The Idolatry of Anxiety

We sold our home this month. We signed the papers, handed over the keys, and completed the seven-month process which has often felt all-consuming.

Each stage at times seemed overwhelming- from the painting and redecorating at the beginning, to the actual packing/loading/moving/unpacking at the end (and all the "Hurry up and hide the toys, we have a showing!" in between). But overwhelmed is the perfect soil in which beautiful dependence can grow.

There were moments on this journey when the fatigue and stress felt more real than anything else. On too many mornings consciousness immediately ushered in a mental to-do list. I hated the gnawing, low rumblings of anxiety just as much as I hated the snapping tone I heard come from my lips. There were times when the weight of all I felt responsible to accomplish was crushing.

"Do not be anxious about anything..."

I was believing a lie. The circumstances were difficult, yes, but they were not what made my chest tight and my heart heavy. What did was believing the lie that I was responsible to affect change, to make sure that things went as planned, and to hold it all together. It was the moments when I took my eyes off of Jesus and not only noticed the waves, but then believed I needed to make the water still again. It was pure, modern-day, totally-understandable-in-the-eyes-of-our-culture idolatry. Deep in my heart I was not trusting that God really was who he says he is, or that he would really do what he has promised. And in response to this blatant treason, my Savior King never left me alone. He never pointed a condemning finger or cast me away for my sin. The Spirit convicted, and he lovingly drew me back.

"...but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God."

Apart from God's grace I would not desire to pray, nor have the ability to access the blessings which prayer was designed to give. In my own strength, even on my most disciplined day, I could not drum up the righteousness to grant me access to the Holy, All-Powerful, Righteous Creator of the universe! He alone, out of the overflow of his own goodness and love, pursued me and granted me that access by the shed blood of his perfect Son, Jesus. He is very well acquainted with my broken condition and knows every moment of idolatry- past, present, and future. Yet He bids me, "Come." He tells me to bring my anxiety and fear to him, as minuscule as they are in comparison to his greatness. And this Omnipotent God, who holds the stars and planets in place, bends to minister to me. A housewife in Ohio, who is disobeying him and robbing him of the glory he's due. He draws me into his presence. As I lay on my cluttered bed, tears and repentance flowing, the Holy Spirit does what only he can. He exposes the lies, interposes the Truth, washes, comforts and redeems. His commands are always for our joy, so when we're told to be thankful instead of anxious, it is not another item to add to our to-do list. Rather, the Lord knows that anxiety cannot remain when we remember the greatest reason of all to be thankful...we get HIM! When we are in Christ Jesus, the reality of our right-standing before God, our temporary time here on earth, and our future, eternal home with him IS the truest reality. The tasks don't disappear, but instead of believing that the outcome is dependent on my own works, I trust and rest. Rest in God's economy is not the absence of any activity or movement, it is a heart-state that recognizes his ultimate authority and our position before him.

"And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."

Peace. The perfect antithesis of anxiety. Just as my idolatry-produced-anxiety robs God of glory in my life, his perfect peace graciously given to me frees me to rightly enjoy him, thereby more rightly reflecting him to others. John Piper's assertion that, "God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in him" is confirmed right in the midst of partially-packed boxes and piles of laundry. I talk to my kids more like Jesus when I am filled with his peace. I work on the to-do list with joy and grace when I remember that God is ruling and reigning, and that he loves me. My heart and mind are guarded against anxiety in Christ Jesus. I am freed to rest in the truth that he not only saves me, but he also keeps me, all for the praise of his glorious grace!

(Philippians 4:6-7)