Respectable Sin #2: Anxiety / Frustration

March 13, 2008

(Second in a series of my thoughts on the book Respectable Sins: Confronting the Sins We Tolerate by Jerry Bridges)

respectable-sins.jpgIt wouldn’t be just an attempt at a joke if I said that seeing the title of this chapter made me feel anxious.  I’m a typical Type A control freak.  When life doesn’t follow my plan for the way I think it should go, sometimes I generally don’t handle it well.

The author defines anxiety (or worry) and frustration as the opposite of trust in God.

Ouch.  Again.

I am so much better about this than I used to be, but I still have so much farther to go.  One of the very first Scripture verses that I learned and took to heart was Matthew 6:34 (“So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.” —  NLT).  It struck me so profoundly that I can still recall exactly where I was when I read it.  I needed it that much.  And because it was spoken by Jesus during the Sermon on the Mount made it even more striking for me.  Because, as the author states,

When you or I say to someone, “Don’t be anxious” or “Don’t be afraid,” we are simply trying to encourage the person, or admonish in a helpful way.  But when Jesus (or Paul or Peter, who were writing under divine inspiration) says to us, “Don’t be anxious,” it has the force of a moral command.  In other words, it is the moral will of God that we not be anxious.  Or to say it more explicitly, anxiety is sin.

The author clearly points out that when we give way to feelings of anxiety, it is because we believe that God does not care for us and will not take  care of us in whatever circumstance has triggered the anxiety.  Or, more pointedly,

Suppose someone you love were to say to you, “I don’t trust you.  I don’t believe you love me and will care for me.”  What an affront that would be to you!  Yet that is what we are saying to God by our anxiety.

So how do we switch our focus from panicked anxiety to calm acceptance?  For starters, we can fix it in our minds that ANYTHING that happens to us is part of God’s plan.  John Newton, the former slave trader who penned “Amazing Grace,” put it this way:

“we are prone to fix our attention upon the second causes and immediate instruments of events; forgetting that whatever befalls us is according to his purpose and therefore must be right and seasonable in itself, and shall in the issue be productive of good.”

An excellent way to rid ourselves of anxiety and/or frustration is to pray about the situation that is making us feel that way.  It is okay to pray that the circumstance go away — as Jesus prayed in Gethsemane — provided that we realize God doesn’t always answer prayers with the outcome we ask for.  We can also pray that if there is anything to be learned in a particularly challenging situation, God reveal it to us so we can learn from it.  Above all, we must remember that, whatever the outcome of a particular event, it will be God’s will, and therefore better than our desires.

One comment

  1. […] on the heels of anxiety & frustration, the author delves into discontentment. He points out that the most frequent warnings in Scripture […]

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