Posts Tagged ‘anxiety’

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Tim Keller on Fear and Anxiety

October 11, 2012

What is the difference between “fear” and “anxiety”?

Tim Keller talks about both kinds of fear – fear of an immediate threat, and persistent anxiety – in his talk Praying our Fears on Psalm 3. Here’s what he taught about fear.

There are 2 steps into fear.

1. Fear: a healthy response to danger, which drives us to fight or flight, and then is gone.

2. Anxiety: a lingering, generalised, undefined sense of fear which paralyses us.

If fear is a thunderstorm, anxiety is a constant, cold drizzle: the first produces green growth, the second mildew. Fear can be good for us – it gets us out of danger! – but anxiety makes us agitated, nervous and upset. Constant anxiety can permanently turn on our autonomic nervous system, which is only meant to respond to crises, and so lead to all kinds of health issues.

What causes this second, debilitating kind of fear is not a threat to life or safety, but a threat to our identity: when something that makes us feel in control is threatened or taken away. In Psalm 3 David faces both kinds of fear: the physical threat from Absalom’s armies, and the threat to his identity as the beloved, honoured, upright king of his people.

But how do we escape from this second, debilitating kind of fear?

There are 4 steps out of fear.

1. Follow God into Danger

David describes God as a “shield around me” (Ps 3:1): a full-body shield which curves around the body, meant not for hand-to-hand combat but for following your commander into situations of extreme danger. If you turn and run, the shield won’t protect you. It’s only useful when you’re heading into danger. Obedience takes us not away from fear, but through and beyond our fear.

2. Relocate your glory.

David says, literally, “but you are my glory” (Ps 3:3). He says “but…” because something else has become his glory: he has built his emotional and psychological identity on something other than God. When we put our worth and security in something finite, out there in time and space, we are always vulnerable. So we need to relocate our glory: not in our talents or our role, or others’ opinion of us, but in God’s approval.

3. See the substitute.

But how do we know we have God’s approval? David says that God hears him because of his “holy hill”, the temple (Ps 3:4), the symbol of our Saviour Jesus. Our significance doesn’t come from what we have achieved or what we have, but from Jesus, the one who was cut off from God so we don’t have to be.

4. Remember the people.

The opposite of fear is not an absence of fear, but love (1 Jn 4:18 cf Ps 3:8). Fear is self-centred, love is other-centred. You can’t deal with fear by yourself: you have to get your mind off yourself by serving others in love.

So here’s the solution to fear:

• go forward in obedience, whatever the cost

• seek my identity in God, instead of the thing I’m scared to lose

• look to the cross, where my significance comes from

• forget myself in love for others.

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Casting upon a Caring God…

August 27, 2012

1 Peter is one of my favorite books in the Bible, so rich and so full of powerful applicable theology.

One of the most powerful verses or sets of verses in the book come as Peter is concluding his letter to the elect exiles in Pontus, Galatia, Capadoccia and Bythinia, Chapter 5:6-7.

“Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your cares upon Him because He cares for you.”

Believers must humble themselves under God’s might hand, regardless of how that hand is made manifest.  They might experience that hand in judgment through persecution, or deliverance through protection.  Regardless of how His hand is experienced, the believers response is one of humility.  They accomplish this act of humility by casting their anxieties on God.  Peter has provided the reader with the “what” (humility), and the “how” (casting), but now he moves in short order to provide the “why.”  Believers approach God and rely on Him because He cares for them.  This simple profound truth animates the entire text of 1 Peter, indeed it is seen through out the scriptures.  This type of care is seen in the gospel of John 10:13; where Jesus tells of the hired hand that abandons the sheep because he does not care for them.  In contrast, the shepherd would leave the flock to pursue even one lost sheep.  This caring and concern is in view in this passage.

God cares for His people from beginning to end, throughout all circumstances.  We do not rely on an unsympathetic God, or one who is distant or emotionally uninvolved.  No, Peter systematically displays the myriad of ways in which God cares for His people.   Listing them below grants us the ability to grasp the scope of Peter’s depiction of God’s manifold care for His people:

-1:3 God has caused us to be born again to a new hope.

-1:4 God has given us an inheritance

-1:5 God guards us

-1:9 God grants us the salvation of our souls

-1:18 God ransoms us from futile ways

-2:5 God Builds us up

-2:8-9 God calls us out of darkness and into marvelous light

-2:10 God makes us His people and gives us mercy

-2:21 Christ suffered for us, providing us an example

-4:11, 13 God allows us to take part in the glory of Christ

-5:4 God will give us an unfading crown of glory

-5:7 God cares for us

-5:10 God will restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish us.

In the face of this litany, Peter asks his readers to cast their anxieties on God; this is an ultimate act of humility.  We are to be humble because God cares for us.  We are to display our humility by casting our anxieties on Him.  These truths form the essence of 1 Peter.