm down our need to achieve a little and realize that though we work hard, what ultimately comes our way is in God's hands.
2.) What We Have - "To know that it is God's business, and not ours to care for what we have."
- You go to bed at night. You remember suddenly that you locked the door to the house. You locked the car right? Oh, did you close all of the windows? Maybe one is open upstairs, but who would see or even use that...right? Right...no one would even think to climb through that... but just to be sure you should probably get up and close it. God is the ultimate protector of what we own. This doesn't mean we should be negligent with what we have, but to also hold on to it loosely. Precaution is a great thing, but it shouldn't control us. This not only means what we've bought over the years but also with what we feel we've earned. That job you hold so tightly to, that spouse you're afraid is having thoughts of leaving you, the safety that you felt having a full bank account would finally bring you...
- Proverbs 3:5-6 (NIV) - "Trust in the Lord with all of your heart, and lean not on your own understanding. In all of your ways submit to Him, and He will make your path straight."
- Take precautions. Lock that door, work hard at your job, be a great caretaker of what has come to you, but also remember, ultimate protection isn't in your hands. It's in God's. I'd write all of Psalm 91 here, but it's long enough for me to just say its worth not only looking up but memorizing as well.
3.) What We Give - "To have our goods available to others."
- I'm going to quote Mr. Foster, then break it down from there. "If our goods are not available to the community when it is clearly right and good, then they are stolen goods. The reason we find such an idea so difficult is our fear of the future. We cling to our possessions rather than sharing them because we are anxious about tomorrow. But if we truly believe that God is who Jesus says He is, then we do not need to be afraid." Wooooooooooooooh thats heavy. The reason we find it hard to share is because we're scared of the future. We're scared of not having enough tomorrow, so why should we have to give it up today? This is the heaviest of all. How willing are you to give away some cash to someone in need? Or perhaps if someone needs to borrow that bag you've been saving in the closet that you'll never use, or your surplus of blankets that a cold homeless man or woman would really appreciate? How trusting are you of God to provide?
- Let's be willing to extend a hand to help someone, even at our own inconvenience. This could mean anything from money all the way down to how we spend our time. Perhaps that one friend of yours keeps putting on shows and could use your support, or maybe you could babysit for that one friend who could finally use a night out with her husband. Trust that how you are expediting what is just really borrowed from God will have more supply. Again, disclaimer, be wise about your decisions, still pray on what you're deciding to contribute. Be brave, but not dumb.
Take these three things and meditate on them. Realize that ultimate protection is not yours to give. Be present in today without focusing too hard on what is next in life... Be productive and vigorous, but realize that what comes your way, what you own, and what you have to give are all not ultimately in your control. Give it to God, it was His from the get go.