I’m a pretty high-strung person. On the outside, I’m introverted, quiet, and usually spend some time thinking before I speak, but on the inside I’ve always struggled with stress and anxiety. I probably do a worse job of hiding it than I realize. My mind is often running a million miles an hour and I frequently have to stop and breath slowly to calm myself down.
I think most of my anxiety stems from the fact that I simply can’t control the outcome of certain situations. Believe me, I’ve tried. We feel a sense of safety from knowing how something is going to turn out, but we live in a world that is utterly and completely unpredictable. Even when we’re in familiar situations, there’s no guarantee of anything. I spend lots of time trying to fix myself and other people, and protect myself from being hurt. I tend to appreciate systems more than people, but honestly, it’s more than simply a personality trait, it’s a crutch. Mine is a life run by fear, not victory over my circumstances. It’s exhausting…but it does make me a great trouble-shooter!
The spiritual implications of this dilemma complicate things even more. As Christians, we feel a lot of responsibility “to do what is right” and “to love mercy” (Micah 6:8). This is so important. After all, Jesus said that without love, it’s impossible to know Him or be part of His kingdom. (Check out Jesus’ words in John 5:31-47). I can’t tell you how often I see the lines blurred between genuine service, and actions designed to help others see that we’re worth respect and admiration. For me, I can sometimes serve hoping that it will bring me respect. If I’m respected maybe I’ll be loved, and if I’m loved maybe I won’t have to worry so much. I’m realizing that this train of thought makes serving others more about me than about them.
I know I’m not the only one who feels this way and I’m definitely not saying this is true of me in every situation. We’re all complicated people. That’s part of why I’m writing this. I hope that some of what I’ve learned can help others.
33 I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”
(John 16:33 NLT)
He was referring to the suffering and persecution His followers would have to endure on His account. However, Jesus was also pointing out that this world is broken. It’s been messed up, big time, by sin. It’s tearing itself apart and will attack stability, truth and decency at any opportunity. Even the good in the world is tainted by selfishness. Basically, it’s beyond our control. I’m getting kind of stressed out just writing this paragraph.
Jesus wanted His followers to understand that as much as they might worry about what would happen to them, it really didn’t matter. Jesus was going to die for the sin of humanity and rise again to conquer death once and for all. His disciples were going to receive a new identity that would silence their insecurities. They’d receive the safety of unconditional love beyond anything they could imagine. Their souls would find rest knowing that regardless of what was going to happen, they had a forever home with their Savior. His Spirit would guide them and comfort them in difficult times, and make His presence palpable. In short, His victory would replace their fear.
I start to relax a bit when I think of life in those terms. I’m realizing the world doesn’t need more of our futile attempts to fix it. Instead, it just needs more Jesus. I don’t know if I’ll ever be free from anxiety. Most of my fear stems from emotional wounds and those kinds of things take time to heal. I know this for sure though: The truth Jesus speaks over us is way more powerful than the lies we’ve allowed ourselves to believe. I see courage welling up inside of me more and more every day. It’s starting to bubble up and overflow, and I can’t tell you how good that feels. I’m learning to ditch fear for victory because in Christ, “I have overcome the world.”