Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Fear of the Unknown

Anxiety in the heart of man causes depression,
But a good word makes it glad.
Proverbs 12:25

I’m so glad that this verse is in the Bible! I have always believed that there is a link between anxiety and depression, and who better than our all-wise and loving God to provide this verification? Those of us who suffer with chronic pain or other health issues are all too aware of this link. While it is true that anxiety in general, about almost anything, can lead to depression, there is a unique kind of link between the two when that anxiety is about our physical bodies.

Think about the last time you experienced a new or unfamiliar symptom. If you were already struggling with the “normal” pain and disability to which you'd become accustomed, then this new pain or problem probably struck fear or panic in your mind. Maybe it went something like this: “Oh, no! What could that be? Is this my disease process ramping up? Am I going to have yet another source of pain to deal with? How will I cope? How will this new thing affect the other things I’m dealing with?” The questions and worries come faster than you can address them, and soon anxiety is in full swing and depression is close behind.

But does it really have to be this way? Well, that depends on what your peace is planted in. If you believe that you can have peace only when there are no unknown or unexpected problems, then peace will be elusive during these times. However, if your peace is rooted and grounded in the all-sufficient grace of Christ, then it is not going to be shaken no matter what symptoms pop up, or what test results change.

Many Bible scholars believe that the thorn in the flesh, of which Paul speaks in 2 Corinthians 12, was a physical ailment. I think so, too. Paul says that He asked the Lord three times to take it away. I have prayed this prayer many times myself, and it is usually when my pain is particularly bad or something new pops up. Perhaps the apostle was in a similar place each of the three times he asked for relief. I can imagine Paul struggling with a recurrence  of malaria, or perhaps worsening eyesight, and pleading with the Lord to take it away.  

Implied in God’s answer are Paul’s unspoken fears: “How will I cope? How will I continue this ministry if my body won’t cooperate? How will I serve and glorify God if I can’t physically do the things I need to do?” God’s answer, if I may paraphrase: “By my grace you will do all that I’ve called you to do. By My grace you will be able to endure the pain. By My grace you will encourage, love, and lead the churches. By My grace you will preach the Gospel and reach the lost. Because My grace is sufficient. Your weakness makes My strength perfect: Perfect for your need. Perfect for those you are ministering to. Perfect for My glory.”

God is calling Paul to take his thoughts away from the thorn in his flesh and put them on God. This is our solution too, my friend. When new pain, worsening symptoms, or frightening diagnoses come, we must respond as Paul did: Ask the Lord for healing. If the answer is no, then trust in His grace to strengthen you in your weakness. It was indeed sufficient for Paul, as you will see if you read the rest of the New Testament. 

It is also sufficient for you. The key is to take your mind off of yourself and your pain, and put it on God. Trust Him to give you the strength to fulfill your God-given responsibilities, whether those involve ministry in the body of Christ or making dinner for your family. Whatever He has called you to do, whatever pain He allows, His grace is sufficient for you. This good word will make your heart glad, and the anxiety that was trying to weigh it down will lift as find your peace firmly rooted in the all-sufficient grace of God. Hallelujah! What a Sustainer! What a Savior!