overcoming anxiety 

 

Living One Day at a Time
by Ted Schroder

As I look ahead to the New Year I want to live into the reality of the words of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount: Matthew 6:34 – Jesus said, “So don’t be anxious about tomorrow. God will take care of your tomorrow too. Live one day at a time.” (LB)

Anxiety is endemic to the human condition. It is an apprehension of the future. It is a presentiment of something that has not happened – it is in reality ‘nothing’. Yet, this ‘nothing’ causes us dread or angst, precisely because we do not know anything about it, so that it could be our worst nightmare. Soren Kierkegaard wrote a serious psychological study entitled The Concept of Anxiety, in which he defined anxiety as the possibility of freedom – to choose. Yet having to choose poses dilemmas. Suppose we choose wrongly? What if we make the wrong choice? Yet for many of us anxiety is more about the possibility of losing freedom, of losing control, of being overtaken and threatened by adverse circumstances, by events that affect our well being. As we look into the New Year we wonder what the year will bring forth. It is like looking down from a great height and growing dizzy at the possibility of falling into nothingness. The future is unknown. Anxiety about its possibilities threaten our composure. We worry about what may happen to us or to our loved ones. 

Jesus tells us how to manage our anxiety so that it does not disable us and cause us so much stress that it makes us ill. He tells us that we should deal with each day as it comes. God has only given us this day, one day at a time. Peterson puts it this way, “Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes.” (The Message) 

Let us think through this concept of living one day at a time. God only gives us this day, one day at a time. The present is all that we have. There is no guarantee that we will have a future in time. Life is a gift not a right. The future in time is a gift not a right. Life is too fragile for us to worry about tomorrow. A friend of mine, the Principal of a theological seminary, was eating lunch one day when he choked on a sandwich and died leaving a wife and three daughters. One day he was alive, the next he was gone to heaven. His wife’s life was changed. His children had to make their own way without a father. He was given to them only for a limited time. That time was precious. In retrospect every moment was treasured. How would their lives have been different if they had known he would only live as long as he did, that they would only have him for that length of time? 

If we only have today, then we ought to ‘give our entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow.’ That means living in the present – being present right now. When anxiety over the future floods our minds we must bring the mind back to the present. That means filling each day with meaning. Nature abhors a vacuum. If each day is not filled with the presence of God and his purposes then it will be filled with anxious thought and ways of coping with anxiety. 

Jesus tells the story of the evil spirit which comes out of a person and decides to return to his old haunts. “On return, it finds the person swept and dusted, but vacant. It then runs out and rounds up seven other spirits dirtier than itself and they all move in, whooping it up. That person ends up far worse than if he’d never gotten cleaned up in the first place.” (Luke 11:24-26, The Message)

We may banish one worry from our minds by activity, by some kind of solution, by distraction, by trying to control it, by alcohol, or medication. But if we don’t fill our lives with the Spirit of Christ, the powers of heaven, then the spirit of worry will return with many more companions to plague our existence. Without a positive inflowing of the presence of God we will be vulnerable to being filled with anxiety about the future. The evil spirit will return with his partners in crime: worry, fear, angst, dread, apprehensiveness, obsessive thoughts, fretfulness if we don’t protect our minds by faith in Christ. 

Living in the present without anxiety requires constant vigilance. Jesus teaches (Matthew 6:25-33) that we must recognize several truths if we are to keep anxiety at bay.

1. The gift of life is more important than material possessions. 
2. Our lives are of greater value to God than wildlife and yet God takes care of all his creatures. 
3. Anxiety will not improve our situation or contribute to our longevity. 
4. God knows what you need and will provide for you.
5. Make seeking God’s will your highest priority.

Rudyard Kipling wrote;

“If you can fill the unforgiving minute 
With sixty seconds worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything, that’s in it.”

If you can fill each day, each 24 hours, each 1,440 minutes with fulfilling God’s purpose, seeking first his kingdom, you will not have time for anxiety.

What is God doing in your life right now, today? What is he saying to you? What does he want you to be and to do right now? Answers to these questions can occupy your mind rather than anxiety about tomorrow.

“God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes.” “God will take care of your tomorrow too.” You see, tomorrow becomes your present day when it arrives. God will help you to take care of it because you will be living in the present. The past has gone, and the future has not happened. All that we have is the present. Tomorrow becomes the present, but we can do nothing about it until it comes. God is in the future and the past because he is eternal. He is able to help you because that is his expertise.

St. Paul was able to say: “I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him until that final day.” (2 Timothy 1:12) We can trust God to help us, to take care of us, because we know who he is as revealed in Jesus. Handley Moule expressed what Paul meant when he wrote this: “he knew him, deeply and dearly indeed, as his Lord, Life, Way, and End. He knew him as the perfect and absolutely satisfying Object of his worship and his love. He knew him as the Bearer of his sins and the Conqueror of his death. He was filled all through his being with ‘the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus his Lord.’ And so – what else could he do? – he had ‘trusted him.’ He had given himself over to him, to be saved, ruled, kept, and guided; and he knew that this trust had been met by the all-faithful Lord. And if it was so, then all was well, and well for ever.”

We can trust God for our future because God is trustworthy – worthy of our trust. To be anxious about the future is the opposite of trusting in God. We have a choice: be anxious or trust in God. To be anxious is life-denying. To trust in God is life-affirming. To be anxious is unhealthy. To trust in God is healthy. The future is full of possibility – yes, possibility for evil over which you can have no control, but also possibility for good as we trust in God’s love and goodness and grace. God’s promise is sure.

“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever. Amen.” (Ephesians 3:20,21) 

December 30, 2007

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overcoming anxiety and worry about tommorrow

 

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