It’s an epidemic.
Anxiety has always been taboo. In Christian atmospheres in particular, there seems to be a great deal of uncertainty oozing out of the individual who has the gall to bring it up. A shadow of shame falls over those who suggest that maybe, just maybe, it’s time that we help others fiddle through the keys of freedom to help unlock the stocks of anxiety that keep them shackled to worry and fear. I will say though, I’m encouraged by the way the discussion is trending in the church.
I think it would be unwise to continue further before first addressing two different types of anxiety that exist. There is the anxiety that we invite into our lives and there is the anxiety that has infiltrated our lives.
As someone who has been diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder, I don’t feel like an expert on the topic, but I do believe I have a better understanding on the difference between the two. Sometimes I’ll see someone boldly step out and speak on the topic of anxiety and I’ll see people make comments like, “Well this isn’t helpful. People with anxiety don’t bring it on themselves,” or, “You can’t pray anxiety away. Prayer won’t help.” While neither are fully correct, they do each have a twinge of truth. Let me explain.
If you found yourself in Las Vegas between 1990 and 2003 and were looking for a show to attend, you would’ve probably found yourself at the Mirage Resort and Casino where Siegfried and Roy were performing the highest attended show in all of Vegas. Siegfried Fischbacher and Roy Horn became friends under unusual circumstances and it quickly blossomed into an unusual business partnership. One loved magic tricks, the other exotic animals, so they started performing unique shows that wove their passions together.
They became famous for the big cats that were used in their shows. Lions and tigers that were obeying their every command, performing impossible stunts. Things were going well until October 3rd, 2003. Half way through a show at the Mirage, Roy was interacting with a white tiger like he always did, when all of a sudden the tiger started mauling him. It grabbed him by the neck and dragged him off stage until trainers could separate him from the tiger’s bite.
He was left partially paralyzed, career over, lucky to be alive. I watched interviews with Siegfried and Roy and other animal trainers, they all said similar things, something always along the lines of, “I don’t know what happened.” One trainer said, “I’m shocked. He raised that tiger. It just baffles me, that’s out of character for the tiger to attack like that. I can’t believe it.”
As I watched them say these things I thought, you think that’s out of character? That one of the top predators on the planet, the embodiment of strength and speed, massive claws, ferocious fangs, built in camouflage, literally designed to kill with efficiency, attacked a smaller thing that is telling it what to do? Am I missing something? Breaking news, water is wet!
What went wrong?
It’s fairly simple. He invited a tiger into his territory, but more than that, he thought he could control it. When we choose to do things that we know will bring us anxious thoughts and feelings, we are inviting the tiger into our territory under the assumption that we have the ability to control it, but really, it has the power to turn on us and crush us. When I choose to prayerlessly dwell on my fears, it creates worry and anxiety.
Sometimes I wake up and my day begins by sending an invitation to anxiety that says, “You are cordially invited to wreck my world today.” I look for things to worry about, invite them in, and find myself as an anxious mess for the rest of the day, or longer. I set my mind on random, unaccounted expenses. I choose to dwell on social media even though I know it will stir up strife in my heart. I entice anxiety to draw near because I think I can control it and make it go away by trying to think through ways that I could potentially control things that are completely outside of my control.
In Greek mythology, few stories are more captivating than the Trojan War. It featured everything you could ever dream of as far as epic tales go.
It featured two mighty rulers, Agamemnon for the Greeks and Priam for the Trojans. Two legendary fighters, Achilles for the Greeks and Prince Hector for the Trojans. The war itself was being fought over a damsel in distress, Helen, who had fallen in love with Hector’s younger brother and sailed off in secret to Troy. But despite all of the kings, heroes, and legends, trickery steals the show.
After fighting for a lengthy amount of time with no clear victor, the Greeks began to realize that they couldn’t penetrate the legendary walls of the City of Troy. It was so well fortified that there was seemingly no way in, until of course, there was.
The Greeks built a massive wooden horse as a trophy to present to the Trojans. They pretended to sail away but were really hidden nearby. They left the wooden trophy on the shores where they had began their attack, essentially saying, “You win, we’re sick of this. We’re going home! Congrats!” Unfortunately for Troy, as they brought the gift inside their city’s walls, they had no idea that within the horse, there was a special force of Greeks prepared to conquer the city under the cover of darkness. As night fell, the Greeks snuck out of the horse, opened the city gates, and let the entire Greek army inside where they sacked the city. They raided and pillaged the great city and its legendary fortification.
There was nothing Troy could do. Unless they had taken extra pre-cautions, sought help, and counsel, they were going to be overtaken. And they were.
Now, why tell you that? Because rather than inviting the attack by allowing the gates to stay wide open, the Trojan walls were infiltrated. It was a force they couldn’t make war against on their own because there was more going on than they could see. Their own will-power in the war was no match for the cunning of the Greeks, and for some of us, that’s how anxiety operates. It’s not anxiety as a result of something we dwell on or allow, we need help.
Before anyone gets really offended by that, let me say this. I see this all the time, Christians getting upset because they think anxiety is something we have no control over. That is true, some of the time.
There is nothing wrong with having an ally in the fight, medication, a multitude of counselors whether they are professional or friends and family. No war is meant to be fought on our own. I have had a few people tell me that they will ask God questions about their life when they get to Heaven. For many of us, I feel like we may get to Heaven and say to God, “Lord, why didn’t you take my anxiety away?” And I have a feeling He may answer, “Child, I brought some of the finest counselors within 20 miles of you.” The body works well together.
There is a difference between an invitation and an infiltration, and in both instances, prayer has been instrumental in the impartation of peace I feel wash over me as I come before Christ with my anxiety.
Philippians 4:6-7, “The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
God’s power does not stop where my anxiety starts, and though I come to Him with my weaknesses, I know that His strengths are perfect in the midst of my pain. Surely we would be wiser to invest in prayer rather than borrow from worry.
How predictable that we would visit 1 Peter 5:7 where it says, “Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you.” God is the God of the unfair trade, and the Good News is that the trade works out well for us. God isn’t fair, He is just. He is right. And because of what Christ did for you and for me on that old rugged cross, we have been justified in Him to receive far better than we deserve. Romans 5:1-5 says it infinitely better than I ever could.
“Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”
Because of Jesus, I cast my anxiety on Him. Why? Because He cares for me (1 Peter 5:7), and maybe nobody tells you enough, but please allow me to be the one who tells you. Christ cares for you too. I drop anxiety at His feet and He gives me peace (Philippians 4:6-7). I open my palms and drop my sufferings at the cross to receive endurance (Romans 5:3). I come to Him and say, “Lord, I know you care, but will you help me?” And He reminds of Isaiah 41:10, “Don’t panic. I’m with you,” and that Jesus Himself said, “Do not be anxious about your life… your Heavenly Father knows what you need.” (Matthew 6).
Some days are harder than others, but I have decided to indulge myself in the joy I have in Jesus. If death cannot separate me from His love, I will always fight for the joy I have in Jesus. No matter what it takes or what I must do.
Keep the faith and continue to fight the good fight. I am fighting with you.
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