The Heavy Burden of Anxiety
If you are reading this, then I am certain you will affirm this statement. You have experienced anxiety or worry over some event, or even the uncertainty of the future. We all experience this–some more than others, but it is a reality just as we need air to breathe, food to eat, and sleep. The difference is that anxiety produces an uneasy, heavy, and dark cloud cast upon our very souls. The latter could be the greatest part of a Thanksgiving meal–scented candles burning a pleasing aroma while eating their meal until their fill and then doze off in a post-dinner nap. While one is essential to life, the other is most despised, yet it seems so interwoven to our very existence.
Throughout Scripture, you will find example after example of people dealing with difficult situations that cause them to worry. David and Job are much more transparent in their worries, while Paul seems to be a bit more reserved. I’m certain he had his worries while in prison, but his writings were to instruct others, so I believe he desired to show them the way and did not want to worry the budding churches that were established. On the other hand, David both shows us his times of worry, but he also shows us his solution–to trust in the Lord.
And while I wish my faith was so strong that no anxiety crossed my mind, I cannot make such a claim without lying. This is not to say I have weak faith–God has taken me through so much thus far, I cannot help but have strong faith. Instead, there is something that seems intrinsically part of our human nature to have worries. Even though we trust God that all will work out according to His plan (which is perfect), there remains a voice that is sometimes quiet, or sometimes screaming that makes us distraught. Even our very bodily reaction to such times can change–our hearts race, we may begin to sweat, lose appetite, or unable to concentrate on a task.
The existence of anxiety may not be a terrible thing, although it can feel so terrible. And please do not read into this that I have no sympathy, for I am currently under great stress. Multiple things are going on that I have little to no control over, and it is eating away at me. As a matter of fact, a few of the stressors have been occurring for a while now, and a large reason for why I have not posted recently. I wanted to remove one thing off my plate for a sabbatical of sorts, but I cannot go any longer without writing. More things have continued to pile on, and finally, I admit, I am truly struggling. Yet, my hope remains in the Lord. While I will not mention all the things that are on my mind, working full-time and seminary are always something that keeps me busy. With that, my chronic migraines continue to hound me. I worry about finding future employment as a pastor, and then there is always the worry of how others will judge me for my past bad decisions. On top of that, I have an amazing opportunity to benefit my family truly, but it could just as easily fail due to my past. Then there are even other issues I would rather not make public yet, but I am sure they will be discussed in the future.
How Shall We Handle This Burden?
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
Far too often, we try to control everything by our own power. This leads us to pride in our ability and, ultimately, burnout. At some point, we all get to a point where we say, “I cannot handle all this anymore!” That’s just the point. We cannot handle it all on our own. Like a child that asks a parent for help, we are but that small child that needs their Father to help. We must come before God, humbled like a child, acknowledging we cannot do it without His power.
Coming before God humbled like this is so hard, but Scripture makes this so crystal clear. Let’s look through the text, and perhaps we will see a solution to our burdens.
God desires a humble heart and detests the proud (Psalm 10:4, Obadiah 1:3, James 4:6, etc.). While it may be cute that a child says to the parent, “I don’t need help, but I’m choosing to allow you to help,” it is not proper for one to come before the Lord with such an attitude. He is the Almighty that controls everything in this world. We must recognize we are not God, and our struggles are reminders of this. These moments bring us back to reality: we are but imperfect beings, with limited power, that needs God.
We are commanded to cast our burdens upon the Lord (Matthew 11:28-30), and He bears the burden for us. He is the one with the mighty hand, not us. Do not fool yourself into thinking that you can do it on your own, lest you make yourself into an idol. How readily is a parent to help their child out with their needs–God is our Father in Heaven, and He is that much more able to aid His children.
I would be a fool to say that you or I will not have moments of weakness where we feel low. What matters is where do we turn for help? Do we keep struggling by our own strength, or do we turn to God? Be wise by becoming humble and turning to God’s mighty hand. Cast your burdens upon your Father and let Him lighten your load. In His perfect timing, He will exalt you because of your humility, and all the while, carrying the burden for you.
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.Philippians 4:6–7