When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought me joy. (Psalm 94:19 NIV) When you stop and think about it, it's amazing that we're not all in a heap in the corner given what is happening in the world around us every day. Our news feeds are filled with rumors of war (and actual war), terrorist attacks, natural disasters, random acts of senseless violence, political upheaval, financial market instability, foreclosures, downward trends, nuclear threats, refugee plights, dictator's decisions and crippling diseases. Add to that the challenges we face in our personal world (relationships, disappointments, illness, loss) and you have a recipe for worry, fear, and, in the most extreme cases, a complete nervous breakdown. If we are not careful we can forget that we are not in charge of the universe. When we do forget, we run the risk of collapsing under the weight of the affairs of the world. Anywhere you turn for help with anxiety you will find a few common themes. One of those is to relinquish control-to admit that there are a lot of things we cannot manage to the outcome we desire. In other words, there's a lot we are not in charge of in this world. To admit this doesn't imply that we shirk our responsibility for the things God gives us to steward, or that we fail to pray in faith, believing that God can change nations and history. Rather, to admit we are not in control of much allows us to remember who it was that brought us from death to life in Christ and causes us to realign ourselves with the reality that he is actually in control of this world. This is why recovery programs stress the adage-let go and let God. From a distance (and especially if you are in a season where you pretty much have your stuff together) this saying can sound trite. But it's actually as spot-on a prescription as any. To put an "X" through anxiety we have to admit that we cannot manage the actions of people, events, or nations. We cannot dictate (or fully know) other's motives, nor can we make people tell the truth, stop lies, diffuse threats or right all wrongs. We cannot personally protect and insulate every person we love from pain, or cause everyone around us to make the wise choice. But there is something we can do. We can put our confidence in a God who is near, and trust that he is working (even through corrupted human decisions) to bring about his overarching plans for our good and his glory. It all comes down to this question: do you trust him?
David, who penned the words that opened today's devotion, had lots of reasons to be anxious. When he was a boy, the prophet came to anoint a king from among his brothers and his dad didn't even put him in the line up. They had to call him from the sheep fields so he could be anointed leader of Israel. Being overlooked by your family can make you anxious. The existing King, Saul, was jealous and sought to kill David. He was literally on the run for his life for a period of years. To flee for your life night and day from people of power can make you anxious. What's more: David had to fight a bear to defend His father's sheep. David walked through dangerous valleys as a way of life. David went up against the champion fighter, Goliath. David ultimately became King, with all its weight and responsibility. In seasons, David felt forgotten by God. In battle, David marshaled armies. He ruled a nation. David was tempted and sinned greatly. David had a man killed in an attempt to cover up his sin. So, we're not just talking about an innocent little shepherd boy. David knew about anxiety and its power to tear your heart apart. Yet he writes, When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought me joy. (Psalm 94:19 NIV) His consolation was God's presence. We have God's presence, as well. More specifically, the promise that Christ will be with us (and live in us) if we put our trust in him. Jesus knew about a troubled world. Yet, He makes this offer to you: Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. (John 14:27 NIV) In a world that appears to be crumbling, Jesus is still the Prince of Peace. He is not often looking for the easiest way to get you out of the fire, but he does promise to bring you peace in the midst of whatever storm you are in. The critical step for you is to set aside your pride and trust in him. We mentioned early in this journey that no two cases of anxiety are the same. But it is a matter of record that a lot of people who battle this giant have high-control issues-those who like to be (or think they are) in control. If you're a perfectionist and a controlling person it's likely anxiety is at your door, or worse, already in your house. To fight the giant of control we must dig even deeper. Beneath the spirit of control is the root of pride. "Me" is at the center of the controlling life. This attitude works itself out through phrases like-I can do it myself. I can control it. I'm fine! I don't need help. I am able to take care of it. I'll be OK. The problem is you're not OK. To let go is to bend the knee and admit to God that we are trying to manage life on our own. God knows that we are dust. He knows that we are frail. (Psalm 103:14). God understands the human frame was not meant to carry the weight of the world. Freedom comes when we confess our pride (control) and trust his mighty hands to carry the worry for us. This is the full thought captured in the verse we talked about a few days ago: Humble yourselves, therefore, under God's mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. (1 Peter 5:6-7 NIV) Focus on the words under God's mighty hand. Your hands are not big enough or strong enough to keep the world from falling apart. But his hands fashioned humanity out of the dust and, once pierced on the cross, made a way of salvation for all. And, his hand is holding yours right now. Before we can name what's underneath our anxiety, and "cast" each thing/person on Jesus, we have to humble ourselves before him. So do that now. Transfer control to him. Pray, for sure. And do what is in your hands to do. But leave the rest with him, knowing that's when your rest will come.