An Aggravator We Must Consider
“Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted in me?” -Psalm 42:5
You can almost feel the turmoil of the Psalmist. He knows something is wrong. But he doesn’t know why. He knows he shouldn’t be cast down (depressed). He’s experiencing noise from within that is stealing his inner peace.
It’s a terrible place to be.
This noise steals your sleep and ruins your concentration. It can give you headaches and literally make you vomit. And for the believer, there’s the guilt. You know the truths of scripture. You know God is always good. You claim God’s promises and review the “fear nots” in the Bible. The verse that dominates your mind is “without faith it is impossible to please God.” And you want so badly to please Him.
Somewhere along the way, most of us were programmed to believe we need to have Hebrews 11 faith to please God. How easy it is to forget the quality and quantity of faith Christ needs to work with. He said all we needed was a miniscule grain.
A man was brought to Jesus, desperate for healing for his son. The disciples were powerless to help. Jesus told him that if he believed, all things are possible. The man responded with tears, “Lord, I believe.” It feels like to me that he caught himself in a partial lie. He knew the truth within. He must have known Christ knew as well. So he came clean.
“…help Thou mine unbelief.”
What was the ratio of his belief to unbelief? Was it 50/50? Or maybe if we were able to place these warring factions on a balance scale we’d see the unbelief outweigh the belief. Then we come in with condemnation. Or as many well-meaning Biblical “counselors” would call it, admonishment. There’s a very big problem with this.
Jesus would not condemn. Jesus did not condemn. Jesus took the grain of belief that was there, and gave this man his miracle. The unbelief in his heart was irrelevant. We see the haystack of unbelief. Jesus sees the needle of belief.
As a youth pastor, a young man in my care presumably drowned in a rip current (his body was never recovered). After the proverbial period of “numbness” (I didn’t know it was actually a thing), the dense fog of guilt and shame overwhelmed rational thought and scriptural truth. Only a few knew of the depths of my struggle. One evangelist friend of mine put me in contact with another preacher who went through a similar loss when he was a youth pastor. His genuine empathy was a blessing. After maybe an hour on the phone, he simply and lovingly said,
“Brother… you need to let yourself off the hook.”
I knew he was right. I didn’t feel like I deserved to be let off of that hook. That took a few years and very specialized counseling.
Since I’ve been on this “transparency tour”, I’ve been blessed to have a few people reach out to me. I expected to hear from those who’ve gone through depression or other deep emotional pain. The surprise has been that the majority of those seeking direction/support have been those who struggle with anxiety.
Many believers will find relief in my friend’s admonition. To let themselves off the hook. In essence, let’s stop expecting of ourselves more than Christ does. He does not demand Hebrews 11 faith of us. He knows that most of us are “mustard seed” faith types. And if He’s okay with that, we should be as well.
Here’s what happens. There’s more month than money. We do the math and it doesn’t add up. We’re full of care over it. Then we’re embarrassed to make our petitions known to God thinking that He’s not pleased with us. We share our burden with another Christian and we’re told to give it to God. We thought we had. Then we struggle with what that even means. Now we’re worried, guilty, and ashamed. The burden has now become very heavy. Normal human concern quickly turns into much more complex anxiety (and all of the physical consequences that may accompany it).
Life is going to happen. Health issues, car troubles, financial difficulties don’t typically give us advanced notice. For most of us, there’ll be some worry involved. Maybe a lot of worry. Some have brains that are biased toward unnecessary panic responses (more on this later in the series). Let’s not add to the stress by trying to measure up to measuring sticks that are not of God. Acknowledge our unbelief to God while knowing all He needs from us is a mustard seed.
Taking hold of this truth will do much to lighten the load for the climb. For some, this is the simple solution to ease anxiety. For others, this is a good starting point. Victory is attainable with proper guidance from the scriptures.