Two thousand twenty-one has arrived, but I’m not happy about it. As much as everyone seems to agree that 2020 was a bad year, the arrival of January 2021 has only filled me with dread. I know that living with fear or dread is not how I am called to live in Christ, “For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38-39) That list includes a couple of things which are pertinent to my current state of mind: rulers and things to come. I am worrying about the future.
In December, I began attending church services, again. What a joy! It was a pre-Christmas sermon about Jesus being the Prince of Peace that made me realize my desperate lack of peace regarding the coming year. I learned that this title Isaiah used implied a military leader: Jesus is “Commander of the Army of Peace.” Isaiah 9 gave us a picture of the King who would come to earth not to conquer territories, but to be Victor over sin, death, and fear. Moreover, Jesus didn’t come to earth to conquer death, and then tell us, “I’ve saved you, so quit worrying and complaining and have peace!” No, He and His Father are generous to us and offer the gift of peace. Too often, we leave God’s gifts unopened; we think we can do better for ourselves. But since that sermon, I have been “casting all [my] anxieties on him” (1 Peter 5:7) and “in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let[ting my] requests be made known to God,” so that my heart and mind may be guarded by “the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding.” (Phil. 4:6-7)
I [Jesus] have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.John 16:33
Jesus said, “My peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do give I to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid” (John 14:27) I have liked John 14 since I was a teenager, when I memorized parts of it in the NIV. It begins, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me.” (John 14:1, NIV) There is comfort in the way that Jesus spoke to His disciples. Last week I realized that these words came right after the Last Supper. John 13 ends with Jesus assuring Peter that he will deny his Lord, and the next statement John recorded was, “Let not your hearts be troubled.” (ESV) Jesus followed this by giving hope of a future home: “In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?” (14:2)
But, instead of looking forward to the place that Jesus has prepared for us to live with Him, we get wrapped up in attaining comfort for this earthly life. We tend to worship at the altar of our comfort, and we fret over the things which threaten our way of life. Certainly, this is true of my battle with anxiety. I feel the threat to my earthly future from events in the world that I cannot change or control. I want to will myself to have peace, but it doesn’t work that way. This week, Spurgeon’s Morning and Evening devotions have hit me right between the eyes. What brings peace is living for Christ, and knowing that what is happening on earth is just the ‘B story’ of God’s plan. A larger battle is raging, and we are assured that we will be victors, if we have Jesus on our side. Psalm 118 was all but wrapped up with a bow for me, on Wednesday morning. It was what I needed to remind myself of the truth and the big picture.
The LORD is on my side; I will not fear.Psalms 118:6-9
What can man do to me?
The LORD is on my side as my helper;
I shall look in triumph on those who hate me.
It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in man.
It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in princes.
I have encountered a lot of relevant and encouraging Scripture, as I have wrestled for peace. It was more than I could incorporate into one blog, so I am including a reading list of passages that didn’t make the final cut. The more I saturate my mind with the truth of God’s Word, the more peace I attain. My situation may change, but God does not. He has been, and is faithful, and He will continue to be. “Ask and it shall be given to you.” Jesus gives freely and abundantly, so I am asking Him. I am casting off onto Him all of my cares and concerns about the future for me and my country. I am asking for His peace to guard my heart so that I can live with hope and joy, as I am called to. And for all my dread of 2021, going back to church has given me something to look forward to: a new series on 1 Corinthians. I don’t know why I am excited about this. Perhaps the past year has left me feeling spiritually underfed. Or, perhaps, I see and feel more than ever my absolute need for God’s Word. Scripture is the lifeline that ties me to the God who will keep me from falling!
Leah’s Anti-anxiety Reading List:
- Psalm 118
- Lamentations 3:21-25
- Matthew 6:25-34
- Matthew 10:26-31
- Romans 8:31-39
- Philippians 4:4-9
Let me know in the comments what Scriptures you would add to my list. I know that God’s Word is full of comfort, and I would love to know what verses you look to when battling worry!