By Michael Kelley
I have developed a new morning routine. Every morning, while I’m still waking up, I reach for my phone and immediately opening up the “Moments” section of Twitter to see what has happened overnight. How many new cases? What governmental action is being taken? How has the world changed in the last six or seven hours? And why?
There’s the obvious answer, of course. Because the world has likely changed in the last six or seven hours. And because it has, I know many of us are waking up with a sense of anxiety, for these are anxious days.
Now when you find yourself struggling with anxiety; when you find yourself battling with your nerves; when you find yourself wondering each and every day if this day is going to be the day; then it seems to me that you can either be a victim of that anxiety, or you can take a stand against it. If you, or I, were to choose option B, then the way you take a stand against being victimized by your own anxiety is to speak to your soul. But you don’t speak with platitudes, like Be positive! or The best is yet to come! That stuff is better reserved for posters with kitty cats on them. It doesn’t matter a lick in a world of violence, anger, and disease.
No, we have something better to say to yourselves than these things. And here are four such examples of what to say to your soul when you are feeling anxious:
1. My Father already knows what I need.
This is gloriously true. Jesus told us this in a broader message about prayer, specifically how the prayers of His followers should differ from the prayers of those who do not know God. Those people babble on, trusting in their quantity of prayers, but it should not be like that with us. Why? Because we have a Heavenly Father who already knows what we need before we ask it.
The anxious heart – my heart – can come to God knowing that all the cards are already on the table. I will not say one single thing to Him that He doesn’t already know and hasn’t already made provision for whether in my personal life or in the world at large.
2. I am worth more than many sparrows.
Jesus expressed terrifying realities in Matthew 10. If there were ever things to be anxious over, you can certainly find them from the words of Jesus in this passage. He spoke of days that were coming when brother would turn against brother, and children would put their own parents to death. In fact, those who follow Jesus would be, according to Jesus Himself, hated because of His name, because this is how they treated Him. Then comes the surprising command:
“Do not be afraid of them.” And why not? Why not be afraid of times like these? It’s because we can be confident that God sees and knows exactly what is going on. In fact, Jesus said in these same verses that so great is the Father’s reach that not even a sparrow falls to the ground with His consent. And then we get this simple but anxiety-destroying truth:
“You are worth more than many sparrows” (Matt. 10:31).
He takes care of them. He will also, in His wisdom, take care of us.
3. My Father knows the difference between a fish and a snake.
In yet another passage regarding prayer, Jesus was teaching about the importance of perseverance and consistency in prayer. Keep seeking. Keep knocking. Keep trusting. God will provide what you need. Jesus’ reasoning is simple – He encourages His followers to think about their earthly fathers. What dad, Jesus reasoned, would give his son a snake if his son was asking for a fish? Such a thing would be unimaginably cruel. No father would do it – even the bad ones.
Our anxiety is tempered by remembering that we have a Father who gives good gifts. But what about this scenario – what if a father had a son who was asking for a snake? Would the father give it to him? Surely not – not if the father knew such a gift would be detrimental to the well-being of his son.
Praise the Lord that we have a Father who, though we might ask for a snake because we are convinced it’s a fish, knows the difference between the two. We have a Father who provides what is good and right – not what we think is good and right.
4. The Good Shepherd has a mighty strong grip.
In John 10, Jesus helps us see that He is the Good Shepherd. Like any shepherd, He protects and provides for His sheep. But what makes Him the Good Shepherd – indeed the Best Shepherd – is that He lays down His life for His sheep. But then Jesus goes further – He says that His sheep know Him. They recognize Him. They hear His voice and they follow Him. And once those sheep are following Him, no one can snatch them out of His hand.
Many might try. Affliction, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, danger, sword – they all try to snatch them away. But the Good Shepherd has a might strong grip. And this is ultimately the death knell for anxiety – it’s not convincing yourself that any of these things won’t happen to you, because they all might. That’s kind of the point. That despite these things, nothing in all creation can separate us from the white knuckle grip of our Good Shepherd.
These are some of the things you say to your soul when you are afflicted with anxiety. And with each one, you are not placing your hope in some pie-in-the-sky platitude. Instead, you are beating back those worries with a greater truth than your circumstances – that of the love, care, and power of Jesus Christ.
Michael Kelley is the Sr. Vice President of Church Ministries at Lifeway and author of Boring: Finding an Extraordinary God in an Ordinary Life