Entries with tag anxiety .

Three Lessons from Saint Porphyrios

I’m always interested in getting recommendations for new books, especially books that give practical ways to grow closer to Christ. After I graduated from James Madison University in 2009, I was in the scary new world of “life after college” and in need of some inspiration. By God’s grace, I found Wounded by Love: The Life and the Wisdom of Elder Porphyrios and soon devoured the book.

 

I used to be one of those people…you know, the ones who care a bit too much about books and who don’t underline or highlight them out of sheer reverence for the printed word. But this book of mine is underlined, highlighted, tagged with sticky notes, and has a worn binding from being read so much.

 

Elder Porphyrios was recently recognized as Saint Porphyrios in 2013 (just 22 years after his repose), and his feast day was commemorated on December 2. There are so many nuggets of wisdom which have helped me in moments of need, that I can’t help but recommend this book to others and write this post about three of his most memorable lessons.

 

1. Look on all things as opportunities to be sanctified

 

Life seems to just throw things at us sometimes. Things will be going fine and then out of nowhere disaster comes. Or, perhaps we’re going through what seems to be just one issue after another. With all of these waves of anxiety or hard times, it might feel impossible to rise above water. But what if these troubles could be used to our good instead of to our defeat? Saint Porphyrios says that regardless of our circumstances, God can turn our situation into an opportunity to grow closer in our relationship with Him.

 

A person can become a saint anywhere. He can become a saint in Omonia Square [in Athens, synonymous with vice and corruption], if he wants. At your work, whatever it may be, you can become saints – through meekness, patience and love. Make a new start every day, with new resolution, with enthusiasm and love, prayer and silence – not with anxiety so that you get a pain in the chest. If it happens, for example, that you are given tasks to do that fall outside the remit of your duties it is not right for you to protest and become irritated and complain. Such vexations do you harm. Look on all things as opportunities to be sanctified. (p. 143-144)

 

Each day is a new start in our relationship with God. Each day we can choose again to follow Jesus or we can choose to follow after our anxieties and worries.

 

All the unpleasant things which are within your soul and cause you anxiety can become occasions for the glorification of God and cease to torment you. Have trust in God. Then you will forget your worries and become His instruments. Distress shows that we are not entrusting our life to Christ. (p. 145)

 

I have to accept my day as being the way it is. Sitting here and fretting about my situation won’t change it. Being frustrated with people around me or trying to carry the weight of the world on my shoulders isn’t going to change them or the world. But I can change my attitude, I can change my response to what worries me. Saint Porphyrios says to “deal with everything with love, kindness, meekness, patience and humility. Be rocks. Let all the waves break over you and turn back leaving you untroubled” (p. 145).

 

We can be the saints that God is calling us to be, regardless of life’s circumstances, but only if we rely fully on God and turn to Him anew each day.

 

2. Turn to Christ

 

Just as tempting as it may be to focus on our fears and anxieties, it’s also easy to focus on the sins and passions which seem to wage war against us. The more we slip up, the more we repeatedly struggle with the same things and confess them time and again, the more our eyes focus on our struggle instead of on Christ. We might start to think that if only we fight harder against the passions, we won’t keep doing whatever it is. Saint Porphyrios points us towards a different path.

 

We need to turn to Christ instead of looking at our sin. "You won't become saints by hounding after evil. Ignore evil. Look towards Christ and He will save you” (p. 135). Saint Porphyrios gives this advice over and over again. “Don’t look at what’s happening to you, look at the light, at Christ, just as the child looks to its mother when something happens to it. See everything without anxiety, without depression, without strain and without stress” (p. 145). When we fight against our passions directly, we forget to “become like children” (Matthew 18:3) who understand that they can’t save themselves.

 

But how do we turn to Christ? How can we keep our minds on the things of God?

 

Life in Paradise and don’t let your evil self know and envy it…Do not strike at the evil directly, but, disdaining the passion, turn with love to God. Occupy yourself with singing hymns, the triumphant hymns of the saints and martyrs and the Psalms of David. Study Holy Scripture and the Church Fathers. In this way your soul will be softened, sanctified and assimilated to God. (p. 123)

 

This might be the point when you say, “but that’s easy for a monk to say! I have work, school, a life to live!” But Saint Porphyrios reminds us that “in prayer what is important is not the duration but the intensity. Pray albeit for five minutes, but abandoning yourself to God with love and longing. One person may pray all night long and another person only for five minutes and yet the five-minute prayer may be superior” (p. 128-129).

 

In our lives, we are going to face temptation, but we are called to turn to Christ and away from our struggles. And then we might begin to see that others are on the same path that we are on.

 

3. We shouldn’t be discouraged or judge

 

As we begin to see everything as opportunities to grow closer to Christ, as we recognize every struggle as a moment to receive God’s grace, we ought to recognize that every person around us might also be on this same journey. It’s so easy to fall into the trap of judging those around us who are stumbling and struggling with sins openly, and forget that we are fellow pilgrims in this journey to the Kingdom.

 

Saint Porphyrios offers us this hope-filled reminder for those who struggle or those who struggle loving those who do:

 

Souls that have known pain and suffering and that are tormented by their passions win most especially the love and grace of God. It is souls such as these that become saints, and very often we pass judgment on them. Remember what Saint Paul says, 'Where sin abounded, grace flowed even more abundantly' (Romans 5:20). When you remember this, you will feel that these people are more worthy than you and than me. We see them as weak, but when they open themselves to God they become all love and all divine eros. Whereas previously they had acquired different habits, they now give all the power of their soul to Christ and are set on fire by Christ's love. That is how God's miracle works in such souls, which we regard as 'lost'. We shouldn't be discouraged, nor should we rush to conclusions, nor judge on the basis of superficial and external things. (p. 185)

 

Each person who faces temptations, each person who has fallen into sin, each imperfect image of God is the soft clay which God can use to form according to His likeness. Each difficult person, each openly sinful person, and - thank God - each one of us who remains an imperfect Orthodox Christian, can become the recipient of God’s grace and the source of God’s grace to others.

 

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As a monastic, Saint Porphyrios grants us insight into the spiritual life and reminds us of how to be more watchful of our thoughts and preoccupations. And as a modern person who lived amidst the temptations and noise of Athens, Greece, Saint Porphyrios speaks to us directly as someone who knows what it’s like to live in today’s world.

 

We can choose to look at all of life’s circumstances as opportunities to be sanctified. We can turn towards Christ instead of trying to face our passions on our own. And lastly, we should take heart and not be discouraged nor become judgmental of others who struggle against passions different from our own.

 

What struggles have you faced recently and how can these be opportunities to encounter Christ today? Do you find that you try to battle against sin directly, and how could you turn instead to Christ to let Him fight for you?

 
 

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Sam is the Pastoral Assistant at Saint Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church in Virginia Beach, Virginia. He grew up in Powhatan, Virginia and studied International Affairs and Spanish at James Madison University. Sam received his MDiv from Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology in 2013. He loves food, languages and good coffee.

Photo Credit: depositphotos

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Finding Rest in a Restless World

Overscheduled, stressed, and tired.

That pretty much describes every person I know. We pride ourselves in our multitasking abilities during the day, but can’t seem to calm our thoughts to get to bed at night. We begin our days tired, we joke about our need for coffee, and find that there aren’t enough hours in the day to finish what just has to get done. If we’re not staying super busy, we think we’re being lazy. And what’s just one more obligation? I can handle that, no problem!

And then we burn out and realize we aren’t the Energizer Bunny.

If we’re always running, eventually we’re going to hit empty. We have to learn how to refuel if we’re going to do anything to the best of our potential. We need to learn how to rest.

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)

This passage encourages me when I feel overwhelmed. But how can we put these words to good use in our lives? How can we find rest in this restless world of ours?

1. Come to Christ

The first thing that Jesus tells us is that we should come to Him. It’s such a simple command, “come!” yet so hard for us to actually do. Though we are tired of being tired, we’re also stubborn. We are so used to handling everything, we don’t know how to do any less.

The good news is that we don’t have to handle it all, alone. We don’t have to bear all of our worries and busyness, alone. Christ tells us that we can unburden ourselves onto Him. But how?

First, we simply need to come to Him in prayer. When we feel overburdened or stressed, we should take a moment to breathe. Just stop and say a quick prayer. Ask Christ for strength for that moment. 

Second, we have to let go of the need to do everything. We have to unclench our hands that hold so tightly to our busy schedules, and give them up to Christ. Give your day, your anxiety and your busy schedule up to Him. Offer your work up to God for Him to bless and to help you get through it all.

God isn’t going to take something from us if we don’t let go of it first. So we should let go of the need to be in control of our schedule, and offer our responsibilities up to Him so that we can follow the next command Christ gives us.

2. Take on His yoke

Once we have come to Christ in prayer and have laid down our stressed out lives before Him, what’s the next step? He says to take His yoke upon ourselves. But what does that even mean?

A yoke is a wooden beam that connects two animals (like oxen) and allows them to pull a load or do work together. So when Christ says to take on His yoke, He’s telling us that He’ll be in the job with us. He isn’t giving us additional stress or work; He’s taking the pressure off of us and is putting it upon Himself!

But if Christ wants us to take on His yoke, what yoke are we shouldering now? Saint Paul talks about the “yoke of slavery” (Galatians 5:1) that our sinful self wants to return to. He says that the temptations of the world actually shackle us into slavery. Jesus is telling us to lay down all our worries and struggles and to accept His help in sharing our burdens.

3. Learn from Christ

So we’re willing to approach Christ in prayer. We accept that He can help us get through our day. But what does He have to teach us about how to deal with our 21st century world, with all of its temptations and anxieties?  

We forget that Jesus did not live in a simple time, either. He lived in Palestine at a time when the Holy Land was occupied by yet another foreign power. It wasn’t much more than a century after the Jewish revolt of the Maccabees and there was constant rumor of a rebel leader (which many hoped Jesus would prove to be) rising up to free the Jews from their Roman overlords.

On top of the political climate, Jesus could hardly ever get alone time. Everywhere He went, people were following Him, asking for help and healing, and pressing in on Him in huge crowds. How did He handle all of His stress?

Jesus took time to rest.

Over and over again, we find Jesus going off alone to pray. He spent quality time with His friends and family. He spent time in the Temple praying in community. This is a model we would be wise to emulate. Take time for the things that really matter: community prayer, time with loved ones, and quiet time with God. When our focus is on anything else, we lose sight of what really matters.

4. Sabbath rest

The Old Testament stresses the importance of a Sabbath rest. Jews since the time of Moses have kept the seventh day holy by setting it aside for rest and devotion to God. While Sunday is the Lord’s Day for Christians – a day for community worship– Saturday is still the Sabbath. Though we don’t need to observe the Sabbath like our Jewish friends might, do we give ourselves some sort of Sabbath rest each week? Do we allow ourselves to have time to unwind?

We might not ever have the time to take an entire day to stay home and just relax with family. But we can take an hour or two, regularly, or we can take a few minutes each day to just be still and quiet before God.

Scripture reminds us, “be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10), but are we ever still?

Scripture reminds us of the wisdom in having a moment each day, and a time each week, to quiet down and reflect on where we’ve been and where we’re going. But if we never stop, looking back means we’ll bump into something; and if we never look back, we won’t know if we’re going in the right direction.

And that direction, as we saw in the first point, means moving towards Christ.

*****

We all need rest; it’s part of being human. The world tells us that success rests in being able to juggle overbooked schedules while running on empty. Christ, on the other hand, says to come to Him, to offer up our burdens to Him so that He can help us carry them. Taking time to rest and to be still are not only recommended for success and healthy lives, they’re absolutely necessary for us to live as Christians. Without this time to reflect and to spend time with God, we can find ourselves locked into the yoke of slavery rather than experiencing the freedom that comes with the yoke of Christ.

Do you often find yourself burdened by stress and controlled by an impossible schedule? How can you offer this to Christ so that He can help you carry the weight?

 

Sam is the Director of Youth & Young Adult Ministries at Saint Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church in Wyckoff, New Jersey. He grew up in Powhatan, Virginia and studied International Affairs and Spanish at James Madison University. Sam received his MDiv from Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology in 2013. He loves food, languages and good coffee.

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Learning to Walk on Water

We all know the feeling. We’re doing great spiritually, we’ve got our focus on Jesus and then boom – we fall down. We go from cloud nine to sinking in the waters of self-criticism, overcome by the feeling that we’re not good enough.

It’s all too easy to fluctuate between spiritual highs and lows, between the feeling that we’ve got it together and the feeling that we will never get out of our bad habits.  When I’m feeling this way, I find encouragement by remembering that the saints wrestled with this, too.  Even the Apostles, Jesus’ closest friends, struggled with keeping their focus on Him. Saint Peter had an especially close relationship with Jesus, but even he denied the Lord. Three times!  

Rather than focus on that, I’d like to reflect on another event in the life of Saint Peter: when he walked on water.

Most of us remember that Jesus walked on water (He’s God, after all!) but do we remember that Saint Peter did, too?

Matthew 14:22-33 tells us that, while the disciples were sailing one night, their boat was being rocked by the wind and the waves. Suddenly, they see Jesus walking towards them on the water and they’re afraid. Saint Peter says, “If it is you, command me to come to you on the water” (Matthew 14:28). He gets out of the boat and walks on the water to Jesus, but is distracted by the wind, so he gets scared and starts to sink. He calls out, “Lord, save me!” so Jesus pulls him up and says, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” The story ends as Jesus and Saint Peter get back into the boat and the wind stops.

This story challenges us to do three things:

1. Keep our eyes on Jesus

Saint Peter walked on water when he kept his focus on Christ.  He only sinks when he begins to worry about the wind and the waves. If we pay more attention to the struggles we have with sin, or the stresses that we have in our lives, than we do to Christ Himself, we’re going to get tripped up.

We’re going to sink.

Saint Porphyrios (check out the book on his life and teachings, “Wounded by Love”) taught that instead of fighting against our passions directly, we should run towards Christ. He said that if we devote ourselves to loving Christ more and more by attending services, reading Scripture, and living the life of the Church, gradually the temptations will lose their strength over us. We can’t empty a room of its darkness by fighting the darkness; instead, we need to let in some light. In the same way, we can’t empty our hearts of darkness by fighting it head on; instead, we need to turn to Christ.

There’s even an episode of “Be the Bee” on Saint Porphyrios’s advice.

Saint Peter sank because he tried to battle the waves and the wind instead of keeping his eyes on Jesus.  Similarly, if we take our eyes off of Him to battle sin (or stress, anxiety, or whatever else is going on in our lives) alone, we will lose: each and every time.

And once we have our eyes on Christ, the next step is to trust in Him. 

2. Let go of control

Another reason Saint Peter began to sink was that he tried to control his situation. When he realized he couldn’t, he began to panic. On a daily basis, it’s easy to get stressed and anxious about everything we have to do. But this anxiety often results from our desire to do everything ourselves.

We, like Saint Peter, need to cultivate a faith in Jesus instead of a faith in ourselves.

Jesus told Saint Peter that he sank because of his little faith. Instead of having faith in Jesus, he tried to rely on his own strength. He forgot that, though it is impossible for a person to walk on water, Christ reminds us that “with God all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26).

Having faith in Jesus means trusting Him to guide and support me. If I am anxious and stressed out, or if I am feeling that I just don’t know how I’ll get everything done, it’s often because I am relying on my own strength. Yet, living out my faith in Jesus means letting go of control and asking Him to be the strength I need.

I have to let go of my need to be right and of having my way, and instead learn to accept God’s will in my life, for today. Only then can I ask for the help I need.

3. Call out for help

Once Saint Peter turned his eyes away from Jesus, tried to control his situation, and began to sink, he realized he needed Christ to save him. He went from doing the impossible one moment, to sinking in wave-tossed waters the next. But, then he stopped trying to handle the situation on his own and said, “Lord, save me!”

As easy as that, he was back in the boat and the wind and waves were gone.

Saint Peter’s words marked his decision to rely on Christ. Self-reliance only gets us so far. Realizing that only Jesus can get us out of the waves and calm the wind means learning to ask for help. In the moment of our temptation to sin, or in the moment of our overwhelming worry or stress, we can stop and ask God for help.

 

Whether we’re battling a habitual sin or bad habit, dealing with stress and anxiety, or trying to handle a difficult work or family situation, finding a solution might feel impossible. It can seem like only a fantasy to imagine that there could be an end to whatever we are encountering right now.

Our situation might feel as impossible as walking on water.

But with Jesus, we have a solution. Today, we can decide to focus on Him, to stop trying to be in control and to call out to Him for help. Jesus is personally calling each of us, like Saint Peter, to follow Him in the midst of our difficulties.

Will we balk at the challenge and sink? Or will we, like Saint Peter, learn to walk on water?

Being Brave in Uncertainty - First Sunday of Luke

If you’ve never read them, I highly recommend Fr Thomas Hopko’s 55 Maxims for Christian Living. Lately, one in particular has been bouncing around in my head:

“Face reality.”

This may be one of the hardest maxims to follow because, all-too-often, rather than face reality, we place ourselves in a story of our own making.

Noted author Brené Brown (you may have seen her incredible TED talk) has described the tendency we have to “make the uncertain certain.” In her newest book, Rising Strong, she explores how, rather than confront the intense pain of uncertainty, we escape into a false certainty that we construct.

For example, I usually expect my wife to be home at a certain time in the evening. If she’s late, I begin to worry. So (as dysfunctional as it may be), I begin to imagine all the terrible things that must have happened to her. Of course when she arrives, the story is never as gruesome as I imagined;  she simply stopped to vacuum the van.

I consistently respond to any kind of uncertainty in the same over-anxious way: I write an ending to a story I tell myself, all because imagining the worst is somehow less painful than living in the discomfort of uncertainty.

I try to imagine what might be going on instead of living in the pain of my own reality. The reality that I have no idea what is going on.

And that uncertainty terrifies me.

So in response (and I don’t think I’m alone here) I make up a false reality, because for some reason, that false reality feels better than true reality – that things are remarkably uncertain.

I think this may be one of the reasons that despair is such a strong temptation and such a destructive force. It writes an ending to the story that simply isnt true. In Christ, we see that death does not get the final say. The powers of darkness do not win.

Yet this reality is hard to remember when we’re feeling ourselves being broken by the overwhelming events in our lives: the loss of a relationship, the end of a job, the death of a parent.

All of these things leave us vulnerable, exposed, and suddenly the uncertainty of Christs Resurrection is palpable. It is almost impossible not to wonder (at least a little bit), Will Jesus really win in the end? Will everything really be okay?

We resolve our doubt by sinking into the certainty of despair. 

We may think that the faithful move in this situation is to instead rush to a premature confidence in the Resurrection; we may be tempted on Good Friday to pretend we are living on Easter Sunday, to step around the Cross rather than through it. Of course, that’s impossible: there is a whole day between the Cross and the Resurrection.

A day where Jesus is just laying in the tombdead.

Where He is just gone.

In the Gospel reading this Sunday, we will see the Theotokos and St. John standing at the foot of Christ’s Cross, gazing upon the pierced and dying body of the Lord.

Standing right in the middle of terrible uncertainty.

After all, the One that they hoped would save Israel was now crucified, broken, and dying. How could they not have wondered (at least a little bit) whether Jesus really had known what He was saying when He said, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up” (Jn. 2:19)?

The temptation in such a moment would be to either deny reality or rush to a premature conclusion. On the one hand, one could easily find false comfort in optimism: Come on, Jesus. You can get off that Cross. Do it, buddy! And on the other hand, it may be too easy to find false comfort in despair: “Oh great, I knew it. I knew He was a phony.”

It’s much harder to say, “The One I love is crucified. I dont understand., but Im here.” Living in the disappointment, living in the loss, living in the uncertainty of this is way harder than delusion, on the one hand, or despair, on the other.

And yet the Theotokos and St. John just stand there, rather than escape into a false, imagined reality. 

I wonder: however, how many of us are comfortable with this? I know I’m not. I frequently want to use my faith to resolve my anxiety instead of leaning into the fact that sometimes things just hurt, and that they might hurt for a long time.

That before Sunday comes both Friday (the day of dying) and Saturday (the day of being dead).

Each of us is faced with crosses and “holy Saturdays” of our own, where we feel stretched, broken, beaten, even dead. Where we simply cannot imagine that things will get any better any time soon. On these days, its too easy to rush to escape the tension....

But I can’t shake the feeling that uncertainty can somehow nourish faith, that somehow doubt is not the opposite of faith, but is rather the breeding ground for it. So maybe we’re actually being called to lean into the uncertainty, rather than to resolve it.

Maybe we’re called to sit with Him in the tomb for a while.

That’s what the Theotokos and St. John did. They didn’t seek to save Christ from the Cross, or lose faith in Him when things really seemed uncertain. They stayed with Him rather than flee into a world of imaged certainty. Because, as uncomfortable as it may be, this escape makes us miss out on the opportunity to be with Christ where He is, whether its on the Cross. or in Hades.

Perhaps, in moments of uncertainty, the Lord invites us to trust in Him with all our heart, and not to rely on our own knowledge (Prov. 3:5). Perhaps the call to “face reality” is simply this, simply leaning on Christ while fully experiencing the weight of our disappointments and confusion, there at the brink of despair, as we gaze into the chasm of our own limitation and weakness.

The only question that remains is whether or not we actually have the courage to sit in the dark for a bit, and to hope, to trust that the Lord will act to deliver us from death and despair.

Because any deliverance we can offer is simply imaginary. 

Photo Credit:

Anxious Guy: zetson via Compfight cc

Doubt: y3rdua via Compfight cc

Christian is a Young Adult Ministries Coordinator for Y2AM. He is a husband, father, mover, shaker, coffee drinker, sandal wearer, and CrossFitter. Christian has his MA from Azusa Pacific University in Marriage and Family Therapy and is working toward a second MA in Children, Youth, and Family Ministry from Luther Seminary. Christian and his family live in Phoenix, Arizona.

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For more:

For more on doubt, check out this episode of Be the Bee:

 

Frozen Yogurt, Fatherhood, and Fear - Third Sunday of Matthew

Sometimes I’m afraid my daughter doesn’t trust me.

Last week, early one morning, we promised my little one that we would take her to get frozen yogurt. Since we didn’t immediately proceed to the nearest FroYo place  we then had to listen to her ask for it a thousand times.

Whenever my wife and I would talk about the day’s plans, my daughter would add, “Yeah, and on the way there, maybe we can get yogurt?”

After request #378, I tried to muster as much parental kindness as I could: “I understand you’re very excited about the yogurt. We will make sure you get it. We promised you.”

Her response was tough to hear: “But I’m afraid you’ll forget.”

I’ve always tried really hard to keep my word, especially since becoming a parent. I want my kids to know that they can count on me. So when she said this, I felt a bit disappointed. I couldn’t help but wonder, what kind of father does she think that I am? Doesn’t she know who I am?

And that’s when I realized who I am.

I’m her.

I, too, am deeply afraid; afraid that God won’t take care of me.

My daughter’s anxiety over dessert is my anxiety over the size of my bank account. Her fear that I won’t remember to stop by the FroYo shop is my fear that God won’t remember me in my hour of need.

Though there’s one big difference: unlike my daughter, I’ve stopped incessantly asking for help. While my daughter’s fear finds rest in her trust of me, my fear morphs into anxiety and a broken self-reliance.  Unlike her, I stop asking and start relying on myself.

Instead of waking up and praying for God’s blessings (or, even better, giving thanks for my wife, my children, and my health) I wake up worrying about what’s for breakfast or stressing that I haven’t been productive enough yet this morning (it’s already 7:00?!).

Or I worry about all the devastation in the news: terrorism, natural disasters, moral decay, political scandal, and the litany of other bad news reported ad nauseam.

How am I not supposed to worry?

But God’s response to my anxiety is my response to my daughter’s anxiety:

Don’t worry. Because I’m your Father. And I love you.”

God invites me simply to chill out and trust Him. While I’m too busy worrying about everything going wrong, God’s saying, “I got this.”

From my perspective, I know my daughter doesn’t need to worry about getting her frozen treat because I’m the kind of father who keeps promises.

And if that’s the kind of father I am, then how much more so is our Heavenly Father?

But why is it so hard to trust Him?

My daughter’s anxiety leads her to badger me with requests, to turn to me. Unfortunately, my anxiety also drives me to turn to myself.

To forget God. 

I would do well to be more like my daughter, to trust in our Heavenly Father.

This Sunday, Christ will tell us that the “eye is the lamp of the body. So if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light; but if your eye is unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness” (Matt. 6:22-23).

It’s no wonder, then, that I eat, drink and breathe anxiety. My eye is unhealthy, and takes in every disaster covered in the news, which convinces me that doomsday (or at least the zombie apocalypse) is coming. It takes in all the unrealistic media, which convinces me that what I have and who I am is never enough, and certainly never good enough.

I’m not smart enough, or fit enough, or rich enough, or loved enough…

Our world is fueled by anxiety because we inhabit a culture of scarcity.

“Scarcity is the ‘never enough’ problem…Scarcity thrives in a culture where everyone is hyperaware of lack. Everything from safety and love to money and resources feels restricted or lacking.”[1] And it is this sense that things are lacking that makes us panic and do all we can to secure our lives in this world.

We work harder. We hoard. We blame our spouse. All this fear turns us inward and distracts us from those we love and the Lord.

And this Sunday, Christ, the trustworthy Son of the trustworthy Father, tells us to chill out.

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things; and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things” (Matt. 6:25, 32).

Christ invites us to trust that God knows precisely what we need. That we need not worry about it…

Easy for you to say, Jesus! I’ve got bills to pay!

*Deep breath*

There we go again: anxiety, and trust in my own actions.

It’s everywhere, and it’s precisely why Christ encourages us to “strive first for the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matt. 6:33).

Christ invites me away from the bad news of the media and instead to focus on the good news of the Gospel, the coming of God’s Kingdom. He invites me to know that all is forgiven, that one day in God’s Kingdom all will be made right and “Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more” (Rev. 21:4).

He invites us to trust our Father in Heaven, and to know that He doesn’t forget anything, not even frozen yogurt.

What do you think?  Why is it so hard to trust in the Lord rather than ourselves? What are you afraid of? What kinds of things cause you to struggle to trust the Lord? Comment below and join the conversation!

 

 

[1] Brene Brown, Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead (New York: Avery, 2012), p. 26. 

Photo Credits:

Frozen Yogurt: Magnus D via Compfight cc

Anxious Girl: Wikimedia Commons

Clouds: mattyp_ via Compfight cc

Christian is a Young Adult Ministries Coordinator for Y2AM. He is a husband, father, mover, shaker, coffee drinker, sandal wearer, and CrossFitter. Christian has his MA from Azusa Pacific University in Marriage and Family Therapy and is working toward a second MA in Children, Youth, and Family Ministry from Luther Seminary. Christian and his family live in Phoenix, Arizona.

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For more:

For more on dealing with intrusive and anxious thoughts, check out this episode of Be the Bee:

For more on turning toward the Light of Christ, check out this episode of Be the Bee:

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