Be Anxious For Nothing

As someone who has struggled with anxiety, the Bible verse Philippians 4:6 has been one I have anxiously pored over for a long time:

 

“Be anxious for nothing, but in

everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God”

 

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This verse has been incredibly helpful in my rational anxieties about things, especially when I moved to a new city and had an entirely new set of concerns: is my apartment safe? If something happens to me, who would I contact? Do I have enough money in my bank account in case of an emergency? Am I secure at my job?

In college, I learned a lot about what it meant to be a person of action and to do things instead of worry about things. I had a good friend who often kindly reminded me to always try to do the absolute best I can and then leave the rest up to God. When there was nothing further that could be done, “letting my requests be made known to God” genuinely helped when I could actually choose to just stop feeling anxious.

Stopping that feeling was the harder part, though, and my anxiety completely took over at times.

What do you do when you can’t stop thinking about stuff going on? When your mind intrusively and involuntarily reworks everything over and over until you can’t sleep? When that lack of sleep then makes it worse and you are less rational because of your fatigue? When you are conditioned from past experiences to be on guard at all times, and fear has become the default for you?

What about when you have internalized everything to the point where you are having a panic attack for no apparent reason, and you are quite literally “Anxious for nothing?”

That’s when the meaning of Phillipians 4:6 can shift into a painful command.

Yes, I am anxious. It is for reasons I do not understand or choose, and I do not have any requests to be made known to God except for it to just stop.

Anxiety is a really complicated thing that often gets caught up in a debate of whether or not it is a sin or affliction in Christian circles. I think I mostly hear about it being considered a sin, but maybe because that is what stands out and hurts me the most.

John MacArthur is a well-known American pastor and radio personality, and has had a lot to say about anxiety in his writings and sermons. He has written a book on anxiety called Be Anxious For Nothing, and also has a very easily accessible sermon series on anxiety you can find on his website, http://www.gty.org. He frequently mentions that he, too, suffered from anxiety for a long time.

There is a quote I read by him once that I think summarizes the core of his perspective on anxiety:

“Think about it this way: Christians who worry believe God can redeem them, break the shackles of Satan, take them from hell to heaven, put them into His kingdom, and give them eternal life, but just don’t think he can get them through the next couple of days. That is pretty ridiculous, isn’t it? That we can believe God for the greater gift and then stumble and not believe Him for the lesser one reveals an embarrassing lack of faith”

This is a fantastic point if you are thinking rationally, but what if you aren’t starting with rationality? John MacArthur’s sermon series on anxiety has a lot of really great points for addressing worries, but by labeling anxiety as a sin and lack of faith, I think he fails to acknowledge the different ways anxiety can manifest itself. In my experience, anxiety can be very different than worrying.

Worrying is usually concerned with what you spend time thinking about instead of praying about.

You worry about whether or not you are going to have time to do what you would like later in the day, you worry about having to talk in front of a large group of people, whether or not your friend is mad at you, if you are going to get a good grade on that paper, and you worry about whether or not your boss is happy with your work.

I think worrying is generally a rational process. It is a way of consciously identifying a problem and trying to solve it, however ineffective of a solution worrying actually is. It is also a problem with the heart because it does express a lack of trust in God and/or a lack of trust in the world around you. It can also be the manifestation of a control issue.

And as highlighted before, yes, those are things you can and ought to be on guard against, and you should remember to do your best, let God do the rest, and then accept we’re in a fallen world.

However, anxiety is not only concerned with worrying, and as Christians, we should not try to treat them as being one in the same. Worrying isn’t always the cause of anxiety (at least, it isn’t for me), but it is more often a symptom of something deeper that is “off.” Anxiety is more of an unsettled feeling.

In Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer, C.S. Lewis wrote:

“Some people feel guilty about their anxieties and regard them as a defect of faith. I don’t agree at all. They are afflictions, not sins. Like all afflictions, they are, if we can so take them, our share in the Passion of Christ”

Anxiety can manifest itself in so many different ways, from a heart and trust problem to a deeper psychological defect resulting from the fall, the sin of others, or an individual’s dangerous environment. It’s hard to say it is as simple as telling someone to “stop worrying, it’s sinful” as a blanket solution, right?

John MacArthur’s treatment of anxiety ends at a treatment of “worrying,” and to someone who has a physical and deep internal problem with anxiety, it can be shaming and humiliating to be told to stop doing something that is so internal it is compulsive. People who struggle with OCD, anxiety disorders, and PTSD have a real physical problem that causes them to suffer, and that deserves to be treated as a real affliction from a Christian perspective.

As Lewis highlights, Anxiety for Christians in particular often comes with being anxious about anxiety, since anxiety is so often considered a “defect in faith.” To put things simply, you cannot shame someone into letting go of their shame.

Having anxiety is a real point of suffering for many people, and admonishing it as being sinful essentially hands the anxious a new shovel with which to dig their hole.

Additionally, Lewis explains how afflictions, if treated with grace, lead us to share in the Passion of Christ. A fantastic example of how Christ shared in this human emotion is when he prayed in the Garden of Gesthemane. At this point in the Gospel, Christ showed real anxiety about his impending sacrifice, and literally sweat blood while praying for the cup to pass him. To call anxiety a sin denies Christ’s sanctity.

But whether or not John MacArthur is correct in calling it a sin, I think his solution is correct. It is the same solution Christ gives us in the garden. From either school of thought, if you agree with Lewis in saying anxiety is an affliction or MacArthur in saying it is a sin, we should all turn and focus more on the solution which is made clear in Philippians 4:

“…in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God”

and

“Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.”

We should pray with supplication and thanksgiving, we should focus on what is good, and practice what is good so that we might receive the peace that passes all understanding.

Do we turn to God with prayer in supplication because our future is in his hands and we are sinful and selfish to think otherwise? Or, perhaps, we should turn to him in order to be healed of a problem that we can’t understand.

 

Either way, prayer and trusting in God is essential for all healing.

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Are you single? Good. This is for you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you are single, I have fantastic news for you.

You aren’t “single.”

No one is “single.”

It’s not really an actual thing.

I know, it probably sounds kind of weird, but it’s true.

Are you ready to change your perspective?

When did you first consider yourself “single?” After your friends started dating? When someone asked you if you were seeing anyone and used that phrase to label you? When facebook intrusively asked you to fill out that box? Think about that for a minute and stay with me until the end.

Christian culture has a lot to say about “singleness,” and it is usually in regards to singleness as a burden and a struggle. And don’t get me wrong, it’s hard not being in a romantic relationship. God physically made us to be sexual beings, and not fulfilling that role is quite the conundrum. When you pair that with emotional loneliness, insecurity, and the deficit of love for and from others because of a fallen world, it does become a genuine burden.

But maybe, as Christians, we make it into more of a burden than it ought to be.

In Christian circles, there is always a lot of talk about “saving yourself for marriage” (emotionally, mentally, and physically). Marriage is often also upheld because of its reflection of Christ and The Church, which is both true and awesome.

But, I think something has gone awry if there is an epidemic of Christians struggling with singleness, and I think it has a lot to do with how we put relationships on a pedestal.

I think the idea of “you should save yourself for marriage” can be an extremely effective tool for keeping Christians celibate if they are unmarried, but it’s also both misguided and misguiding. I heard a popular Christian mp3 lecture by Jason and Crystalina Evert when I was 16 that really impacted the way I see sex outside of marriage. They give very compelling arguments on why it’s important to “wait”, and I recommend young folks give it a good listen for the sake of hearing it (you can find it anywhere online; it comes in both a Christian and reduced-fat secular version).

However, what made their lecture so compelling was the part about “think about what your future spouse would think if you fell into sexual sin before you met them…”

It’s a persuasive idea, but part of me screams “that’s not ok” now that I’m an adult and still unmarried.

It feels very manipulative. Sure, it was helpful for guarding my own heart when I heard it, but I’ve come to realize eight years later that the idea of “be pure for your husband” implies that obedience with our bodies will inevitably be met with a specific reward from God. Even using the phrase “sex before marriage” implies that there will eventually be a marriage that will take place. There is potential seeded in that phrase, and it’s a lie because God does not promise us a spouse.

Ideally, the only thing that should keep us abstinent and pure is the knowledge that we are called to be obedient because of our love of God, and the knowledge that our bodies are not our own. Our bodies were bought at a very expensive price, and that should be our motivation to treat them well (1 Corinthians 6:20). Our devotion and obedience should not be given under false pretenses or with expectation.

God knows our hearts better than that.

With that in mind, let me get rid of the myth of “singleness” for you…

If you are not married or dating, you are not “single.”

From a relationship standpoint, you are exactly where you were when you were born into this world. No one looks at a child and says “yeah, they’re single” because that’s ridiculous and kind of creepy.

You are still just simply yourself and who you are.

You are connected to God, you are connected to your parents, your family members, your friends, and your acquaintances in complex webs of relation. You are simply yourself, and you are not by yourself.

And when you enter into a romantic relationship? You are still yourself, just yoked in a romantic relationship.

“Singleness” is not an affliction, it is simply a label put on people who have an absence of a specific type of relationship. It does not have any bearing on who you are.

The lack of other interpersonal relationships does not define who you are, why should this one?

You are also not really struggling with “singleness.” you are struggling with sexual frustration, emotional loneliness, spiritual deficiency, insecurity, and a slew of other possible problems. Those things are real and OK to admit. Say you are struggling with those things, divide and conquer them with prayer, but don’t say you are struggling with “singleness” and turn it all into a monster you can’t fight.

It isn’t “singleness” because “singleness” is just a label society created for you.

Go ahead, rid yourself of the word “singleness.”

Do you feel a bit better now?

Look at yourself as just being who you are, and you can change how you address the struggle.

And if you live the rest of your life unyoked to another person, you are still exactly who you are and as God wants you to be, which is a fantastic and absolutely beautiful place to be.

Now go buy yourself some cats like Taylor Swift.

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This is a Collaborative Blog

There is an African proverb that one of my best friends has artfully tattooed across her shoulders:

“The daughter of a lion is also a lion.”

It is one of those phrases that changed my life in a very subtle way when she shared it with me several years ago.

Being a child of Narnia, I’ve always liked the idea of God being lion-like. Although I didn’t fully make the connection between Aslan and Christ as a child reading the series, it became a very profound image for me as I grew into my Christianity. The symbol of The Lion of Judah is used to represent the triumphant Christ, and that idea has permeated Christian songs, poems, and prayers since the beginnings of Christianity. I believe the reason why the image of “the lion and the lamb” has been sustained for so long is because of the rhetorical truth in it.

With all of this in mind, if we believe that we are truly reflections of God and made in his image, there is lion in us as well.

The daughter of a lion is also a lion.

This phrase, for me, also reflects the fruits of the leaders who have come before us and led us along. As Christians, we are not just the sons and daughters of a lion, but we are also sons and daughters of lions. Through the Holy Spirit, we have been shaped by our church fathers and mothers who have come before us. We not only reflect God in our spirit, but we reflect thousands of years of written truths in theology that have forever shaped The Body of Christ. We inherit that legacy.

We carry that fierceness, strength, forward energy, and majesty of spirit with us.

The Collaboration

With that in mind, I want this new blog to be a collaborative effort. I want to take old ideas to look at new things in new ways, especially issues specific to women, suffering, mental health, friendship, relationships, emotional boundaries, current events (national and global), food ethics, and anything that has been swept under the rug in Christian discourses.

The project is titled “Daughters of Lions” and will focus a lot on women’s issues (since I’m a lady and all), but I would like to open it up to everyone.  I am not looking to blaze new trails in Christianity as much as I am looking to excavate issues with a theologically grounded and Biblical frame of mind.

All people of all backgrounds are welcome to contribute; I want this blog to go so far as to touch on the ‘phalanges’ of The Body of Christ in the pursuit of truth and commonality, and to carry a voice of boldness and truth.

Thank you for reading!

Interested in contributing?

The boundaries are loose, but I will ask for contributions to be Biblical, respectful, truth-bearing, geared toward unity in The Body, and “Merely Christian.”

If anyone is interested in contributing, please fill out the following contact form:

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