Anxious for Nothing, by Max Lucado
This is such an appropriate book for this moment in time, when the whole world is full of fear and uncertainty. Across the world, people are quarantined in their houses due to the unprecedented pandemic. Businesses are closed and unemployment is extraordinarily high. These are uncertain times. Anxiety and worry are rampant. Concerns about economic stability are ubiquitous. What is going to happen? Nobody knows, and this lack of foresight and control is causing fear and anxiety. So a book about God’s sovereignty and grace is exactly what we need right now. Personally, I know that I need to be reminded that God is in control, and for that reason I do not need to worry about anything. Good reminder.
Anxiety itself is just an emotion and not sin. But when you seek to numb your emotions with alcohol, food, pornography, or other vices, then you have introduced sin. The focus of this book is Philippians 4:4-8.
“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
Just now as I typed this verse, the following phrase stood out to me: “reasonableness be known.” When things get difficult, when the world collapses in the midst of a pandemic, remain reasonable. Let the people in your social circle see your reasonableness. This too will pass. The future in 2 weeks may look bleak. The future in 6 weeks may look even bleaker. But in 5 years, this pandemic will pass and be just another chapter in the history books (assuming Christ does not return before then). It will be something that we talk about with our children: “I lived through COVID-19. Let me tell you about…” It will be just one o\more chapter in God’s bigger storybook. We will make it through this season. That’s what this is - just a season. And with time, the season will pass. With these thoughts in mind, “let your reasonableness be known.”
Now, the question is, how do you maintain your reasonableness, your calm, and your peace in tough situations? This is what Max tells us:
Celebrate God’s goodness!
Ask God for help.
Leave your concerns with him.
Meditate on good things.
(1) Celebrate God’s goodness!
Philippians is Paul’s book of joy. In it, Paul tells us to be joyful in all circumstances. Being in person while writing these words, Paul was an example of how to live with joy. He was constantly celebrating God’s goodness. He considered “everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus.” So, how do you maintain joy? Have the correct foundation. The correct foundation is your fundamental belief system. And the only true fundamental belief system is built on God’s grace and salvation. Without God as your base, there will be anxiety and wrong actions. Belief precedes action. With a weak belief, the enemy will prevail. With strong belief in the correct system, that is Jesus Christ, you will overcome anxiety, and you will have peace. It all depends on your fundamental beliefs. Buddhism, as I’ve read about in the past few books, has some useful teachings, but it lacks the salvation and grace that Jesus provides. Buddhism is not Christianity. It is not based on the belief of our everlasting God, and is therefore a weak foundation.
Assuming that your faith is firmly planted in Christ, then why should we have joy? Why should we celebrate God’s goodness? First, because He is merciful. To this day, my favorite book of all time is Milton’s “Paradise Lost.” Milton beautifully articulates the story of Adam’s and Eve’s sin in the Garden. Since the Fall, man has always been sinful. Like Adam sinned, we too sin. Like Adam covered himself with a fig leaf, we too feel guilt and seek to cover our sins. We try to numb the guilt with alcohol or marijuana or cutting. We deny it with lies. We punish ourselves with rules and observances to follow. We ignore it, refusing to talk about it. We try to offset it by building a perfect family or perfect career. But the way to rid ourselves of guilt is so much simpler. Simply give it to God. Because of God’s grace, you will be forgiven. Guilt sucks pleasure and life. Grace restores it. When I confess my sins, they are eradicated - Gone! Because of God’s grace, I have joy.
(2) Ask God for help
Pray. Take your concerns to God. Prayer works, and it’s awesome to see God answer genuine prayer offered by a humble heart! Be specific with your prayers, and you will experience overwhelming calm. Your calmness will be a result of the confidence that you have given your concerns to God. The worries that once belonged to you now belong to God. He will handle them for you. And God is so much greater than me! Find a specific promise in the Bible, and use that promise to guide your request to God. For example, Psalm 135:1-6 says,
“Praise the name of the Lord.
Praise the name of the Lord;
… I know that the Lord is great,
That our Lord is greater than all gods.
The Lord does whatever pleases him,
In the heavens and on the earth,
In the seas and all their depths.”
Using this verse about God’s sovereignty as a guide, perhaps this short prayer is appropriate for today.
Dear Lord, thank you for your sovereignty and greatness. You are greater than any other god. You are greater than the devil, and you are greater than any disease. I know that you orchestrate all events, and I have peace knowing that you can do whatever you please. Your power is not limited. In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, keep my family healthy. And, keep me healthy. Give me the strength to remain content in you. Give our leaders the wisdom to make the correct decisions. And use this pandemic to demonstrate your power and grace. In Jesus’s name, Amen.
(3) Leave your concerns with him
Again, Paul is a great example for us. Paul was content, regardless of his situation, regardless of his clothing, regardless of his hunger, regardless of his physical location. The only thing that Paul was concerned about was being more like Christ. “To me, the only important thing about living is Christ,” he said (Philippians 1:21). He didn’t worry about money, or sickness, or death. Instead Paul focused on what he did have – salvation in Christ. What you have through Jesus is far greater than anything life can offer. Christ is all that I need! I don’t need money, cars, clothes, or reputation. Lord, make me more like Paul!
When we leave our concerns with God, we will experience peace. It will be a peace that “transcends all understanding.” People should notice your calmness. Because the peace that is evident in your life is God-given peace. It’s contentment in God’s love. It is not placed in worldly pursuits. The peace that I have should not make sense to the unbeliever, especially in a world that is littered with disease and death. I think that a good way to test the true faith of a proclaimed believer is to observe whether she/he has peace that transcends understanding. If so, then God is working inside that person.
Why else should I have peace? Because God’s angels are here, on earth, to help us. Wow! This is incredible. It’s not incredible just because of the words that Max says, but because of the truthfulness of those words. When words speak truth, they are comforting. I firmly believe that angels are here. I love the story where Daniel is approached and comforted by an angel. I also love this prayer in Isaiah 40:31.
“Those who wait on the Lord
Shall renew their strength;
They shall mount up with winds like eagles,
They shall run and not be weary,
They shall walk and not faint.”
Cry out to Jesus in complete submission, and he will answer. Be content in the knowledge that God is holding you in his hand, and that your life is being guided by him. There is nobody else who I would rather have leading my life.
(4) Meditate on good things
To be anxious for nothing, we must fill our minds with good things. The challenge is that the devil is always messing with our minds. Stupid devil! He tells us lies and focuses our attention on negative things. That’s the problem with the current COVID-19 situation. People are constantly being stimulated with news and media about the grimness of the situation. We are being filled with worries about the economy and health care system. Negative news media and speculation is in everything. And, it is all disheartening. It is not wholesome. And who works to fill our minds with negative thoughts? The devil. How do we combat the devil and his attempts to dominate our thoughts? Focus on good things, such as the knowledge that we have Jesus and Heaven to look forward to in eternity. Get away from me, Satan. Make it your aim to cling to Christ. I like that. Make it your aim to cling to Christ. Abide in him. When we do this, then we will produce the fruits of the spirit in our lives – joy, peace, and love. We can only demonstrate these fruits, and be free of worry, by clinging to God.
What is right for me to do in the midst of the current pandemic? What is right for all of us? The answer is simple. Pray. Pray and give your concerns fully to God. Make it your aim to cling to Christ.