Anxiety plays a fairly large part in our family life even when things are going ‘smoothly’ and for some of us when yet another rolling wave of anxiety breaks it triggers really negative thoughts. Thoughts that play over & over, that are hard to rationalize away without support, that damage self-esteem, that bring with them looming doubts and questions about God’s love… can it really be unconditional?
I was asked at bedtime last night to teach a way to make these thoughts stop, to stop the spiral down. It’s not an easy, quick fix answer.
‘but how do you stop them Mummy? how do you get rid of anxiety?’
‘Some days I manage to stay in charge – other days even when I work hard with all my energy it can still feel like an uphill struggle’…’we have been practicing some tools together already haven’t we?’
‘yeah, I guess so’
‘weighing up the evidence for a specific fear… visualizing putting down negative thoughts and picking up the positive to hold onto… techniques to relax our bodies and give our minds a chance to calm down… answering back the repeating thoughts with ‘see it another way’ statements…’
‘but they keep coming back’
‘I know, we just have to keep on standing up to them…’
Oh it hurts! It aches.
Thinking about our anxious thoughts & doubts, and listening for wisdom about it, wondering where to begin exploring together what the Bible has to say, I am hearing the reading from this week’s staff prayers again- the amazing picture of the new city; pure gold, solid foundations upon bejeweled foundations; perfectly ordered and in proportion; dazzlingly bright, the glory of God himself bursting through it lighting it for all to see; gathering within it all the people of God – all one with its glory, coming down ready as a bride coming into the church and all eyes are upon her! And in my mind’s eye I see God turning to greet her with a full heart and a beaming smile, and arms open wide in welcome. Our homecoming! Our destiny in Jesus! (Revelation 21:9-27)
God is in the business of making all things new, and we are all longing and yearning for that fullness that is yet to be fully seen, fully experienced, fully lived, fully shared with him.
Right into our darkness, our doubt, our anxiety; right into this world where perfection eludes us, and we cannot be who we hope to be no matter how much energy we put in; right into our lives and hearts which daily battle with choices and temptations – God’s word became a baby to grow and walk among us – Jesus! Emmanuel, God with us! To reach us, to rescue, to redeem and restore. God’s powerful word – who spoke us into being. God’s first word over us – ‘You are so good!’ God’s final word over us -‘You are loved!’
At the New Wine summer conference this year Danielle Strickland told us about once accompanying a man to see his baby for the very first time. How he caught sight of his baby, and as his tears ran the father turned to her saying ‘have you ever seen anything so beautiful?’ And as we listened, tears ran as we suddenly realized Father God’s words spoken over our lives from the beginning – ‘have you ever seen anything so beautiful? you are so, so good!’
“So God breathed life into Adam and Eve. When they opened their eyes, the first things they saw was God’s face.
‘You look like me,’ he said. ‘You’re the most beautiful thing I’ve ever made!’
God loved them with all of his heart. And they were lovely because he loved them.”
Sally Lloyd-Jones, The Jesus storybook Bible, p26.
These words are our true foundation, these are our true identity. And even in pitch darkness it is this that God sees when he looks upon us in love. It is this that Jesus comes to redeem – to buy back. It is this that the Holy Spirit is restoring in this waiting time; polishing, refining, healing and mending, strengthening, re-purposing, renewing, readying…
God’s love for us is not dependent on our own ability to manage being perfect…
Christ arrives right on time to make this happen. He didn’t, and doesn’t, wait for us to get ready. He presented himself for this sacrificial death when we were far too weak and rebellious to do anything to get ourselves ready… God put his love on the line for us …
Romans 5:8 (MSG)
God loves us, he just does! He made us, and we are his.
It is his words I need to go on speaking over my children, his words I need to pray he will pour into them, his words I want to be talking with them about in wonder.
His love for us fills us with treasure inside, his love for us offers a hand to take tight hold of, a hand that will lead us through all our ups and downs of everyday life – anxious doubts and all, and will lead us into that amazing destiny of ours in Jesus.
It started when God said, “Light up the darkness!” and our lives filled up with light as we saw and understood God in the face of Christ, all bright and beautiful.
If you only look at us, you might well miss the brightness. We carry this precious Message around in the unadorned clay pots of our ordinary lives. That’s to prevent anyone from confusing God’s incomparable power with us. As it is, there’s not much chance of that. You know for yourselves that we’re not much to look at. We’ve been surrounded and battered by troubles, but we’re not demoralized; we’re not sure what to do, but we know that God knows what to do; we’ve been spiritually terrorized, but God hasn’t left our side; we’ve been thrown down, but we haven’t broken.
2 Cor 4:6-10 (MSG)