Anxious for Something? Here's What to Do

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I am convinced that few of us realize how much a low-level anxiety plays a role in our everyday thoughts and interactions. It drives many of our daily choices. It impacts our way of relating to family, friends, and strangers. It motivates us to say and do certain things and stay away from saying or doing other things.

Just this morning, during a conversation about money, I found myself responding to my husband with a level of intensity that caused him to feel unheard. It wasn’t until I reflected further upon our conversation that I came to see that it provoked anxious feelings in me. In my anxiety I reacted negatively to him as a means of attempting to control that which I fear. Down deep I was anxious for something and that anxiety found its way out in my behavior. That behavior had an impact.

I don’t believe that my struggle with this hidden but very real anxiety is uncommon.

Some things we can be anxious for include:

  • children and loved ones
  • marriage
  • work
  • safety
  • friendships
  • future
  • reputation or what others think of us
  • our performance or the performance of our kids
  • finances
  • looks
  • health

When a circumstance or person seems to threaten any of these areas our anxiety can come out in behavior. We fight or flee, nag, shame, threaten, punish, pressure, remind, correct, advise, perfect, defend, deny, conform, try harder, check and double check, avoid, attack, eat, drink, or choose another of a thousand other possible responses. The goal of all of them is the same however. They are an attempt to avoid pain and relieve our anxiety.  Sadly, these behaviors almost always result in some other problem and don’t really serve to relieve our anxiety at any deep level. They may even increase it in the long run.

So what’s the answer to our anxiety?

Security—the sense that everything is going to be okay. We long to relax, go off duty, rest. Our anxiety only reflects the uncertainty of this world. We can’t trust the world to run in a way that will relieve our anxiety. In fact, we can trust that it won’t run that way.

Jesus said, “In this world you will have trouble.”

Yes, trouble in many small ways—and sometimes big ways—is coming. But the second half of Jesus’s statement on trouble is where our hope, security, and relief are found. “But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).

To be secure our focus must be on Jesus who is able to defeat, redeem, and bring to good any possible trouble the world can throw at us.  And while we are not promised a life here free of suffering, if we trust that his goodness and greatness will overcome, we need not be controlled by anxious worry.  We can rest in his unfailing love.

We must choose who we are going to trust. If we trust only in our ability to manage and control life, then we must work hard to prevent the trouble we fear is coming. Love goes by the wayside and efforts to avoid pain take the lead. In the process we hurt others or ourselves with self-protective and controlling behavior.

However, if we trust in Jesus and put all that matters to us in his capable hands, then we can respond to the trouble of life differently. We can love others well. 

Anxious for something? Let your anxiety be a signal that tells you there is something you need to relinquish control over. Put what matters to you into the hands of a God who cares so deeply for you that he did not withhold even the life of his only son. He will not keep from you what you really need in life. What ever suffering he does allow will be redeemed for your good as you put your trust in him.

The Art of Loving Well—Part 2

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In our previous blog we discussed how love, at its core, is a motive.  Yet we can be so self-deceived about our motives. We can think that our motive is to give so the other can flourish, yet really be giving in order to get something in return. In order to truly love well, we must first be ruthlessly honest about our own hearts so that our love is not hindered by self-centeredness. Will our love ever be completely free of impure motives? Quite likely not, in this life, but let’s not let that hold us back from loving as purely as we can to the best of our knowledge and self-awareness.

Once we have considered the state of our own heart and motives, the art of loving well requires considering the object of our love.  What is most deeply needed from us that would really help them to grow, flourish, and be the best that they can be? What from us would be a cup of cold water to their thirsty soul? What would most effectively counter the lies that draw them away from God and point them to the truth?

Indeed, these are not always easy questions to answer.  However, we have found that Scripture gives us two categories that are always helpful in thinking about how to love well.  Those categories are GRACE and TRUTH. We are told that these two elements were what Jesus was filled with and what came to us through him who was Love Incarnate (John 1:14, 17). Therefore, it makes sense that when they come to others through us we will be loving well.

So how well do these two elements characterize the way you love as you think about the needs of others?  So often we struggle to blend these two things in a way that genuinely shows the love of Christ. Left to ourselves, we might be great truth tellers, being quick to correct or confront.  However, we leave people feeling shamed, rejected, and judged and their souls parched for the water of acceptance, grace, and kindness. Others of us may be great grace givers. We easily affirm, accept, and meet practical needs yet leave people to the bondage of lies and sin.

The reality is that true, biblical, artful loving will always call us out of our comfort zone. We must be willing to go where it is difficult, where it is a sacrifice, and where it is risky in order to love others well. For some of us that means finding the courage to speak truth, to confront or say “no” to someone in addition to being kind, gentle, and compassionate. For others, it means learning to show tenderness and compassion; seeing life from the other's perspective while at the same time bringing truth in with gentleness and patience. 

It is only as we depend upon the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit that we will be able to exhibit both GRACE and TRUTH as we seek to love others well. There will be moments when what others need most is grace, but there will always come a time for truth. There will be moments when what others need most is truth in order to displace lies, but that truth must always be seasoned with mercy and kindness.

In the end, it is only as we ourselves have experienced both GRACE and TRUTH in the love of God will we be able to pass that on to others. We cannot give what we have not received. But when we have received it, we have much to give that can bless and cause others to bloom and flourish in our presence.

Consider these questions as you seek to grow in the art of loving well:

What aspect of God’s character do you need to experience more of in order to grow in loving well?

Are you naturally more of a truth teller or a grace giver?

How do you need to grow in being more balanced?

Who in your life could flourish and grow more if you offered them more of what they needed with both truth and grace?

How to Find Hope when You Are Struggling

How to Find Hope when You Are Struggling

Everyone struggles. No exceptions. Don't be fooled. No matter how "put together" someone looks, everyone has a story that has it's share of pain and broken dreams. Struggles with failure, disappointment, rejection, worry and loneliness weave themselves through the fabric of our lives. And worst of all, those struggles can tempt us to doubt God is good.