Updated: Oct 19, 2018
It doesn't matter if you are yellow, black, or white, we all eventually experience a "bad day" from time to time. Experiencing a day that "just doesn't go your way" is never enjoyable and it sucks the joy from your life like a vacuum of misery. A plethora of reasons can be attributed to the cause of our woeful days: a fight with a spouse or parent, locking your keys in your car, a snide comment from a co-worker at the workplace or a bully at school - the list goes on and on. No one is safe from these tumultuous days of bad moods and joyless seclusion; but we get over it, right? We fall asleep and wake up the next day refreshed and renewed, right? Most of us do get over it. We mend our relationships and apologize for the fiery words we lashed out at our loved ones; and we move on. We call AAA or our dad and retrieve the keys we locked in our car; and we move on. We push passed the unflattering comment that demoralized us; and we move on. However, not everyone finds it so easy to just "move on." For some, their lives are held hostage by anxiety and their minds are sabotaged by depression.
Millions of Americans experience the debilitating inability to simply "move on" from a seemingly insignificant "bad day." To them, a bad day is only the beginning. Instead of moving on, their lives become lethargic, seemingly purposeless, a constant struggle for peace, and an unending bout of anxiety. No mental handicap is more wide spread than the war of anxiety. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in America - affecting 40 million adults. Children are also at a high risk of suffering from anxiety affecting 25.1% of children from the ages of 13 to 18. This anxiety, when left untreated, can cause children to perform poorly in school, miss out on important social experiences, and even lead to substance abuse (https://adaa.org/about-adaa/press-room/facts-statistics). We cannot leave this debilitating problem, that is growing day by day, unchecked. We must declare war on anxiety.
We were not created to be anxious
We were not created to be anxious individuals waiting for the next calamity to arrive and destroy us; nor were we created to be joyless zombies bracing for the next impact of disaster. We were created for something much more than that. On the contrary, we were created to flamboyantly trust in the Lord with a supreme understanding of His fulfillment and joy and sovereignty. Jesus made this clear when He said,
"Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?... But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you." - Matthew 6:25,33
Rather than live a life of crippling anxiety, God created us to be subjects of His divine joy. We were meant to draw upon the wonderful joy of Christ and live abundantly in His provided satisfaction. This is why Jesus, when He prayed beautifully to the Father on our behalf, said,
"But now I am coming to you, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have my joy fulfilled in themselves." - John 17:13
We must not fall into Satan's enticing trap of convincing ourselves that we possess a single edifying and sufficient excuse for abiding in anything but the joy of Christ. Jesus suffocated on a cross - bare and naked - not only for the forgiveness of our sins, but also to intertwine our wicked souls with the enjoyment and satisfaction of His glory and righteousness. He bore our sins and suffered the stripes upon His back so that we may understand His goodness, resulting in an irrevocable and unwavering joy in Him
Ultimately, anxiety is to misunderstand and fail to comprehend the sweetness and goodness and glory and magnificence wrapped up in the promises and character of God. Please understand that this is not to belittle or point the blessed and anxiety free finger at those who struggle with this crippling reality. To do such as that would be to undermine the entire point of this article! Stating such a bold and forward statement such as this is simply, but powerfully, to address the issue and provide the solution. What God fearing man or woman would ever suggest that the answer to their problems wouldn't be found in a better understanding of our Lord? Therefore, we must declare war on anxiety by calling anxiety what it is - a failure to understand, comprehend, and have satisfaction in who God is and who we are in Him.
There are are a number of forms and causes of anxiety that eradicate the joy of the Father in us. These causes of anxiety are not exhaustive and I am sure that there are experiences in your life that are not represented here. However, whether they are stated or not, all forms of anxiety are ploys of the devil to confuse and distract you from your God given purpose of glorifying Him, and to supremely enjoy doing it. Therefore, honestly open your heart to the beauties of God's word and know that He is far greater than the severity of your anxiety. Take comfort in knowing that He is a sovereign God; and as His child, you can find peace and tranquility in Him. Take up your sword Christian, and declare war!
No one enjoys to be rejected, or even the thought of someone finding us inadequate or sub par. Just the thought of someone blatantly or inadvertently declaring us unqualified or not good enough increases our heart beat and inflames our anxious tendencies. However, rejection is a reality that we must all face - because we all experience its crushing blows. Take Davy for an example. Davy is a shy, self conscious, and socially awkward teenage boy. He has spent years mustering up the courage to just simply approach Jennifer - the beautiful star cheerleader of his high school. When Davy finally gathers himself enough to ask Jennifer out, his dreams and aspirations are obliterated when, with a disgusted and bewildered look, she describes him as ugly, weird, and the last boy in the world she would date. Davy walks home broken and defeated by the sting of rejection.
Or maybe you can better relate to Sheila - a middle aged mother of two barely scraping by month to month. She spends all night rehearsing for the job interview that will provide for her children and put food on the table. She puts on her best dress and dolls herself up, only to be told that she is unqualified, an insufficient fit for the job, and inadequate for the firms current needs. Sheila rides the bus home tattered and devastated by the sting of rejection.
Possibly, you can better identify with our final example, Jake. Jake is the star quarterback, the stupendous track athlete, and the champion basketball forward. By all indications, Jake has it all. Girls flock to him and giggle at every witty joke he makes. Throngs of people bombard him and treat him as if he were a king. However, in the midst of high school fame and popularity, Jake doesn't possess a single genuine friend that would stick by his side if he found himself nonathletic and unpopular. Jake drives his car full of people home lonely and dejected by the sting of rejection.
You may need to rearrange some details and add a few characteristics, but odds are that you can relate to one of the three scenarios. Rejection is a part of human life, but for some it is as crippling as a physical injury. Many people go their entire lives without testing the waters of vulnerability, due to the fear of exposure to rejection. We want to feel needed, wanted, sought after, accepted. The tragedy of the universe is that so many people live in the terrors of anxiety caused by rejection when the King of kings and Lord of lords has declared them righteous, redeemed; and He finds them acceptable and adequate and He fervently yearns for them.
The truth is, if you are a redeemed child of God, it is foolish to wallow in the pities of rejection. To writhe in the sting of worldly rejection is foolish when the King of the universe declares you acceptable. God, in His sovereignty, bought you and He will never lose you. Meditate on these verses of Scripture that declare the Lord's burning desire for you and your everlasting membership into His family:
"Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations." - Jeremiah 1:5
"My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand." - John 10:27-28
"While I was with them, I kept them in your name, which you have given me. I have guarded them, and not one of them has been lost except the son of destruction, that the Scripture might be fulfilled." - John 17:12
"For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord." - Romans 8:38-39
"Even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will." - Ephesians 1:4-5
"Who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began." - 2 Timothy 1:9
"Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, 'I will never leave you nor forsake you.'" - Hebrews 13:5
You see, to dwell upon the rejection of the world is folly compared to the love and beauty of God's choosing of us. If you have experienced the saving graces of the King, you sit at the table of the King and live in His castle. What this means is that the rejection that Davy and Sheila and Jake and you and I face in our lives is so overwhelmingly insignificant, compared to the magnitude of God's love and acceptance of us, it will forever be inexplicable and useless to dwell upon it. God invested in you at a price that is so uncomprehendingly large that we dare not wallow in the insignificance of worldly rejection. His blood seeped down a wooden cross so that when the world barked its desperate slurs of rejection at you, you could rise above it and authoritatively declare its squeaks useless. For the Master of all understanding and the King of all power is your daddy.
2. The Pursuit of Fulfillment
"What do you want to be when you grow up?" This is the question that we hear as children all the way from late infancy to adolescence. We are pushed hard as young Americans (who prosper more than anyone in all of human history) to sink into the mold of happiness and success, to create the life that our parents never had the fortune to possess. As early as possible, we are taught and are indoctrinated into the American dream. We must do well in school in order to graduate at the top of our class. We must choose the correct university in order to snag the best job, to make the best living. We must marry the appropriate man or woman. We must buy the big nice house. We must birth the reasonable number of children. We must build for ourselves a healthy retirement in order to retire at the youngest possible age, to live out the rest of our days on a beach-side paradise. Its the American dream - and it is a sure way to cause anxiety and suck you dry of your joy in the Father.
We all want to be happy and successful in life; and we are pushed by everyone around us to do whatever is necessary to achieve happiness and success. And though none of the listed requirements of the American dream are in of themselves wrong (with the exception of the unbiblical retirement of complacency on the beach - this one is wrong), they all collectively lack an essential element to the chemistry of life - God. The American dream is void of God. It is centered upon money, success, longevity, and happiness; but it does not point to God. Instead, it points to achievement and accomplishment to satisfy its demands - causing the rapid growth of turmoil in the lives of those that can't keep up. For reality is this: a purposeful life is not found in any amount of achievements or accomplishments, but rather, in the fulfillment of Jesus Christ.
You see, it is an interesting phenomenon that we get caught up in when we choose happiness and success by way of the American dream rather than by God. We all want and strive for happiness and success and fulfillment in our lives, but we begin to become anxious at the thought of not being happy or fulfilled. When we inevitably cannot keep up with the demands of the world, we become failures and specimen of inadequacy for the American dream. Anxiety ravages us because we are, once again, not good enough. However, there is true and beautiful answer to liberate us from the pressures of societal fulfillment.
The Bible makes it pretty clear when it comes to success and fulfillment. The more we realize that life and existence is less and less about us and more and more about God, the more we feel happy, successful and fulfilled. This life is about glorifying God and nothing else. This is our number one purpose in life - to glorify our Creator. This is why God said through Isaiah the prophet,
"Bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the end of the earth, everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory." - Isaiah 43:6-7
This is also why Paul said to the Corinthians,
"Whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all for the glory of God." - 1 Corinthians 10:31
We were created so that every action we perform, every word that spills from our mouth, and every breath of air we pull through our lungs is for the glory of the One who created us, for His glory. A man finds great satisfaction and fulfillment in perfectly understanding his purpose. This fulfillment is found in Jesus Christ alone.
Jesus Himself spoke of this fulfillment. It is found in our key verse here at #joyinthefather. Jesus, in His prayer to the Father, said,
"But now I am coming to you, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have my joy fulfilled in themselves." - John 17:13
Unfortunately, the vast majority of us waste an irretrievable amount of time seeking for fulfillment in all of the wrong areas and facets of life. All of these will lead to nothing but misery and anxiety. It is when the woeful sinner finds his joy and fulfillment in the Father that he finds true biblical happiness and success.
3. The Unknown
We stare down the long corridor of our life, causing fear and anxiety to infiltrate our hearts with its tantalizing grip of disdain and ferocity. When we contemplate the course of the events of our life and the road of circumstances that are heading our way, we fall victim to the joy sucking reality of anxiety. The fear of the unknown rears its ugly head in many different ways; and it affects all of us in a multitude of different ways, almost universally. Will you get that new job you fervently aspire to have? Will the one you so desperately love and desire love and desire you back? Will the MRI come back spotless? Will you make it onto the football team or basketball team or cheer-leading squad? Did you pass that final exam to get an "A" on your report card, or become the lawyer or nurse you have spent so long and worked so hard to become? The list could go on and on. We are all terrorized by our limitations of knowing and understanding what the future holds for us. However, there is a powerful and exonerating peace that we can obtain by understanding what our anxiety and fear of the unknown truly is.
Our anxiety and fear of the unknown, in reality, is to not trust and be satisfied with the complete sovereignty of God. Instead of understanding that God is omnipotent - possessing all power - and knowing that He holds our future in the palm of His hands, we tremble at the possible mistakes and misfortunes that He has already conquered. The writer of Proverbs gives us these applicable words of wisdom:
"Trust in the LORD with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths." - Proverbs 3:5-6
Becoming a Christian does not mean that you have experienced the last of your woes on this earth. Jesus actually promised quite the opposite (John 15:20). However, becoming a follower of Christ does mean that you have met and embraced the holder of the universe and the possessor of your future. God does not want you to focus on the details of what you do not know. He wishes for you seek His kingdom, His glory, and His righteousness. He longs for you to desire HIm, and trust in His plan and provision. Jesus told His listeners at the sermon on the mount,
"Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?... Therefore do not be anxious, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or "What shall we drink?' or '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 to you." - Matthew 6:26, 31-33
There has not ever been a moment of time or an event in the course of history that hasn't passed through the hand of the Almighty. He knows yesterday, today, and tomorrow. He is omniscient and omnipotent - He can be everywhere all at once and there isn't an ounce of power in all of the universe that He doesn't own and possess. The God you serve is supreme. The God you serve is sovereign.
We, as sons and daughters of the most high God, all possess a preordained and predetermined mode of purposefulness to carry out our glorification purpose in being created. God has a specific plan for you to carry out your purpose for existing in this universe - to glorify Him (Isaiah 43:6-7). What does this mean for us? This means that we can have unimaginable amounts of peace and we can experience liberating levels of encouragement knowing that God's will ultimately and assuredly will be done in our lives.
If God's purpose for your life is to be a lawyer or a nurse or a doctor or a surgeon or an engineer or a teacher or a scientist, you will be given the gift of retention, you will be blessed with the knowledge you need, and you will pass your final exam to become what God created you to become. By the sovereignty of God, you will achieve what He created you to achieve, for His glory. This does not mean that your life will be void of hard work, perseverance, challenges, opportunity, and even heartache; but it does mean that you can rest assured knowing that nothing will stop God's will for your life. And not even the gates of hell will prevail against it.
Crush the anxiety of the fear of the unknown in your life by building up the understanding of His majesty and power and sovereignty in your life. To be anxious of the unknown is to not trust and be satisfied with the complete sovereignty of God. May we trust in God and not lean on our own understanding (Proverbs 3:5-6). May we realize that we are far more valuable to God than the birds of the sky and the lilies of the field that God takes care of without fail. May we be satisfied in God's sovereignty in our lives and let the words of the psalmist resonate in our soul:
"Be still, and know that I am God." - Psalm 46:10
Watching a bird soar through the tree tops, high into the clouds above, is an awesome and surreal experience. Men would pay millions of dollars to harness the ability to climb freely through the air like a bird. But how did they get to that point? What did they experience to achieve that desired freedom? What discomforts did they endure to possess the envy of all creation? The ability to fly, physically or spiritually, never comes without discomfort and risk. Accompanied with the ability to soar is the reality of being uncomfortable.
Discomfort is the only anxiety trigger (of the triggers listed) that is 100% universal. You may find it odd and strange that there are individuals who cant deal with the fact that not everyone will accept them. You may have achieved biblical happiness and success by finding your fulfillment truly in Christ. You may perfectly understand that God is in total and sovereign control of your life, and you have no fear of the unknown (or maybe you are complacent and do not care about your future). You may have all of these areas covered, and none of them pull on your strings of anxiety; but you are not free from discomfort.
Some people find ways to cope with their discomfort, and many are skilled in using their discomfort, but no one is free from it. We all experience it, and no one enjoys it. It is also the a trigger that ties to every other trigger. When we feel rejected, we feel uncomfortable. When we feel the pressures of worldly fulfillment, we feel uncomfortable. When we feel the breath of the unknown breathing down our neck, we feel uncomfortable. However, discomfort is also the only trigger that we shouldn't seek to "get over," but instead, we should seek to conquer discomfort and use it for what God has always intended it be used for - to teach us to fly.
Christians are like baby birds fervently peeping with the joys of a new found life in their nests of freedom. We celebrate our new life and soak in the joys of new revelation in salvation, but something strange begins to happen - something God never intended. In our overwhelming excitement of God, the Bible, and the influx of knowledge of our redeemer from the pulpit, we nestle into our church pew and do not dare leave the comforts within our sanctuary doors. We become comfort Christians; and the thought of leaving the nest gives us anxiety.
We love what makes us comfortable and we detest what causes us discomfort. Therefore, we never take the risks we need to take to experience the joys of flying! In our defense, it is against our instinct. Think about the little baby birds. They have spent their entire lives burrowed in their cozy nest while their mom and dad bring them breakfast, lunch, and dinner. What is not to like? Why would they ever want to leave?
As wonderful as the nest is, one day mom and dad push them out of the nest, and they begin to plummet - thirty to forty feet down to a cold hard earth - scared to death. Then, something bizarre happens. Suddenly, they learn that if they open their wings, they can soar above the tree tops. However, to experience the euphoria of flying they had to leave the nest and face the experience - the fear - of falling to their deaths.
This is what experiencing the joy of the Father is like for His sons and daughters. Joy is always accompanied by discomfort because God's joy is so far contrary to what we inherently enjoy. This is why the New Testament puts what seems like a strange twist on reality when we are told to rejoice and embrace pain and suffering in this life. James tells his listeners,
"Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing." - James 1:2-4
It is the trials and tribulations of our life (the falling thirty to forty feet seemingly to our death) that actually causes us to open our wings as Christians and soar for the glory of the Lord. This is why the prophet Isaiah says,
"Youths may faint and grow weary, and young men stumble and fall, but those who trust in the LORD will renew their strength; they will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary; they will walk and not faint." - Isaiah 40:30-31 (HCSB)
It is when we are plummeting to the ground that we realize we will never be able to fly on our own. It is only then that we realize God is the only source of the wings that make us fly. Only Jesus can refine us and mold us so that we may experience the joy of flight in His name and for His glory. Jesus says of His disciples in His prayer to the Father,
"I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world." - John 17:14
God is God and is totally sufficient in Himself to need nothing other than Himself. He does not need our wild and amazing talents and ideas to advance His kingdom. What God seeks from his children is for them to step outside the comforts of their nests, take a righteous risk of faith for Him, and be willing to be hated for His holy name. In the joy of that obedience, every man woman and child will find the end of their anxieties.
Be a Warrior
Anxiety is a real and debilitating mental illness that affects millions of adults and adolescence. By no means was this article purposed to minimize the realities of this ever increasing problem, or to belittle or demoralize those who suffer from its clutches. In addition, it was not to make any Christian feel less spiritual or less of an adopted son or daughter of the King. Furthermore, it was not to suggest that those who suffer from anxiety should stop using their medications (if you were to need medication due to anxiety) and "just get over it" by "trusting in God more." That is not it. Sometimes, there is an actual chemical imbalance in our brains that causes us to need anxiety medication to help resolve our anxiety problems. And though the objective was not to point fingers and call names, it was to address the anxiety issue and provide the ultimate solution.
From the very moment that Adam and Eve took their very first bite of the forbidden fruit, anxiety, depression, and every other issue that humanity faces woefully entered into the world. It is since that fateful and damning occurrence in the garden that we have tediously and painfully searched for the answers. It is since that time that we have sought after our salvation. The answer to our questions, our wonders, and all of our problems will always and forevermore be Jesus Christ. The salvation from our damnation, our sin, and our destructive cripplings of the mind will always and forevermore be Jesus Christ.
Take up your red lettered sword of the Spirit (Ephesians 6:17) that is sharper than any two edged sword (Hebrews 4:12), and declare war on the burdens of anxiety. Deeply peer into the eyes of rejection and assert your acceptance from the King of kings. Tightly grasp the spindly neck of the pursuit of fulfillment and declare your joy and fullness in the Lord of lords. Aggressively squeeze the breath out of the fear of the unknown and shout about the sovereignty of God in your life. Fervently twist the limitations of discomfort and mold them into the soaring joy that you were created to experience. Stand tall as a warrior of God almighty and allow anxiety to control your life and mind no more.
We were made to be enjoy God. We were made to feel the wind in our face and the breeze on our wings as we soared high above the tree tops. A better understanding of God, and finding satisfaction in His characteristics and promises, will always be the solution to the problems in our life. Pursue His understanding and righteousness. Be strong. Be a warrior. Declare war on anxiety.
Author: A.C. Minor
Scripture quotations are from The ESV Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version), copyright 2001 by Crossway. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from the English Standard Version.
Scripture quotations marked HCSB have been taken from the Holman Christian Standard Bible, Copyright 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2009 by Holman Bible Publishers. Used by permission. Holman Christian Standard Bible, Holman CSB, and HCSB, are federally registered trademarks of Holman Bible Publishers.