Coping With Anxiety

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Hey TD!

As school has now officially started for everyone, for many of you that comes with anxiety – anxiety about your performance, your social position, relational drama, and so on. With anxiety comes uncertainty and worry.  The truth is that God will not remove many of the circumstances that we fear; He will, however, be with us and help us walk through them.

Here’s a short article to help ground you with the right thoughts and perspectives as you head back into the new year.  If you prayerfully and humbly work on putting them into practice, things may just turn out better than you thought. Enjoy. – Arthur

In 1 Peter 5:6–7, the Apostle Peter wrote to the Christians spread across the Roman Empire who were suffering persecution from the unbelieving Jews and gentiles: “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.” In this passage, Peter shows in what way his readers were to face the anxiety they were feeling in this situation: they were to cast their anxiety upon God. By doing so, they would recognize their own powerlessness and weakness, as well as God’s power to take care of them.

“All your anxieties” is a reference Peter makes to the anguish the Christians felt due to the hostility and persecution of the pagans. It included fear of death, fear of suffering, preoccupation with family and friends, and other similar fears. The word translated “anxiety” comes from a Greek word that means “part,” “piece,” or “division.” The anxious heart is divided, pulled in all directions, and in constant affliction.

Christians must “cast on him” all these anxieties; that is, they should put all their preoccupations and fears into the powerful hands of God and rest their afflicted hearts. That is done, in practice, through prayer and petition, in which we confess to God our weaknesses, tell Him of our anguishes and needs, beg for His favor and grace, and rest confident that He has listened to us. It is implicit, although not said, that remaining with these anxieties would be a form of exaltation and pride.

Thomas Schreiner writes:

Worry is a form of pride because when believers are filled with anxiety, they are convinced that they must solve all the problems in their lives in their own strength. The only god they trust in is themselves. When believers throw their worries upon God, they express their trust in His mighty hand, acknowledging that He is Lord and Sovereign over all of life.

Peter encourages his readers to cast their cares on God “because he cares for you.” Even though it didn’t seem like it, God was taking care of them in the midst of their suffering, not necessarily ridding them of pain, but not permitting it to go beyond their limitations and giving them grace to endure and remain faithful. God was not insensitive to their suffering. God’s care for them may also be a reference to what He has prepared for them at the coming of Christ (1:3–7).

This exhortation by Peter reflects the teaching of many psalms that encourage the faithful to unload their burdens on God (Ps. 22:10; 37:5; 55:22), as well as the teachings of the Lord Jesus against anxiety (Matt. 6:25–34). Christians are encouraged to trust in God and rest in Him in the midst of the most terrible of sufferings, confident that the all-powerful God is taking care of them, even though this care is not always perceptible.

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Doers, Not Hearers Only

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Hey TD,

Here’s a great reminder and charge to go and put our faith into practice in our everyday lives.

James wrote his letter to Diaspora Jews who had become Christians (1:1). As Jews living outside Jerusalem, they had developed a great appreciation for listening to the reading of the Law in the synagogues, especially because they could not attend the temple services. They considered hearing the Law to be a proper substitute for the temple sacrifices. After becoming Christians, it appears, they continued to think in the same way: to hear the Word of God in their meetings was enough for them to remain God’s people.

James, however, says to them that merely hearing the Word will not save them:

Be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. (James 1:22–24)

If the people did not practice what they regularly heard in their meetings, they were deceiving themselves. “To deceive” here means to make an erroneous assessment of something and then lead someone else to error through this assessment (Col. 2:4). James’ readers were deceiving themselves by having misjudged the value of hearing the Word, as if merely listening to sermons could save them. The Word is powerful to save, and when the Word saves people, it causes them to bear the fruit of obedience. However, because they did not make this assessment, they were content with being mere hearers. They were deceiving themselves.

James exhorts them to be “doers” of the Word. Doers go forward with something, as part of what they believe. Doers obey the Word of God, putting His teachings into practice, in contrast with someone who is content at merely listening to that Word.

James introduces a comparison to explain the uselessness of hearing the Word without acting on it. There is a similarity between the mere hearers of sermons and someone who looks in the mirror and soon forgets his face. Both the mere hearer and the forgetful contemplator do nothing about what they have heard and seen. Therefore, the hearing and seeing do not result in anything. They are useless and fruitless exercises, even if done with great attention and dedication.

What is the use of hearing the Word of God if we are not corrected and encouraged to do what is right? How can we have been saved if we do not practice what we hear? Through the prophet Ezekiel, God denounced His people under the old covenant for exactly the same mistake: “They hear what you say, but they will not do it” (Ezek. 33:31–32). The Lord Jesus compared the one who hears His words and does not do them to a house without a solid foundation (Matt. 7:26). Many Christians do not so much need to learn new things but need instead to put into practice what they have already heard and learned.