The other night, my family and I got out a bit late from yet another church meeting. Perhaps occupational hazards for pastors’ kids. But the kids were great throughout the meeting and displayed the excitement and relief all the participants felt after the final dismissal. By the time we finished putting away the crayons and toys used once again to keep our little ones occupied, it was pretty dark outside.
Our especially observant six-year-old son commented on the darkness, with just a tinge of concern in his voice. We held little hands as dad locked the church and I placed exhausted children in car seats. As he got into the car, this bright boy asked “But I don’t have to be afraid, right daddy? Because you are here with me?” My husband fully assured our son of his safety with the silliness and maturity that only a father can express. And that was it. The matter was settled. Whatever may come, his daddy would protect him and that was good enough for my boy.
Here I am weeks later thinking about this exchange. It’s not that there was nothing to be anxious about; the threats that lay prey in darkness can be a real concern. But that didn’t matter. My son trusted that the power and presence of his father was stronger than anything that should have scared him.
Lately it seems that anxiety is the hot topic word. Even if it’s not something you deal with personally, social media will ensure that you have heard all about anxiety and its various manifestations in our world today: panic attacks, depression, worrying, overly busyness and more. The church is not exempt from the statistics that indicate these issues are the new norm for the majority.
But what role does anxiety play in the life of a believer? Does Jesus as Savior automatically mean your life is free of all cares and concerns? Centuries of church history and countless martyrs would say stress and worry is not a new topic within the church.
Anxiety is the result of a rightful assessment of how little control we have over the affairs of our lives, but a wrong understanding of God’s fatherly hand of providence in all things. I think the key to a Christian approach to anxiety is, like my son’s fear of the dark, a right understanding of our Father. Knowing the goodness, grace, love, and protection of the Father gives us His children courage to face all kinds of circumstances. Not because the circumstance is less scary, but because our Father is able to protect and provide in the midst of even the scariest of events.
So how does this work in real life? Consider the Christian’s favorite verse for the topic of anxiety, Philippians 4:6 “do not be anxious about anything….” we so often forget that four whole chapters came before this command. This command is not an emotionless demand of pure stoicism. No, the whole of Philippians lays out a summary of the Gospel as it details the reality of life in a fallen world, constantly pointing us back to Jesus. Philippians 4:5 summarizes the book like this “The Lord is at hand [so in light of His presence] do not be anxious…”
The answer to anxiety in our world is not more medicine or more psychologists or more sleep. The answer to our anxiety is more Jesus. Know more than just facts about our Heavenly Father but spend time with Him in His very Word to you in the Bible. Know more than just information by communicating with Him in the midst of your struggle in prayer. Know more than just your assumption of His Kingdom by being regularly involved in your local congregation. Today, you don’t have to be afraid because the Lord is at hand. He’s right here with you. The question is merely this: do you recognize Him enough to see that?
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