One of our challenges today is that we are hyper-aware of all the problems and crises going on around us, which creates a heightened sense of anxiety. We are inundated by frightening and negative news stories, which serve as reminders of all the things that can go wrong.
So now young parents are so frightened by the prospect of an inattentive — or predatory — babysitter that they refuse to go out. Young people are so fearful of their relationships falling apart that they hesitate to make long term commitments. In our work or ministry involvements, we are so concerned about potential problems that we over-function, so that “all the bases are covered.” When we lay in our beds trying to get to sleep (or back to sleep when we wake up at 3AM), our minds spin with possible problems and worst case scenarios about our children, our finances, our marriage, our church, our work, and our world.
It’s hard to just relax, and trust that things are going to be okay! And yet, that’s exactly what we need to learn to do.
Without an internal sense of peace, a deep awareness that no matter what happens, we are going to be okay, our anxiety will create all kinds of problems. It will drive all kinds of bad behaviors, like trying to micromanage situations, not trusting people, refusing to take risks, and turning to addictive substances or behaviors to try to sooth ourselves.
For many addicts, it was precisely this issue — trying to soothe anxiety — that started us down the path. It’s also well-known that stress and anxiety are significant and common triggers for relapse.
This is precisely where the beliefs we profess — about a God who will care for and protect us, who will work all things together for our good — need to be internalized. Listen to these reminders from pastor and author Pete Scazzero:
“When we sleep, God works. God wants to sow this seed into the soil of your heart and mine. If we can slow down and receive this one truth of how He works, thirtyfold, sixtyfold and a hundredfold, fruit will come forth (Mk. 4:20). Our personal lives, our marriages, our leadership, our sermons, our churches will be transformed.
“God holds the universe together. We don’t have to. God holds the oceans in His hand. He gives drink to every living creature. …He grows the grass and waters the trees. He cultivates every plant and flower. …God invites us to lay aside our bread of anxious toil and receive sleep as His beloved. He alone ‘builds the house,’ not us.
“God illustrates this with the creation and growth of a child. We engage in one brief moment of sexual intercourse and He then takes over to grow a fetus, a baby, and eventually an adult human being who engages the world (Ps.127). God does 99.9999% of the work.
“The kingdom of God grows ‘all by itself’–even when we sleep (Mark 4:26). Take a deep breath. Sit at Jesus’ feet, remembering that His love brought you into existence and sustains you today. He is working all over the world at this very moment building His kingdom–apart from you and me. Ask Him what small, small part He may have for you to do today.”
I’ve shared the following quote before in this newsletter, but it’s so good it’s worth sharing again. Melodie Beattie puts it this way:
“I have never successfully treated or solved one problem in my life by obsessing or controlling. I’ve yet to accomplish anything by worrying. And manipulation has not wrought one successful outcome. But I forget that from time to time.
“The best possible outcomes happen when I let go. That doesn’t mean I always get my way. But things work out and, ultimately, the lesson becomes clear.”
So relax. Lighten up. You might be surprised to see the good things that God is working on in the background of your life.