Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Overcoming Anxiety

There is no end to the list of things for which we, as parents, can worry about on behalf of our children. Especially for those of us who have lost children, we seem to find every reasonable opportunity, and many unreasonable ones, to worry about our children. Whether in parenting, work, or even ministry, we can lose sight of the “big picture.” We can lose sight of our relationship with our Savior, Jesus Christ, in the midst of life’s busyness. I have recently been impacted by the reconciling of two passages found adjacent to one another in Luke 10. First, Jesus give us the parable of the Good Samaritan. Jesus shows the person whom the audience would least consider to be a “righteous” person, the Samaritan, to be the one carrying out God’s law, and not one of the two types of people that the audience would expect (either the Levite or the priest). Specifically, the Samaritan was “good” because he was carrying out God’s law by taking action on behalf of a distressed neighbor. Second, in the very next passage in Luke 10, we are provided a glimpse of an interaction between Jesus, Martha and Mary. Martha welcomed Jesus, his disciples and perhaps numerous others into her home. While Martha was busy providing for Jesus and all the other visitors, Mary sits at Jesus’ feet, enjoying fellowship with Him. In light of Jesus’ teaching on the Good Samaritan, one can easily resonate with Martha’s concerns expressed here. Like Martha, we ask Jesus, “Jesus, I am loving my neighbors and taking action by serving you and our guests. Jesus, can’t you tell her my lazy sister Mary to “take action?” In this teaching moment, Jesus unravels Martha’s motives, as well as our own. Jesus tells Martha, “you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary.” In her social and historical context, she certainly would have been expected to wait upon these guests. Mary demonstrated a love for Jesus and His presence by shunning these social pressures and seeking that one thing that is necessary—to love Jesus and commune with God. Without the centrality of Jesus Christ in our lives, our “to do” lists become so overwhelming that we lose sight of the very purpose for which we are undertaking our “lists.” The point of the story with Mary and Martha is that we are called to love God first, and then only after centering our affections in Christ leverage that affection for God into action by loving our neighbor. Like Mary, we ought to be mindful of everything that we put in our own lives to “busy” ourselves, so that we do not lost sight of that central love which should captivate our hearts—a love for Jesus. Otherwise, we will suffer from numerous and various forms of unnecessary anxiety. To name three: (1) We think we have to take certain actions, on our own, or else these tasks will not get done. But while God certainly uses us, God says that He does not need us. God is able to accomplish more than we can ask or think. Ephesians 3:20. While we think our own actions are indispensable, God’s ways are above ours. (2) We are inpatient in waiting on an answer from God, and try to take matters into our own hands. But only when we “let go” will we receive the very things that we seek from God. “We are anxious about what we will wear and eat. And do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink, nor be worried. …your father knows that you need them. Instead, seek His kingdom, and these things will be added to you.” Luke 12:29-31. (3) We push tomorrow’s problems into today. We wonder how we will pay for future expenses, for college, or deal with a spouse’s illness. Because all “these things” will be added to you whether we are anxious or not, “…do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself.” Mathew 6:34. Are we like Martha, constantly striving to do our “duty,” as we think of it? As we do our self-perceived duties, we take on more and more, and often lose sight of relationships in our midst. In particular, we can lose sight of the fact that our loving our neighbors as ourselves only comes from and after our relationship with Jesus. Let us not lose sight of our love for Jesus and, by reason of His great love for us, our need to rest from anxiety and busyness.

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