A new year, and an old enemy

My final post of 2013 (not actually posted until January 2014) dealt with the closing of one year and the beginning of a new one. My “resolution” for 2014 was to deal with an old enemy in a new year. This old enemy is anxiety. It’s early in the year and I thought it would be good to start talking out different aspects of anxiety and how it works itself out in my own life.

This post is focused on anxiety and others. I have a tendency to avoid people. This is not an every time occurrence, but often enough where I notice it within my own heart. I rather dislike it, but I still do it. I wouldn’t just avoid people I don’t know, but those I know too. I’ve even avoided people I know fairly well. Why? I’m anxious. With those I don’t know, I’m anxious because, well, I don’t know them. This can apply broadly. But, why be anxious about this? Some type of fear is no doubt the culprit. Fear of what people think (which is ridiculous), fear of getting hurt or humiliated (also ridiculous), fear of the unknown (which, for me is most things). Now, all this fear is undoubtedly a lack of faith. Kevin DeYoung tweeted earlier: “Are you more afraid of what God thinks of what fellow man thinks?” I think for me it can often be more afraid of man. Jesus says, “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” (Mt. 20:28) See, the vast, vast, vast majority of people I’ll run into have no desire to “destroy the body.” Yet, Jesus says to me at worst all they can do is “destroy the body.” There is something far more fearful, namely the one who can “destroy body and soul.” See, Jesus tells me not to fear my fellow man. I do because I see them all around me. I hear the news stories of how man harms other men.

Jesus tells me not to fear my fellow man. Period.

Scripture is replete with texts on courage and boldness because the basis of that courage and boldness is found in someone much more impressive than the person. Consider Joshua 1. Joshua hears over and over the Lord saying “Be strong and courageous.” Then, in 1:9, the Lord gives this reason for Joshua’s courage and strength, “for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.” Now, before you start thinking, “Yeah, but that’s the Old Testament,” let us not forget Jesus’ words, “I will be with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Mt. 28:18-20) The promise of God’s abiding presence is inter-testamental.

Jesus tells me not to fear my fellow man. Period.

I think a reason I avoid people is because I’m anxious about what to say. I’m rather aware my introverted self can say rather untimely things. Or, maybe my body language might be slightly awkward. But, this fear is rooted in anxiety concerning their thoughts about me. Apparently, I want to be too well liked. I want good repute, which I don’t believe is a bad thing. But, a desire for a good reputation can become a snare. It might cause me to be less willing to call out evil with clarity and force when necessary. So, how do I handle this?

The Bible should be my definition of who I am, not the opinion of others. The Bible has a lot to say about those in Christ. Actually, first and foremost, God’s people are “in Christ.” Right there should be enough to feed on for a while. I, a sinner saved by grace, am no longer in sin, but I am identified as one who is “in Christ.” I’m in Christ just as much as my liver is “in me.” I’m part of the body of Christ. According to Romans 8, because I am “in Christ” I am also a co-heir with Christ. I’m a son of the High King of the Universe. Can this world offer anything more encouraging, more empowering than to be called a son of the King of Kings? Can the world top being united with God in Christ and being adopted into his family, being made a co-heir of all that will be given Christ? No. Why not rest in this? Why not find my strength in this? Here’s why. The world, my flesh and the devil are at war against my soul. These three enemies of my soul are all teaching the same thing, that my self-worth is ultimately rooted in what the world says about me, what others say and think about me. This isn’t true.

Jesus tells me not to fear my fellow man. Period.

Why? Because Jesus is the only one to ever fear, and to me he has said, “Fear not.”

I have nothing to be anxious when it comes to other people. Sure, I have no idea what they’ll say or do. But, the God who controls the wind and the waves does and he said he’d be with me always. One part of my anxious heart is now out there. May God grant me the strength and grace to battle this old enemy in a new year. May God stretch me in the area of anxiety and others so that he might continue to display his all-sufficient grace.

 

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