Anxiety, Shame, and the Church

The weight of anxiety in this world today is palpable.

Is it any wonder?

We live in a world with so many homes shaken by loss, concerned for provision and mounting student and credit card debt and the constant barrage of should’s and would’s in marriage and parenting; a world with emptier churches and full addiction clinics; a world where terrorism knocks on the front door. In this world, the sheer amount of graphic images and social media we take in each day may heighten our internal anxiety meters to red alert all by themselves.

You may not struggle with anxiety yourself, but you see the fruit of it all around you. It seems like a problem with a pretty simple solution- trust.

So why does it wreck the hearts and minds of so many Christians?

It would seem that casting cares isn’t as simple as we’d like to make it out to be.

When someone is anxious we often share a small half-sentence found in 1 Peter 5:6-7. I’m sure you can find the familiar words below:

 Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.

While this Scripture, is certainly applicable, what if this verse actually perpetuates the problem of anxiety for many anxious Christians and non-Christians?

What if it actually creates anxiety rather than relieves it?

The problem is not in the Scripture itself, but maybe in our application of the text. Just because it says anxiety, doesn’t make it the best verse on the topic.

Unintentionally, we may reach out to someone in compassion, but if all we do is share this verse, the silent undertone of the conversation is

“pray harder, believe stronger, have more faith.”

This verse is given in the context of community, church community in particular. Casting care is done in the safety of relationship, not individually, not as a directive, and not as a pat answer, but as an ongoing connection of two souls, bringing the anxiety of brokenness before the Lord…together.

More appropriately, every single one of us in this faith walk stand every day as the father in the book of Mark – seeking healing from the troubles of this world, from illness, from disease, from brokenness:

Immediately the father of the child cried out and said with tears, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24)

Christ Jesus took on the cross for us, not so that we would have no trouble and all fear would be gone.
God uses even this: anxiety, fear, lack of trust, turmoil.

Anxiety, like all suffering, can be useful in that it points us to our own need for the Savior. It’s like little alarm bells in our bodies that tell us – You were made for more than this life. Heaven will come one day when all this trouble will be no more.

He took on the cross so that whatever fear we may have in this life may be given to Him, shared with Him, and cared for in the Body of Christ, where shame has no place, within the context of eternal life won, the tomb empty, and hope reigning. Allowing the church, the pastor’s office, or a simple conversation over coffee to be a safe place to share the burden decreases the shame of having anxiety for the one struggling. It makes seeking spiritual care, counseling, medication, or any other treatment so much easier and less shaming also.

We were made for casting cares, yes, but deeper than that, we were made for connection – sharing the Word, sharing Hope, being honest with one another about our own struggles, and sharing the grace of Christ in the midst of the mess.


Coming January and February 2018 – a new series on the I Love My Shepherd Podcast –

The Truth about Mental Health: Anxiety.

Episodes include topics such better defining anxiety, creating a framework of theology for anxiety, helpful passages in spiritual care for anxiety, and Embrace it or Escape it: practical suggestions for anxiety care. Subscribe on iTunes or Stitcher.

Freedom in Hope lived loud

Name one word that describes your emotional state at this moment?

 

Depending where you are at in life, your burdens, your zeal for this day, you may be feeling happy, sad, lonely, excited, or frustrated.

I have no idea what you wrote down, but I’d love to hear it in the comments! I can imagine that if we put all our words together we would have a wide and varied list of descriptions. Our emotions change day to day, moment to moment, even when some seem persistent enough to poke at us for a season.

My word would be filled or freaking out depending on the attitudes in my house, the schedule on my phone, and the news on the screen.

Hope is different. Romans 5:5 tells us that Hope doesn’t disappoint us.

And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.

It does not shame us.

It does not disgrace us.

It does not confuse us.

Can you imagine what it would be like to live without hope?

I pray you do not know. Without it our emotions and life itself feel so confusing, so broken beyond repair, so disgraceful.

Paul’s heart screamed out to the Galatians that hope was in front of them despite life’s confusion and doubts. Hope was worth gripping onto with all their might, even as someone tried to drag it away. Hope does not disgrace.

Let’s read Galatians 5:2-6 to hear more:

Mark my words! I, Paul, tell you that if you let yourselves be circumcised, Christ will be of no value to you at all. Again I declare to every man who lets himself be circumcised that he is obligated to obey the whole law. You who are trying to be justified by the law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace. For through the Spirit we eagerly await by faith the righteousness for which we hope. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.

The false brothers, the Jewish believers that insisted on circumcision for the Galatians, were trying to sever their relationship with Jesus, sever their relationship with salvation. Their method of dispensing the law was confusion, so Paul uses straightforward language. Earlier in Galatians we saw his linear arguments about the place of the law in life after Christ Jesus. We saw the place of sonship in Abraham, sonship in Christ, and the technical differences between the two. Now Paul just says it like it is:

Circumcision, not necessary. It doesn’t matter. End of story. (Galatians 2:2)

So often in this confusing world we need someone to do that for us.

And Paul does:

We cannot keep the whole law. (Galatians 2:3)

There is sin in us, sin in the world, and we cannot make it better. We can’t wish it away. We can’t ignore it or it will choke us. It will push us off the cliff, and we will find ourselves watching as grace slips away from our line of sight.

Obviously, this is not freedom.

Satan’s breed of confusing us – whispering in our ears we’re not enough and we’re just fine on our own, all at the same time – it scratches to try to sever us from God and His goodness, His mercy. (Galatians 2:4)

Paul wants better for the Galatians and he wants better for us.

“For through the Spirit…”

The Spirit brings something new into the confusion that literally makes things right. Makes us righteous and changes our lives with hope.

Hope shines Christ into confusion.

Circumcision, uncircumcision – none of it matters. That is hope. Letting Christ be the center is where freedom is.

Just letting Him live out and live loud in our life;

letting Him, through the Spirit already in us by His grace, infiltrate all of our life, all of our heart, our soul, our mind, our strength,

that is freedom.

We aren’t free falling. We are held tightly in His righteousness, in freedom won for us.

We have hope.

Hope speaks over the voices that create all the confusion. Life might look or feel confusing now, or at least some days, but we eagerly wait, Paul says, for that moment, that time when all things will be new before our eyes. We pass on that hope to our children and to our families, to our friends, because who wants to live without hope, without freedom?

Today might be confusing, but Christ lives loud. The Spirit lives loud constantly reminding us…

“Oh yeah, hope.”

Hope deals with the big stuff, so we can bring it into the little stuff. Hope walks into your life shaped like grace and works into the fabric of everything around you.

Hope is loud like that too.

And hope does not disappoint, does not shame, does not disgrace.

Hope frees.

#lifetogether – Connect and send someone this week’s free downloadable Dear 52 card or order the whole set here

Discussion questions:

What things in life feel confusing or produce anxiety for you? (Like wars, family arguments, etc.)

What emotion is your least favorite to deal with? (anger, fear, excitement, etc.)

What difference does hope make in the day-to-day in your home or work, as you make dinner, talk to your family, do work projects, etc.? Where do you see Jesus living loud in the everyday?

There are a lot of etc.’s in my examples. 😉 What hope is there in the fact that Jesus holds all the etc.’s?

Freedom by Sacrifice: The Shocking Truth of Substitutionary Grace


Our world is jaded. We carry justice around like a pet. If everything was right and fair, then we would have no problems, things would line up, just the way they are supposed to be…right?

No. It never works out that way, does it? Even when justice comes, we get that pang in our stomach. When one of my kids does something wrong, and then they have to suffer the natural consequences of it, I have mixed emotions. Wouldn’t it be nice if justice had a counterpart that let compassion in? Wouldn’t it be great if our world was a place of where justice was important, but we weren’t ruled by it?

Grace.

This is why grace is so shocking.

It’s not first nature. It’s actually what we would do second, third, or even last. It doesn’t come naturally, but we are desperately seeking it, chasing it, even when we don’t know it. That pang in your stomach when you hear of the death penalty, you have to watch your kids endure consequences, or when you really know it’s better just to hang up on the telemarketer.

Paul is about to use the language of astonishment in Galatians 1:6, but first, he reminds the Galatians, and us, that there is something bigger, that everything he is about to say and present is really held in the context of something greater:

Shocking grace.

Read Galatians 1:1-4 to connect Paul’s full introduction in one spot:

Paul, an apostle—sent not from men nor by a man, but by Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead— and all the brothers and sisters with me,

To the churches in Galatia:

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ,who gave himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

Grace and peace to you…made possible by God, through Christ.

Paul starts even his introduction with the full Gospel.

Jesus gave Himself….

Perhaps our world has heard it a million times, so it isn’t really shocking anymore. The Galatians may have had a similar problem, slipping into “It can’t be. There’s no way. No one does stuff like that.”

Let’s hear the freedom in the truth of this message once again:

…the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself…

Romans 5:6-8 reminds us just how shocking this Gospel is:

You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

If you have your Bible out, underline these words –

very rarely

might possibly

Do you hear the language of the unexpected?

Look back at Romans 5:8 – But God…

God demonstrates who He is and how He brings freedom to this world, very differently than we would expect. Paul’s message is that it’s not what we expect that we need, but rather –

truth is found where we least expect it – in grace.

Christ didn’t just die for our sins. Christ gave Himself for our sins and for our deliverance.

The NIV and NASB translations use the word rescue instead of deliver. The NRSV translation uses the very straightforward to set us free.

Deliverance – that sounds a whole lot like freedom to me.

Christ did it for us. This is substitutionary grace, meaning we couldn’t do it. When there is a substitute teacher, it’s because the regular teacher couldn’t get there. We can’t get there either. We would never get there on our own to save ourselves. We can chase freedom all we want, but we need a substitute- for us.

Christ gave Himself for you, for your family, for your neighbor, for the unborn, for the elderly, for the junior high student, for us.

The truth is freedom will never come from justice. Freedom only comes through the shock of Grace.

We may want to be free from the evil around us in this world, but God does something different. He sets grace down in the middle of it instead. We think freedom looks like deliverance from the junk of life. God says it looks like deliverance from being ruled by it.

What junk, what anxiety, what trouble of this present evil age feels like it’s ruling right now for you?

God gives us grace in the midst of it. He gives us the knowledge of for us. Sin no longer has control, because… Grace.

Where might some shocking grace seep out of your mouth and your heart because of the freedom of Christ?

Shocking grace, for you – sounds a lot like freedom to me.


Discussion Questions:

Look again at Galatians 1:2. Who does Paul say is “with” him in his writing of the letter? Why do you think this is an important detail he included? (If you can, google the NRSV translation of this verse… that one is my favorite.)

Why do you think authority is such an issue for Paul with the Galatians? Do you ever struggle with authority in any of your vocations? What grace can be found in the matter of authority?

The words deliver or rescue, and the concept of needing a substitute, insinuate our helplessness. What usefulness is there in knowing and understanding that we are helpless? What is hard about this?