Don’t fly from faith when anxious; fight for faith

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By Brian Owens

Anxiety is a dark companion. The Apostle Paul, writing to Roman Christians about his struggles in living the Christian life says, “When I want to do right, evil lies close at hand” (Romans 7:21). While this refers specifically to the sin nature that is still present in every child of God, one common manifestation of this is anxiety and worry. For most people anxiety is close at hand, lurking in the shadows. It is easily provoked, and with much difficulty is it dealt with.
In his book “Anxiety Attacked,” pastor and teacher John Macarthur writes: “We allow our daily concerns to turn into anxiety and therefore sin when our thoughts become focused on changing the future instead of doing our best to handle our present circumstances.” Instead of a fight of faith, it is a flight from faith.
According to an article on WebMD, anxiety can “disturb the body’s internal balance or equilibrium, leading to physical symptoms such as headaches, an upset stomach, elevated blood pressure, chest pain, sexual dysfunction, and problems sleeping. Emotional problems can also result from distress.
Stress is linked to six of the leading causes of death: heart disease, cancer, lung ailments, accidents, cirrhosis of the liver and even suicide.”
As we can see, the tree of anxiety yields bitter fruit. And to understand why this is, one must consider the root.
Anxiety is rooted in unbelief in God and his promises. This may not be an explicit denial, but it is implicit in our attitudes and actions. It is the mindset of the double-minded man in James 1:6 who, like the wave of the sea, is driven and tossed by the wind. It produces and unstable faith that cannot endure the commons struggles of everyday life, let alone the more severe afflictions we all face at some point.
Likewise, anxiety is a lack of faith that robs God of his glory. When we are so focused on our circumstance, we cease to focus on God as the one who can cause all things to work together for our good (Romans 8:28).
We essentially say that we do not believe he is powerful enough to handle our problems, so we take them on ourselves, and the results are disastrous.
Missionary and theologian Dr. E. Stanley Jones once wrote “I am inwardly fashioned for faith, not for fear. Fear is not my native land; faith is. I am so made that worry and anxiety are sand in the machinery of life; faith is the oil. I live better by faith and confidence than by fear, doubt and anxiety. In anxiety and worry, my being is gasping for breath—these are not my native air. But in faith and confidence, I breathe freely—these are my native air…To live by worry is to live against reality.”
The reality is that God is in control and does all things well (Mark 7:37); and we would do well to remember this.
Writing to Christians who were enduring much affliction and persecution for their faith, the apostle Peter writes: “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).
Since faith and anxiety cannot coexist, by trusting in God we will shine the light of his promises into the shadows of our lives. This will drive out the darkness, and with it, our dark companion. To this we should say “good riddance.”

Brian T. Owens is an associate pastor with youth and children emphasis at Farmdale Baptist Church, and can be reached by email at brian@farmdalebaptist.com.