Constructive And Destructive Effects Of Anxiety
In our Scripture reading for today, Jesus is warning Christians against the danger and folly of worry and anxiety. Says E. Stanley Jones: "The probabilities are that fear, worry, and anxieties are the greatest single trinity of evils a man can take into his life. He must root them out at all costs." (Abundant Living; pg. 65)
When Jesus said, "Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink, not yet for your body, what ye shall put on", He was not advocating carelessness or indolence. The word used to translate 'Take no thought' is a word which indicates something which divides, separates or distracts. Thus, to 'take no thought' means that we are not to have a distracted, separated, double mind. Such a mind is a worried and fretful mind. There is no peace or integration, but such a mind is divided into sections and compartments. Such a mind keeps a person from seeing things as they really are. No cool, objective thinking can be engaged in when there is a worried, divided mind.
Jesus wants us to be delivered from a care-worn, fretful, worried life, which takes away all joy and delight. Christians are to be people with a long view, people who plan well and work hard, but people who also throw all their energies into serving God, not wasting their energies needlessly on worry.
Of course, there is a heal thy type of anxiety which adds zest, tone, and direction to life. There is a saying which goes: "He who runs in fear, runs best." The student, for instance, who has some anxiety, will study better then the student who has none. "up to a certain point, fear on the part of a surgeon may make him more skillful and careful lest he cut in wrong places, but fear pushed beyond a certain point could paralyze him. There is a healthy fear that gives us skill and drive." (Abundant Living; E.S. Jones; pg. 65)
Fear, worry, and anxiety can even cause physical disorders. Ecclesiastes 11:10 (Moffatt) says, "Banish all worries from your mind, and keep your body from pain." "Doctors have put a tube down the nostrils of a patient into his stomach and have measured the effects, of states of mind on the stomach secretions. The secretion of hydrochloric acid often doubled during states of worrying." (Abundant Living; pg. 69) Says one doctor: "Anxiety places more stress on the heart than any other stimulus, including physical exercise and fatigue… Not work, but worry makes us weary. Sleep refreshes our exhaustion from work, but not the weariness that stems from worry." (None of These Diseases; S.I. McMillan; pg. 60,89)
"Father, I am made by you and for you – not for fear, worry, and anxiety. Help me to cast all my care on you, knowing that you care for me. Deliver me from that nagging fear which makes me tremble on the brink of an unknown future. Cleanse me from the acid of anxiety that erodes away my sense of security and well-being. Give me a childlike trust that cancels my paralyzing worries. Release me and set me free – free to enjoy life in all its fullness."
AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: While planning carefully for the future, God will help me not to be full of care in the present!
Reasons Why Christians Should Not Worry
Jesus said, "Take no thought for your life… Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment?" (Matthew 6:25) If God gave something so great as life, is He not able to give provisions sufficient to sustain that life? If God willed that a person should be born, is God not able to give food to feed the body and clothes to warm the body? The God who created life is able to sustain life. Why then should Christians worry?
"Behold the fowls of the air; for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they?" (Matthew 6:26) If God cares for the hard-working birds, how much more will He care for the hard-working Christian? If God feeds the birds from the bounty of nature, how much more will God feed His own children! There is no need to worry.
"Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature?" (Matthew 6:27) It is not conceivable that anyone would think that he could add one cubit or 18 inches to his height. 'Cubit' can also possibly refer to lengthening one's life. By worrying, no one can add height to his stature or add years to his life. Life will take its course, so why should one worry? In fact, worry can actually take years from one's life. Therefore, don't worry. It is costly, Worry will not help the situation. There have been cases where people died from an operation, not because the operation was that serious, but because they were obsessed with worry!
"And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin; And yet I say unto you, that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Wherefore if God so clothe the grass of the field, which today is and tomorrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith?" (Matthew 6:28-30) If God looks after the short-lived flower of the field and favors it with such unsurpassed beauty, how much more will God care for man, whose duration is much longer and who is the very capstone of God's creation. worry is unnecessary.
"Therefore take no thought saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink: or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? (For after all these things to the Gentiles seek): for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things." (Matthew 6:31-32) One morning when Luther was blue and discouraged, his wife appeared, in black. At Luther's inquiry as to what the mourning meant, she replied, "Haven't you heard? God is dead." When we worry and fret, we declare that God is weak or unable to cope with life's circumstances. Worrying is a characteristic of the pagan – not the Christian!
"Father, you work providentially, not accidentally; purposefully, not fatalistically; assuringly, not uncertainly. Then why should I worry? Help me no longer to worry, for worry contradicts my faith in a God of infinite love, power, and wisdom. Help me to rest assured that all circumstances are used by you to bring about my good and your glory!"
AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: I do not have to hold the world together through my worrying, for God sovereignly rules the world from His eternal throne!
Philippians 4:4-7; 1 Peter 5:6-7
Steps In Deliverance From Worry
In his excellent devotional book 'Abundant Living', E. Stanley Jones shares some helpful insights on how to overcome worry and fear. Some of the following points are taken from his list.
First, look fear in the face and desire deliverance. Running from fear only complicates the problem. Do the very thing that you fear most, and fear will soon take wings. One must genuinely desire deliverance. "A girl had a large purple lump on her forehead. This lump had come as the result of a great fear. When counseled by Dr. Fox she surrendered the fear and the lump disappeared. On seeing her again Dr. Fox remarked about the lump being gone. 'But', said the girl, grabbing her middle, 'I've got terrible pains in my stomach.' She was afraid to let go of her fears, for she lived by the attention which these illnesses brought her." (Abundant Living; pg. 71) There must be a will and desire to live and to be delivered from all anxiety, worry, and fear. If a man makes up his mind rot; to worry, half the battle is won.
Second, remember that Christ overcame all sin, including the sin of worry, on the cross, and that He is thus able to help you overcome your nagging fears and worry. Notes Jones, "When fears and sicknesses and sins come upon you to overwhelm you and to beat you into submission by their very overbearing presence, just calmly look each one in the eye and say, 'I am not afraid of you. You have been and are decisively beaten by my Lord. Will you bend your neck? There, I knew it! The footprint of the Son of God is upon your neck." (Abundant Living; pg. 73) "One man had 'A Worry Tree' in his front yard, where he hung his worries before he came into the house. For the Christian, that 'Worry Tree' is the cross. Hang your worries there." (Ibid; pg. 353)
'Remember' not only Christ's victory over your sins through His resurrection, but also remember your own past victories over frustration and adversity. It is a good 'practice to keep a dairy or a journal in which you record God's daily blessings in your life. When you tend to worry, refresh your memory and encourage your spirit of faith by reading of God's recorded victories in your dairy.
Third, realize that fear itself is usually worse than the thing you fear or are worried about. Said a great father to his son as his son was leaving the nest of the home, "Johnny, the thing to do, my lad, is to hold your own end up, and to do it like a gentleman, and please remember the biggest troubles you have got to face are those that never come."
"Father, sensitivity to life and to people and their needs is both my greatest asset and my greatest liability. It is my asset, for sensitivity to people gives me a selfless drive to reach out redemptively to help others. It is my liability, for sensitivity to people's needs often causes me to become worry-worn and fretful. As I become deeply involved with people and their problems, keep me released from anxiety and worry."
AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: I will cast my cares upon Christ today, for He cares for me!
Matthew 6:34; James 4:13-17
Finding Victory Over Worry
We continue to look at the steps in overcoming worry.
Fourth, relax in God's presence. There is nothing that will relax the mind and relieve the nerves like meditating upon the greatness of God. Transform worry energy into prayer energy. Take your gaze off of the object of fear and worry and fix the gaze on the object of love. Relax in God and don't try to hold up the world by your own strength. "In India we have a bird called 'Pity-to-do-it'. It goes around all day saying, 'Pity- to-do-it'. And they say that at night it sleeps with its feet in the air to keep the sky from falling! It is a champion pessimist and worrier. It doesn't relax night or day, according to the story: hence it is thin and scrawny and fussy." (Abundant Living; pg. 77) "Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding." (Proverbs 3:5) The story is told of a Bishop who was so worried about the affairs and problems of the world that he could not sleep. As he lay awake, tossing and turning, the Lord spoke to him, "Bishop, you go to sleep and I will stay awake all night and watch over the problems of the world!"
Fifth, meet troubles one day at a time. Said Jesus, "Don't worry at all then about tomorrow. Tomorrow can take care of itself! One day's trouble is enough for one day." (Matthew 6:34 Phillips) The Jews had the following saying: "Do not worry over tomorrow's evils, for you know not what today will bring forth. Perhaps tomorrow you will not be alive, and you will have worried for a world which will not be yours." (Daily Study Bible; Matthew, Vol 1; Barclay)
"According to our Lord, the vital thing is not to spend every day of your life in adding up the grand total of everything that is ever likely to happen to you in the whole of your life in this world. If you do that, it will crush you. That is not the way. Rather, you must think of it like this. There is, as it were, a daily quota of problems and difficulties in life. Every day has its problems; some of them are constant from day to day, some of them vary. But the great thing to do is to realize that every day must be lived in and of itself and as a unit. Here is the quota for today. Very well; we must face that and meet it; and He has already told us how to do so. We must not go forward and tack tomorrow's quota on to today's, otherwise it may be too much for us. We have to take it day by day." (Sermon On The Mount; Martyn Lloyd-Jones; pg. 149,150) Sixth, become involved in tasks. Those who are most involved in loving projects, are those who think and worry less about their own problems. There is great energy generated within you when you are creative and outgoing in your loving involvements with others.
"Father, as I seek to live a sacrificial life within the context of a society that has a high standard of living, I find myself becoming either anxious or covetous of worldly possessions. Don't allow the cares of my daily life, with its consequent worry, to chock out the good seed of your Word in my life. Help me to live contentedly."
AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: God has not given me a spirit of fear or worry, but a spirit of power, and of love, and of a sound mind (2 Timothy 1:7)!
"Tyranny Of The Urgent"
Related to the common problem of worry and anxiety, Charles Hummel, in his famous booklet 'Tyranny of the Urgent', shares some most helpful insights. Following are a few excerpts from that excellent booklet.
"When we stop to evaluate, we realize that our dilemma goes deeper than shortage of time; it is basically the problem of priori ties… Not hard work, but doubt and misgiving produce anxiety as we review a month or year and became oppressed by the pile of unfinished tasks…
"Jesus' life was never feverish; He had time for people. He could spend hours talking to one person, such as the Samaritan woman at the well. His life showed a wonderful balance, a sense of timing…
"Jesus prayerfully waited for His Father's instructions and for the strength to follow them… He discerned the Father's will day by day in a life of prayer. By this means He warded off the urgent and accomplished the important (Mark 1:35).
"Many of us have experienced Christ's deliverance from the penalty of sin. Are we letting Him free us from the tyranny of the urgent? He points the way: 'If you continue in my word.' This is the way to freedom. Through prayerful meditation on God's Word we gain His perspective, P.T. Forsyth once said, 'The worst sin is prayerlessness. We usually think of murder, adultery, or theft as among the worst. But the root of all sin is self-sufficiency – independence from God. When we fail to wait prayerfully for God's guidance and strength we are saying, with our actions if not our lips, that we do not need Him. How much of our service is characterized by 'going it alone'?
"In prayer, Jesus impresses on our minds the assignments He wants us to undertake, The need itself is rot the call; the call must come from the God who knows our limitations…
"If the Christian is too busy to stop, take spiritual inventory, and receive his assignments from God, he becomes a slave to the tyranny of the urgent.
"In addition to your daily quiet time, set aside one hour a week for spiritual inventory. write an evaluation of the past, record anything God may be teaching you, and plan objectives for the future. Also try to reserve most of one day each month for a similar inventory of longer range. " (Excerpts from 'Tyranny of the Urgent' by Charles Hummel)
"Father, teach me to number my days, that I might get a heart of wisdom. Let me see time in light of eternity, and make present decisions in terms of their effects upon the future. Help me to plan for tomorrow without becoming preoccupied with tomorrow. Help me to give attention to details without losing sight of the 'big picture'; to accomplish the important without becoming a slave to the urgent. In Jesus' name,"
AFFIRMATION FUR THE DAY: He who waits upon the Lord before trying to work for the Lord will both save time and multiply effectiveness in service!
Finding And Maintaining Relaxation
Here are a few suggestions as to the art of finding and maintaining relaxation.
Make an initial surrender of yourself to Christ. writes one medical doctor and psychiatrist: "After all, one of the greatest contributing factors to nervousness in the Christian is that self has not been crucified with Christ, leaving a struggle between the Spirit and the flesh because the patient does not walk in the Spirit, but makes provision for the flesh (Romans 13:14)."
Find a place of solitude. Establish a daily quiet time, preferably in the early morning. Says the above-mentioned doctor, "When Christians leave out daily fellowship with Christ, they suffer from spiritual malnutrition. If the Christian fails to take the daily requirement of spiritual calories because of worldly attractions and too many religious duties, he soon becomes anemic and run-down, his resistance is lowered, and he is an easy prey for disease (evil powers}."
Speak to your body parts and tell them to relax before prayer. Let go of your inner soul frustrations and let God renew your mind (Romans 12:2).
Pray through a Scripture (a Psalm of praise like Psalms 145-150 or a prayer like John 17). The ACTS formula is helpful as a guideline in praying. ACTS stands for Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, and Supplication (i.e., intercessions – prayers for others; petition – prayer requests for yourself). In addition to prayer, be sure to read some verses from the Bible and underline ones you intend to memorize.
Allow the Holy Spirit to daily cleanse you from anxiety and worry. Confess all sins. The same doctor goes on to say, "If the heart is not cleansed daily of its cares and troubled thoughts, these problems accumulate and bring the Christian into a chronic nervousness, which, of course, is not a nerve disease at all, but a conflict in the soul between the old self-will (which should have been crucified) and the Holy Spirit, who came into the soul to make His abode there… Each trouble, as it arises, must be taken to the Lord and put into His care."
Throughout the day, when worry arises and bids for your attention, turn your attention to God – thus turning worry energy into prayer energy (Philippians 4:4-7). Remember, what gets your attention gets you! Learn to stay your mind on God, and you will be kept in perfect peace. (Isaiah 26:3).
"Father, help me to translate my worry energy into prayer energy, for prayer is the way of peace and poise and purpose. Break the tension of my nerves, by speaking peace to my troubled heart. Unscramble my thoughts and help me to stay my mind upon you alone. In thy constant presence is my perpetual peace!"
AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: Today I will practice the presence of God and make every contact with people a prayer contact!
The Cause And Cure Of Various Tensions
One of the greatest antidotes for worry and anxiety is prayer. "The spirit of prayer should be Alert Passivity which means that while your spiritual, mental, and physical sensibilities are awake and alert to God, yet they are also relaxed and receptive. I say relaxed and receptive, but the two attitudes are really one, for relaxation is receptivity. And yet there are two sides to real praying. If we are only relaxed we are weak. Dr. Alexis Carrel says: 'Lowering of the blood pressure is also dangerous. Brain and other organs demand a certain tension of the blood.' That is the alert side. But the brain and other organs demand a certain relaxation to be at their best. Prayer puts relaxation and tension together, and is therefore the perfect instrument of human well-being." (Abundant Living; E.S. Jones; pg. 232)
Let's look at a few common forms of stress and suggest a few ideas and Scriptures that may be helpful in countering these various stresses.
There is stress because of a lack of money. Develop a trust in God who, as a caring Father, provides for our daily needs (Matthew 6:25-34; Proverbs 11:28).
Stress usually accompanies decision-making. Trust God for wisdom during trials (James 1:5) and for guidance during times of difficult decisions (Proverbs 3:5-6).
There is stress because of the challenges of daily work. The Bible tells us to commit our work to God and God will bring success (Proverbs 16:3; 1 Corinthians 15:38).
Stress is often times caused because of wayward children. Surrender your children to God and allow God to work in their lives. Allow your children to make their own moral decisions, after you have carefully and lovingly instructed them in the ways of Christ. If you have brought up your children in the ways of Christ, those children will likely serve the Christ you serve, eventually.
There is stress because of hard circumstances. Put your trust in the unchanging God who wills your ultimate good, and who uses all of your circumstances to accomplish that goal (Romans 8:28).
There is stress because of loneliness or disappointment. Realize that you are never alone; thus you need never feel lonely (Matthew 28:20).
There is stress because of concern for other people's actions and problems. "If you are fussily trying to manage other people in their supposed interests, surrender that fussiness – it is pure selfishness. That attitude ties up yourself and others… We tie ourselves up if we try to live other people's lives for them," (Abundant Living; E.S. Jones; pg. 243)
"Father, 'in quietness and confidence shall be my strength' In the quietness of my present contemplation, speak peace to me with your still small voice. In the face of disquieting circumstances, give me confidence that there are no troubles too great but what your strength is greater yet! My troubles, surrendered to You, become your triumphs! Glory and praise to your power!"
AFFIRMATION FOR THE DAY: With Christ at the helm of my little 'ship', I will make it safe to the harbour of Heaven!
Discussion Questions On 'Freedom From Worry'
How can a Christian live a careful and prayerful life, with attention given to long-range planning, and at the same time not become care- worn, anxious, and worried about tomorrow?
Do you agree or disagree with the following statement: "Christians are to be people with a long view, people who plan well and work hard, but people who also throw all their energies into serving God, not wasting their energies needlessly on worry."
Give examples of same 'healthy' types of anxiety.
What are some of the harmful physical manifestations of worry and anxiety?
What examples from the world of nature did Jesus draw upon to illustrate the futility of worry, according to Matthew 6?
List six steps that are given as aids in overcoming worry.
Do you agree or disagree with the following statement: "Do the very thing that you fear most, and fear will soon take wings."
Share your experiences of overcoming fear and anxiety by focusing your attention on Christ and His love, rather than on yourself and your problems.
How does living life one day at a time help in overcoming the problem of worry and anxiety (Matthew 6:34)?
Do you agree or disagree with the following statement: "Those who are most involved in loving projects, are those who think and worry less about their own problems. There is great energy generated within you when you are creative and outgoing in your loving involvements with others."
What is meant by the phrase 'Tyranny of the Urgent'?
List several steps in learning to relax.
What alternative is there, according to Philippians 4:4-7, to expending worry energy?
What place does prayer have in effectively coping with worry and anxiety?
List several common forms of stress and effective ways to cope with each form of stress that you mention.