@robertkwendt || lead pastor
Heart pumping. Stomach churning. Palms sweating. Head spinning. Body screaming 'STOP!'
Have you felt it? Have you experienced it? Have you battled it?
Here's the thing...anxiety is often caused by the changes taking place all around us and our reaction to them.
There are times in our lives where the daily tasks, responsibilities, and continual changes are simply overwhelming. Today, people are constantly overburdened, busy, and anxious. Our lives have become unmanageable. Meanwhile, stability seems to be all we crave, yet it's so far from what we experience.
Change is a continual topic of conversation. Our neighborhoods change. Our workplaces change. Our technology keeps changing. (Who woke up this morning and said good morning to Alexa or Siri?) It's overwhelming to say the very least.
Change is not new (see last week's post). And even the anxiety that comes with it isn't a modern phenomenon. So what is anxiety?
Anxiety is "a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease, typically about an imminent event or something with an uncertain outcome."
When we combat change, we often have to battle through the anxiety that comes with the battle. If we are really honest with ourselves, the inception of anxiety comes out of our lack of control—especially about changes which are so uncertain.
But...what if we gave up control and found rest, peace, and patience in the presence of Jesus? What if resting in him was our first response to the changes happening all around us?
When things are uncertain, we become anxious. We become anxious, because we do not have control. || tweet this ||
There is a story toward the beginning of the Bible about a man named Joshua. He was given great responsibility and had to follow in the footsteps of one of the greatest men to ever live. (Yes, a murderer was redeemed to be known as one of the greatest men.) The man he had to follow was Moses.
After the death of Moses, the Lord's servant, the Lord spoke to Joshua son of Nun, Moses' assistant. He said, "Moses my servant is dead. Therefore, the time has come for you to lead these people, the Israelites, across the Jordan River into the Land I am giving them.
Imagine this. He was handed over the responsibility of leading an estimated 600,000 men—plus the women, children, animals, and their possessions—from the desert they had been journeying through to the land they had been promised. To make this happen, he had to get all of the people and their convoy of stuff across a river. If that wasn't overwhelming enough, he had to deal with all their complaining, moaning, and groaning. All while filling the shoes of the man who God spoke the Ten Commandments to. Not to mention—Moses was such a critical person in God's story that he was later revealed alongside Elijah during the Transfiguration of Jesus (see Mark 9:2-13).
Talk about a major change in responsibilities.
It's no wonder that God said over and over to Joshua words such as "Be strong and very courageous." "Do not be afraid." "I will be with you."
God was there to calm Joshua as he had to adjust to a new way of life. He had to work through some major changes.
Joshua could have fought with God. He could have argued that he didn't want to make the change. After all, Moses did (see Exodus 4). He could have fought against the changes taking place. He didn't. He took over responsibility. He embraced the change. He knew God was with him and would continue to be with him.
He simply trusted in God.
In our worry and anxiety, God is saying, "Be strong and courageous. I am with you." || tweet this ||
with change, give up control
What would the world look like if each person was completely surrendered to others? How would things be different if instead of looking to hold on to what we enjoy, we sought after the interests of others?
There is a story about a rich young ruler who comes to talk with Jesus (see Mark 10:17-31). He asks a question of Jesus. "Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?" The man explains that he has kept the commandments (do not kill, steal, covet, etc.) since he was a young boy. He feels he has done enough on his end of the bargain. But Jesus, with love as his intention, explains that he still hasn't handed over complete control to God—he hasn't released his own personal possessions to help those around him. When the man heard Jesus' response, the Bible tells us, "At this, the man's face fell, and he went away sad, for he had many possessions."
When change comes our way, the question becomes...What are we still holding on to?
Often our reaction to change comes out of a place of how we personally feel. We grasp control. We want things to go our way. BUT it's not about us: it's about God's kingdom. It's about an eternal, bigger plan.
Alexander Whyte, a Scottish pastor/professor from the 19th century, recognized that we all tend to hang heavy weights on the thinnest wires (in other words, we give a lot of importance to the things that don't really matter that much). He explains that our happiness is often placed on fragile things, such as health, relationships, children, jobs, home, or possessions. While these are great blessings from the Lord, they do not lead to lasting hope. They are heavy weights (things to strive for) on the thinnest of wires (not ultimately fulfilling).
I love how the disciples are there witnessing the conversation Jesus is having with the rich man. They are led to ask the simple question, "Then who can be saved?" Jesus' response? "With man it is impossible, but NOT WITH GOD. For all things are POSSIBLE WITH GOD" (Mark 10:26-27).
Here's the thing...God took care of our salvation. He came up with a perfect plan! A plan that gave us free will, yet revealed the ultimate amount of love possible. He made a way not based on what we do, but what He did for us.
We didn't tell God how to do it.
We didn't come up with the plan for salvation.
In fact, we had zero part in it.
We talk about this. We even believe this. YET, we live our lives as if God needs us to continually do things for Him. We act as if He needs us to tell Him what to do. When we do this, we live life trying to maintain control.
But what would our lives look like if we lived completely surrendered? What if we gave up control?
If God took care of our salvation, we can trust Him to take care of our lives. || tweet this ||
it's like a son and fruit snacks
There is a story of a son who has an absolute fit when his dad will not give him more fruit snacks. He had just finished a bag as a snack. It was really good and he wanted more, but his dad will not give it to him. He wanted to change things up. In his frustration to the dad's response, the child begins to pound his fists, kick the floor, and scream at the top of his lungs, "I WANT MORE FRUIT SNACKS!" He begins to become anxious. On the inside, tension is building. It seems like his dad doesn't hear him, so he continues to scream louder and louder, hoping just to get those fruit snacks!
Meanwhile, the dad continues to hear the child whine and complain. After all, he is standing right there. Yet the dad knows what is coming—he is making his son a feast of a meal. He is preparing all of his son's favorite things. A grilled cheese sandwich. Hot dogs. French fries. And even a healthy side of oranges. If he gives him the fruit snacks he wants, then his stomach will be bothered—he will not be able to fully enjoy the feast being prepared. He will not be able to savor the better food ahead.
At times, if we are gut honest, we are often like the kid demanding fruit snacks. We want things now. We want what seems best in the moment. We want what we enjoyed before.
We resist any sort of change because we want to keep indulging in what we have come to enjoy. We ask God for what we want, praying, "My will be done."
But that isn't how God taught us to pray...instead we are to pray, "Thy will be done."
Like the dad, we have a God who not only wants to love and serve us now, but He wants us to be with Him forever! He has an eternal plan amidst the immediate changes we face right now. He is listening to our cries, but He also wants us to enjoy the very best. He is preparing something even better for us in the time to come.
While changes hurt, while they bring about feelings of anxiety, while they make us get nervous inside, we have a God going through each and every change with us. As he spoke to Joshua, He speaks to us saying, "Do not be afraid." "Be strong and courageous." "I am with you."
Change challenges us to think differently. It challenges us to give up control and to rest in God's presence and plan.
Change hurts. BUT God is with us through it. || tweet this ||
Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.