August 9, 2010
Chapter 8 - Anxiety and frustration
In this chapter Bridges addresses anxiety and frustration, focussing particularly on the verses of Scripture that command us not to be anxious. He argues that anxiety is a sin for two reasons: first, because it shows we distrust God, and second, because it shows a lack of acceptance of God's providence in our lives.
This chapter really made me think, particularly since I have struggled with anxiety for most of my life to varying degrees. At some times it's been more crippling than others and at a few points in my life I've needed to seek various forms of help to address it. I have to confess that I approached this chapter with some trepidation - is it really (I asked myself as I commenced reading) always as simple as saying 'anxiety is sin, repent and move on'?
After reading the chapter I remain convinced that the circumstances of life and the chemical processes of the brain can be difficult and complex, and the path we're called to walk in is not always simple or easy. I was encouraged to read what Bridges had to say about his own struggles with anxiety, and his acknowledgement that the circumstances of others may well be more difficult and perplexing than his own. But the chapter was a valuable reminder for me of how clear the Bible is -in the midst of those perplexities - that we're commanded not to be anxious. So even if our body chemistry or upbringing or specific circumstances are working against us (and let's face it, marriage to someone in ministry can be pretty anxiety-producing at times!) this is still a battle that we will need to fight.
That doesn't mean that obeying the command of God to trust his promises and turn from anxiety will be an easy thing to do, or that repenting from a habit of anxious thought will be a simple repentance and a neat, clean 'moving on'. Often we might need to fight anxiety on a few fronts, by doing things to address the physical aspects (like medication, exercise, healthy sleep patterns) and working through the cognitive elements of our anxiety. And as Christians, that cognitive dimension of the battle will involve scrutinising our anxious thoughts not only in the light of our natural human reason and observation but also in the light of the truth of Scripture. For some of us that battle will be an ongoing one - perhaps a daily, almost constant one. But it's not a battle that we can afford to run away from.
And in the midst of the battle it's encouraging to know that the same God who tells me not to be anxious (e.g. Matt 6:25, Phil 4:6) also assumes that there will be times when I am anxious, and invites me to cast may anxieties on him (1 Peter 5:7).
Labels: Respectable Sins