Have you ever read something and had it smack you in the face? That happened to me a few months ago. About once a month, my Bible class reads a chapter of Francis Chan’s book Crazy Love. This past week we were all assigned to read the second chapter, do the study session, and come back to class ready to discuss. I was excited because I had loved the first chapter, and I knew the second chapter would be good. Boy, was it.
Some of my close friends know that I struggle with an anxiety disorder, most other people just know that I stress A LOT. In any case, the chapter was titled “You might not finish this chapter”, and after the radical title of the first chapter (stop praying) I wasn’t too surprised. When Chan started talking about worry and stress in this chapter, it really hit home for me. One of the first quotes I highlighted in this chapter was found on page 51, and it said –
“. . . I’m a problem solver, so I have to focus on things that need fixing. God can see that my intensity and anxiety are ministry related. I worry because I take His work seriously. Right?”
At this point, I’m cheering in my head going “RIGHT!” because I so vehemently related to his statement, and then I read on. He brings up the verse Philippians 4:4 “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: rejoice!” Again, I didn’t necessarily have a problem with this verse, I’m generally a very joyful person. So, I kept reading. Philippians 4:6 comes up and I stop in my tracks. I know the verse, you know the verse. It says – “Do not be anxious about anything. . .” Okay, so I might have a problem with doing that.”…but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” I tell myself I’ll try harder to accomplish this verse, and move on.
Page 52 brings about a few ideas that made me uncomfortable. Chan says –
“ Worry implies that we don’t quite trust that God is big enough, powerful enough, or loving enough to take care of what’s happening in our lives. Stress says that the things we are involved in are important enough to merit our impatience, our lack of grace toward others, or our tight grip of control.”
If you’re like me, this will really make you think. I tried to tell myself that I already knew this and that it wasn’t a problem in my life – but did I really know? I mean, I was aware of it, but I wasn’t really doing anything to try and change it. I knew that sometimes my worry and stress get in the way of my making time to spend with the Lord, and I know myself well enough to know that I have a hard time letting go of everything and giving it up to God. After a little bit of thought, I told myself I would definitely make a conscious effort to get better about worry.
Not even two sentences later I was struck by another profound statement.
“Both worry and stress reek of arrogance. They declare our tendency to forget that we’ve been forgiven, that our lives here are brief, that we are headed to a place where we won’t be lonely, afraid, or hurt ever again, and that in the context of God’s strength, our problems are small, indeed.”
Ouch! That’s what is written in a blue pen right next to the yellow highlight of that quote in my copy of the book. Never once in my life have I thought of my worry or stress as “reeking of arrogance”. That hit me very hard, and it is very very accurate. Don’t get me wrong worry is a completely human thing, we all do it, but how often do we worry instead of praying and trusting God? I know I do it WAY too much.
By the time I finished chapter two of Crazy Love I was feeling a bit beaten up spiritually. I’d never be able to control all of my worry, stress, and anxiety. Not by myself. The relief was that I didn’t have to do it by myself. As a matter of fact, I could only do it through Christ. 2 Corinthians 5:17-18a says – “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ..” Because of my salvation, I am a new creation. My old nature, though I might wrestle with it often, is no longer my identity, and is no longer my captor. I have been set free from my old self by the blood of Jesus Christ, and my worry and anxiety no longer have control of me. Not because of anything I have done, but by the grace of Jesus Christ and God the Father. Of course, I am going to strive to pray more than I worry, and rely more on God. Ironically, for this to happen, I have to do just that – rely on God!
I’d like to encourage you to let go of whatever is holding you captive today. Be it worry, anxiety, pride, depression – no matter what it is, trust that the blood of Jesus Christ is stronger than anything that can hold you captive.
Romans 8:38-39 “For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”