In our Women's Bible Study this winter, we've been going through Jerry Bridges' book Respectable Sins: Confronting the Sins We Tolerate." Ouch. It's amazing that what I pass off as normal behavior is really sin in the sight of God, things like: frustration, discontentment, unthankfulness, selfishness, irritability, anxiety, judgementalism, and - oh, dear - sins of the tongue. Either spoken or written, I would assume. As I am confronted by these "little" sins in my life, it's helped me to see how far I continue to fall short of what God intends for me, but it's also helped me to see how patient, faithful, and loving the Lord is to me as He daily enables my sanctification. He is a tender Shepherd after all.
The latest chapter we've gone through dealt with the sin of anxiety. Double, even triple, ouch! As this particular study was being taught, it occurred to me was that this is a hard one for most people, not just me, because: 1. The Lord is always telling us in Scripture "Do not fear." and 2. it was a very lively class discussion! Our teacher described anxiety as "fearful uncertainty about the future", and what really struck me through the heart was when she noted that anxiety is a lack of trust in God, i.e. saying to God, "Sorry. You can't cover this one for me." In my heart, I fell on my face before God in repentance as the truth of her statement sunk in. I had elevated myself above the Lord Himself by thinking and acting as though I were outside of his care, too much for him to handle. The God who made heaven and earth and holds all things together in Christ is not big enough to care for me? Hardly; and not only that, He tells me that's not so;
"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." ~ 1 Peter 5:6-7
Anxiety is also my lack of accepting God's providence in my life. Despite the fact that Christ suffered and died to pay the penalty of my sin, do I really think that He doesn't care what happens to me? That events in my life are random and purposeless? Ah, repentance time again! Anxiety causes me to take my eyes off Jesus and focus on myself and my circumstances, and that's when I lose all equilibrium of faith and trust. I must intentionally peel my eyes off of myself and look to Him, remembering Who he is and that he fashions my difficulties in such a way as to bring about my good.
Realizing these things and repenting of them, how on earth do I now live so that I don't continually fall back into sin, but instead learn to trust God? He tells us how in Philippians 4: 4-7
"Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. ... The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."
Ask the Lord for help, tell him of your trouble, and be thankful - rejoice! He is with you. (Note to self: look at your hand. That's how close the Lord is.) Additionally, I - in cooperation with the peace of God - am to guard my heart and mind in Christ Jesus. This is the actual retraining of my thoughts that are so susceptible to corruption by the world and the devil, and like athletic training, it's hard work! I must continually, intentionally run back to the Word to remember who God is and that He cares for me. It's in the Word that I'll find the truth of the matter. Philippians 4: 8 goes on to instruct us:
"Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things."
So, this week I made a little card to post on my bathroom mirror to remind me of all these things. (We never really outgrow flash-cards, do we?) As I commit the words on the card to my heart and mind, I am confident that the truth of those words will set me free from my sin of anxiety. I also am sure that I'll fail, and worry, and sin again; but thanks be to God
... the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you." - 1 Peter 5:10
So what have I to fear?
And the words on my little card?
"As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions (anxieties, worries, frettings) of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct (and in all my thinking) ...knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways you inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot." 1 Peter 1:14-15, 18-19