Anxiety and Joy

More than a “Cheer up” message. July 2021

I sub headed my last post with a sentence having a slightly surprising or unexpected ending. There are a few more paraprosdokians here.

To steal ideas from one person is plagiarism, to steal from many is research.

I have read much recently. Amidst the new learning I am delighted when I read something I’ve also written in one of my posts. It makes me feel less alone in my thinking. Last week I read the enlightening, “Follow Jesus” by Henri Nouwen.

News readers begin the evening news with ‘Good Evening,’ then proceed to tell you why it isn’t.

Do I too focus on the negative? My anxiety remains, but according to my wife I’m starting to view things with a better perspective. Anxiety and fear distract me from my improved awareness of the presence of God. He is here in spirit, in the presence of many of his people, even unexpected ones.  

Coarsely garmented, John the Baptist pointed the “Lamb of God” out to his followers John and Andrew so that they could follow Jesus. Andrew then told his brother, who Jesus then named Cephas, translated as Peter. (John 1:35-42). Those pointing the way to Jesus may be close family and friends. Other pointers may be poor, unattractive, and lacking in social etiquette. They may be rich or in a position where it’s alright for them, but for me…? Very different people know Jesus. Those in religious leadership might point the way too.

I can offer many excuses for failing to hear his voice. I can be impatient and wonder why I don’t know his direction or what he wants from me as my hope builds. He can have an exceptionally still small voice of calm amidst my distracting busyness achieving very little. (1 Kings 19:9-14) Eli pointed Samuel to the voice of God. Like Samuel we may have to ask lots of questions to know it’s really Him talking. (1 Samuel 3:1-10) Eli and John both pointed away from themselves so that others might be able to tell God that they are listening (V10).

A clear conscience is the sign of a fuzzy memory.

I may have poor memory issues post-accident, but my website posts show that I have become increasingly aware of my selfishness. I am conscious of my conscience. Following Jesus is a release from self. It’s not about joining something that draws more attention to me. In my illness and time focused on self, my world became smaller. Even visitors came to talk about me, “how are you feeling now…?” Things that mattered to me were out of proportion to reality. It’s been all about me with a family who have given selflessly just to spend time with me in Hospital. I now need to spend my time with Him and be aware of His presence. My family spent whole days for weeks by my bedside. Time. That’s where real love can be demonstrably evidenced. How much time do we give to prayer in the presence of God? It’s not about self, it’s about Him. Jesus modelled this as a man perfectly as described in Matthew 14:23 and elsewhere. We need to look beyond self to find who we really are.

The first disciples may have left their jobs, boats and possessions to follow Jesus (Luke 5:1-11) but they never lost the skills to catch. They just used them to catch something other than fish. But there were times when they were over reliant on their own ability and intelligence and forgot that the real power comes from God. The disciples sometime failed, forgetting that faith in God powered their actions. (Matthew 17:19-20) They forgot that Jesus is always with us in the storm of life with immeasurable power to save. (Mark 4:35-41) Should we rely on our own abilities and knowledge, or can this prevent us from working with God who is beyond our understanding and limitations? It may be better to know He is near and obey Him as His people should. (Jeremiah 7:23)

Since light travels faster than sound, some people appear bright until you hear them speak.

We may see a bright light, but like the disciples and Samuel, we might need to ask questions and listen carefully before following. Insects are attracted to any old light, often to their doom.

We may think we know better when we apply sense and logic. Why go fishing during day when few fish swim near the surface. The disciples as Fishermen probably knew that fishing in the dark would be the most reasoned approach. Why would they go back out in the day? Simon Peter eventually learned it was just better to obey Jesus who did know best, even about fishing. He threw the nets on the other side and was overwhelmed with fish without damaging the nets. (John 21: 1-14) Feeding 5000 with five loaves and two fish. Come on, that not a great starting point, we need to manage expectations. (John 6:5-13). With Jesus there were leftovers in both supernatural events. Obeying is more effective and rewarding than ignoring his voice and acting alone.

People in their wisdom sometimes act selfishly in an attempt to keep themselves safe, and secure all of their possessions. People build bombs and other weapons of war to protect themselves.

War does not determine who is right – only who is left.

We often define ourselves by who is against us and think differently to us. This is not love. Real love, God’s love is uniting and universal. Do we love our enemies? God does. Do we love only those who can temporarily make us feel better in our need to be loved, admired, and praised? This is exclusivity. It’s not the real love we all seek and need, the love of God. (Luke 6: 32-35). I’ve quoted from one of my Heroes Martyn Luther King before. He knew that love was the only thing that could convert enemies into friends so that all could walk together as sisters and brothers, despite differences.

Worldly problems can get too much for me to deal with at times. Even small scale personal things can control me, become my focus, consume my time, emotionally and powerfully. But, compassion > confrontation to continue with the formulaic theme of a recent post. During recovery I’ve often only had capacity to focus on one small problem at a time. Overwhelming issues can be easier to live with when small successes are achieved.

I have previously written that we should walk as Jesus did. But God made us all different. There are no two people the same. His disciples then and now are different, and that variety makes for an exciting and relevant opportunity for all, to reach all. Imitating Jesus is about living with others in community, in family, in many different ways that best reflect, the love of Jesus for all. This is done differently by all. How else can the breadth of his love character (Hessed) be expressed. God draws all people to himself (John 12:32).

Where can I see God daily? A gateway to God’s love is often experienced through God in other people. At a Christian camp a man, prompted by God, gave me book on suffering before I knew I needed it. God in His people here and now. The first Love, Gods Love. Love is a gift not a loan.

Everyone seeks recognition adoration, praise, and acceptance. Even successful people never have enough of such things. This results in relentless and selfish search. Real, satisfying love, is the love God offers for all people. It’s a love that helps us to see things in a completely different perspective.

I might be anxious, but when I spend time in His presence, I know His compassion and family togetherness. It does not mean the anxiety and problems are instantly resolved, but a problem shared…

But it’s not just the suffering that is shared. Christ was lifted up as Man so that we might have resurrection salvation through regeneration, justification and sanctification.  Jesus as a man had experience of the suffering we might know and feel. He knew human frailty. He has compassion. Latin “com” means with and “passio” means to suffer. Compassionate, shared suffering. We are called to Latin “compati,” meaning suffer with God. In the Hebrew OT compassion is “rachuwm” from root word “rechem” which means womb. God is our mother, father and creator who suffers with and for His children. We are called to share suffering with God. All of this can bring the sort of peace you can only know in His presence. “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:29-30)

When with Jesus we should not be afraid Matthew 14:27 even if we are human, with anxiety and suffering to share. A problem shared is a…

Do we spend time with Him, sharing and in prayer? I’m really bad at this sort of devotion. Too distracted, delayed and devoted to self. Anxiety, peace and Joy can be shared safely in His family. I need to commit more time to this. With the words of Jesus we can share his joy as well as his suffering. “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.” (John 15:11)

I used to be indecisive. Now I’m not so sure.

Too often in my life, and the lives of those around me, Joy is less evident than seriousness that keeps us all busy and focused on maintaining our status and wealth. I’m serious about that.

Joy, well what about being ecstatic. This requires a move from the static. I’m starting to find joy by moving out from that which I have always done. It’s been hard to restart life since the accident. Getting back to the same was never going to happen.  I sometimes need to spice things up and variety is indeed the spice of life. I’ve mentioned my selfishness but, what joy it has been to be involved in things that are bigger than myself. Do I want to get back to normal, post illness, post Covid? Not really, I’m looking forward to new normals, in the plural.

The familiar is not always the safer route to joy. “I have experienced this before, so do it my way, the same way, again! There is nothing new under the sun.” How sad, how joyless. We’re English and like to queue and complain endlessly and repetitively about anything. It’s raining again. Oh, thanks for telling me. Nobody has mentioned that for a minute or two and I’d never have noticed for myself. “Cheer up.” Good idea. I’d never have thought of doing that. Suggesting, “Tell God you need Him and that you are listening” might be more helpful than “cheer up.” Are we stuck in religious routines like one of the Pharisees. There are so many things to distract us, to maintain our fear and anxiety. Such things prevent us from connecting to God with whom we can share and know the joy of being part of a loving, sharing, diverse and never boring family.

Never boring. Is that Church for you? Church is release time with God, but I need more than “happy hour” even if I receive short-lived nuggets of joy and a handout/toy. I’d like more than a short escape from anxiety. A happy life would be heavenly. Joy exists alongside my worries and anxiety. It’s all too easy to focus on the latter rather than the former. Anxiety perspective can actually enhance the joy. Like marital love, he is with us in sickness and in health.

Excellence is indeed something to strive for in our relationships with others. I had some OFSTED training and I prefer outstanding. Christians should stand out, for the right reasons, and dare to be different from the norm as part of His family.

Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit. Wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad.

God is named “I AM” the God who is with us. Mat 28:19-20 mentions each part of the trinity and God being with us always, to the end of time. We are not alone. Jesus may have gone but God’s spirit remains as intimate as possible -he dwells within us. John 16:7

If we lived knowing God with us, we can set future worries in the context of his presence. If we do nothing other than think, plan and strategize for the future, we can miss his presence and gifted presents in the present. Our focus can be in the wrong place. Do the things we strive for really bring joy and help us to feel loved, or are they just short lived pleasures? Possessions can bring more distracting busyness and a need for more, combined with a desire and worry about keeping what we already have. This is often my flawed mindset.

Real love. The first Love of God is good love. We may be anxious, even as a Christian, but God’s love is truly satisfying. When we hear his voice and obey him, his love is unimaginably rewarding -eternally!

p.s. It’s a bit serious this. For a more appropriate celebratory approach, click here and watch this! (Thanks JG)

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