Too many times we allow anxiety and worry to be the "governing" factors in our lives. My mom is a good "worrier". We always used to say if she had nothing to worry about she'd worry about not worrying about something. Truth be told, many of us worry about stuff God already has dealt with, is taking care of behind the scenes, or just doesn't really want us focusing on in the first place. Essentially, when we worry, we are putting our trust in something very untrustworthy, or have already done so. Now, I am going to say something a little weird here, so pay attention - worry has a "spiritual" root to it. Most of us would think of it having a "natural" root, but essentially, when we engage in the practice of worry, we are really admitting our resource is in something or someone other than Jesus. Therefore, worry has a "spiritual" root - one which we need to get hold of! Anytime there is misplaced trust, we will have worry.
Cursed is the strong one who depends on mere humans, who thinks he can make it on muscle alone and sets God aside as dead weight. He’s like a tumbleweed on the prairie, out of touch with the good earth. He lives rootless and aimless in a land where nothing grows. But blessed is the man who trusts me, God, the woman who sticks with God. They’re like trees replanted in Eden, putting down roots near the rivers—never a worry through the hottest of summers, never dropping a leaf, serene and calm through droughts, bearing fresh fruit every season. (Jeremiah 17:5-9 MSG)
Overcoming anxiety and worry requires us to rely upon God - pretty simple, huh? So why is it so hard to actually do? I think it might be because we don't understand the "purpose" for the emotion of anxiety. God actually created this emotion, so it must be for a purpose, right? So, in order to understand the correct way to "deal with it", we have to understand its purpose. Short and sweet, anxiety is an emotion created to alert us to when we are getting off course with God and into something which will cause us some type of harm. Let that one sink in a bit. Anxiety is like an early-warning system - designed to alert us to our "drift". Anxiety is designed to get us asking questions - to seek his wisdom about the cause. Anxiety is then designed to open pathways of communication - to get us face-to-face with our Creator.
Our passage points us to a couple of salient points. If we put our faith in the wrong things, we will sense anxiety way more than we may have a desire to. If we place our trust (faith) in the better things, anxiety seems to no longer be a plaguing force in our lives. So, focus determines the level of anxiety we might be exposing ourselves to. When we learn to trust in reliable things - we sense a whole lot less anxiety. When we have misplaced trust - anxiety is on the rise. Perception is based on what we have placed our trust in. We "see" things based on what it is we trust in. If we have misplaced trust, our perception is going to be a little fuzzy!
Therefore, it is the foundation we should focus on, not the problem. When we focus on the problem, we see only what is above the surface. The real issues in our lives are based on foundation, not really on what is "above the surface". A right foundation actually reduces anxiety. The first step to establishing a firm foundation is being truthful. First, we have to be truthful with ourselves, for no real growth comes until we are. We can deny all kinds of evident reality, but it doesn't make it less of a reality! Second, we have to be truthful with God. He already knows where we don't have the best foundation in our lives, but he also already has prepared to lay a new one in its place!
What affects our foundation more than anything else is an over-reliance upon feelings. We get all twitter-pated about the silliest things - giving our heart, mind and attention to these things. Then we wonder why we get so deep into anxiety and worry! Our "feelings" got us off-course. Our feelings produced cracks or fissures in the foundation we were counting on as being real and reliable in our lives. When we begin to see the cracks, we panic! When wrong foundations become the basis of our lives, we are afraid to look at them anymore. We don't want to look inwardly because what is on the inside scares us! God's greatest hope for us is to have us live IN the circumstances, not UNDER them. If the foundation is right (trusting in the right stuff), we live IN them. If the foundation is wrong, we often get buried UNDER the rubble, because the foundation cannot support the structure!
To some, anxiety has become a way of life, simply dismissing it as something which will always be part of their lives. Truth is, it isn't in your genes, so you can be free of it! Anxiety will not just go away - you have to take care of what is causing the anxiety. In order to do that, you might need a change in perspective. In order to do that, you have to evaluate what has become the foundation in your lives. Discover that and you likely will discover why the anxiety exists in the first place! Some things I think we can all learn:
- Getting into the Word and spending time with God on a daily basis is a "stress reducer" and therefore, reduces anxiety. More importantly, it gives us a good foundation. Centers us. Strengthens us.
- We have to learn to rely upon what God as already provided. Much anxiety in life is a matter of not using what we already have - we simply ignore the resources God has put at our disposal. We need to learn to use what God gives us and stop trying to figure it all out on our own.
- Things like exercise (taking care of the physical man), fun times (laughter truly is a good medicine), and recreation (taking time "out") are important in reducing stress. Reducing stress actually begins to help us see clearer - for stress just clouds our perspective.
- Most importantly - we need to "limit" our worry. Only allow worry for the things which really matter. Remember, it is an early warning sign for us, so use it to your advantage. Live one day at a time, stop focusing so far into the future, or so deep into the past. Live today. When we get this perspective, much of what we borrow from tomorrow and bring into today will no longer be able to cause us concerns in the moment we are living right now. Just sayin!