My small group recently began reading Battling Unbelief by John Piper (it’s the shortened version of Future Grace by the same author.) The book is all about believing the superior promises of God rather than the fleeting promises sin offers us. This week’s reading has been particularly convicting as it takes a closer look at anxiety.
If you’re like me, you may find yourself struggling under the weight of such a thing yet remain reluctant to classify and deal with it as sin. In fact, in another book Jerry Bridges identifies anxiety as a “respectable sin,” something we frequently admit to all the while rationalizing it as “not a big deal.” If you’re like me, sticking your head in the sand when it comes to this topic leads to rather lethal results. One worry snowballs into something much larger. Before long you find yourself dwelling and meditating on it to the exclusion of everything else. You begin to doubt other people or circumstances. Even worse, you begin to doubt God’s sovereignty, goodness, power, and care over both the large and small details of life.
Piper shares his own struggles authentically and shares how He combatted and continues to fight unbelief when it comes to anxiety.
“For three years I must have quoted it to myself five hundred times to get me through periods of tremendous stress. ’Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your god; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand (Isaiah 41:10).’ When the motor of my mind is in neutral, the hum of the gears is the sound of Isaiah 41:10.
If I’m to be honest, my mind is rarely in neutral. If I’m to be even more candid, lately the gears of my mind roar with the cares of this world more than they do scripture. I think about my daily to do list. I worry about what people think of me. I worry about what the future will hold relationally, professionally, and in every realm in between. I worry about what life will look like tomorrow. I worry about what life will look like five years from now. I believe the promise the sin of anxiety offers–that by worrying I have control. By meditating on every best and worse case scenario, I can come up with a plan or solution. I not only believe the promises of sin, but I meditate and dwell on them. In doing so I fail to believe the promises of God and the size of my sin snowball grows to the point where I feel covered in an avalanche of cares.
Last Sunday, Keith shared the promise of Romans 8:32–He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? If God provided for our greatest need by giving the greatest most costly gift of all, how can we not believe and trust that He will provide for things of lesser value and lesser cost? If He kept this most extravagant promise, why would He fail to keep the rest?
This New Year, I want my mind in neutral. I want its gears to hum scripture. In order for this to happen, though, my mind and heart need ready access to the promises of God. I can’t meditate on what I don’t know. I can’t dwell on what isn’t fresh and in the forefront of my mind. So I’m attempting to apply the grease of scriptures liberally and frequently to cogs that are somewhat caked with rust. I’ve been searching for promises that deliberately address my anxiety in various contexts. I’ve been attempting to place them in strategic places where I’m tempted to worry rather than trust or where I simply spend a decent amount of time.
Above my kitchen sink a notecard says,
I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you. Psalm 32:8
Oh fear the LORD, oh you saints, for those who fear him have no lack! The young lions sufer want and hunger; but those who seek the LORD lack no good thing. Psalm 34:9-10
Above my bathroom sink where I get ready in the morning and brush my teeth twice a day:
When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. Psalm 56:3
Cast all your anxieties on him because he cares for you. 1 Peter 5:7
Next to my bed taped to my alarm clock:
And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?…Therefore do not be anxious, saying, “What shall we eat?” or “What shall we drink?” or “With what shall we wear?” For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all…But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added. Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble. Matthew 6:27; 31-34
This is how we fight sin whether it be anxiety, pride, lust, or greed. As Piper so eloquently puts it,
“We fight fire with fire. We throw against the promises of sin the promises of God. We take hold of some great promise God made about our future and say to a particular sin, ‘Match that!’ In this wa we do what Paul says in Romans 8:13, ‘By the Spirit…put to death the deeds of the body.”
If you’re looking for a book that highlights God’s promises in a way that does just this, be sure to check out Battling Unbelief or Future Grace by John Piper or Respectable Sins by Jerry Bridges this winter.