We all know anxiety well.
It comes with most trials and heartache. It rises when opportunities fall through. It speaks up when I’m at a loss for words to comfort my wife, or when that unexpected invoice pings my inbox, or when I turn on the news to witness another heartbreaking story of injustice. It’s easy to be paralyzed by my current “newsfeed” of reality, and forget everything I know to be true.
When anxiety strikes, we often resort to navel-gazing — the act of “self-indulgent or excessive contemplation of oneself, or a single issue, at the expense of a wider view.” Instead of trusting God’s promise to provide with ever-arriving waves of grace, I am prone to enshrouding myself in a cloud of needless concern. And that anxiety blinds me to reality. I trade the “wider view” of God’s faithfulness in exchange for the empty promises offered by self-pity, worry, and doubt.
Fortunately, the Bible has something to say to anxious hearts. As a child of God, you have a jaw-dropping past, an infinitely compelling future, and a rock-solid reality to stand on without fear or worry in any circumstance.
Look Behind You
“When it comes to hope in the midst of struggle, God calls us to be a remembering people.”
When it comes to hope in the midst of struggle, God calls us to be a remembering people. If you spend even fifteen seconds gazing into your own past, it will begin to sparkle with ten thousand mercies reflecting off the waves of those memories (Lamentations 3:22). The sea of past grace dwells here, and welcomes us to come and drink, and remember as often as we need to. You could easily spend a week reliving and remembering God’s many special provisions that came later than you wanted, but at just the right time.
Look further back along the waves and see the unshakable pillars of our hope in Christ. See Immanuel, the light that dawned upon and drew near to the weary world (Matthew 1:23). Look upon his life, perfectly lived, poured out as a living sacrifice for you. See the pinnacle of God’s glory and our great hope at the cross (Hebrews 1:1–3). Look and believe again in the resurrection. Look at the ascension, and the inaugural reign of Christ, as he sat down at the right hand of God the Father.
Look further still and see the faithfulness of God to his people throughout every “stiff-necked” and “rebellious” generation in history. See him leading with a cloud by day, and, by night, a pillar of fire (Exodus 13:21–22) — steadfast and faithful. Look out to the farthest reaches and see your name being written in the book of life, sealed for all eternity (Revelation 13:8). Every one of your days was written down by God before the foundation of the world.
How much less would we worry if we drank these waters down daily, building up in our hearts a storehouse of ready defenses against the onslaughts of anxiety and unbelief?
Look Before You
“Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for” (Hebrews 11:1). Though we can only see it “in a mirror dimly” (1 Corinthians 13:12), our future is, to put it very mildly, mind-blowing. We may not have every detail, but we have more than enough here from which to draw joy and confidence for today.
“Our future is, to put it very mildly, mind-blowing.”
The great day will come when Jesus appears in the sky on a white horse (Revelation 6:2). He will lead the armies of God in a final victory over Satan, sin, and death (Revelation 19:20). We will be witnesses of the new heaven being ushered down upon a new earth (Revelation 21:2). God will dwell with man. Our inheritance will be God himself (Revelation 21:3).
At the marriage supper of the Lamb, we will all join together for an eternity of feasting (Revelation 19:7–8). We will have ultimate shalom, unending and ever-increasing joy for all eternity. No moment will ever be boring or uninteresting again. You will be rejoined with your closest brothers and sisters. The streams of a river of life will make glad the city of God (Psalm 46:4).
God’s people will shine like the sun (Matthew 13:43). All creation will stand in awe of the revealing of the sons of God (Romans 8:19). You will see Jesus face to face. These are just the things we know about. God has even more in store: “No eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him” (1 Corinthians 2:9).
Look Back Down
Look back to your life now. See your current set of troubles through past and future lenses, and add these other promises to the mix. This is what Scripture says is true of you now.
Inside of you is “a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (John 4:14). The power that raised Christ from the dead is at work in your being (Ephesians 1:19–20). You have the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22–23). You cannot lose your standing with God. You are an adopted son or daughter of the King (Galatians 4:5–6). God’s lavish grace has been measured out for you according to God’s infinite wisdom, in just the right proportion and scheduled perfectly to meet your exact needs, whatever they may be (Matthew 6:33–34). God is weaving all things together for your greatest good, and equipping you with all that you need to accomplish his will (Romans 8:28; Philippians 4:19).
“His promises are not abstract rhetoric, or merely nice ideas. They are real and reliable.”
This is what my anxious, navel-gazing heart needs. With the eyes of faith, I can see that I have every reason to hope that God is infinitely for me every moment of every day. If you are in Christ, the same is true for you. He loves you, and he desires that you live today in the strength that he provides by faith in future grace (1 Peter 4:11).
His promises are not abstract rhetoric, or merely nice ideas. They are real and reliable — the same yesterday, today, and forever.