The grip of anxiety can be more than we know how to handle. From panic attacks to generic worry, anxious minds are the norm. There are personal hardships mixed with suffering, but there’s also the polarization of politics, church issues and everything in between. It can feel like too much.
About 3% of our population admit to experiencing extreme anxiety. That’s about 7 million people in the US. About half of them ask for help. To be professionally diagnosed you need symptoms like feeling restless or on edge, being easily fatigued, struggling to concentrate, having a hard time controlling your worry and maybe even some sleep issues. The challenge is, I just described myself. Worry isn’t foreign to followers of Jesus; it may even come with an extra dose of shame because we should “know better.” We may know better, but we certainly don’t always remember. We forget that God’s love is the antidote for anxiety. Not because it takes everything away or fixes every problem, but because his love is a distinctive salve for a soul that needs to be reassured with hope.
Remembering leads to consistent belief. Remembering, knowing and believing leads to godly stability and security. Stability and security suffocate anxiety. Rehearsing and diving deep into the knowledge of God’s love goes like this:
God’s love isn’t generic.
There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. 1 Jn 4:18
Hearing about love that’s supposedly perfect doesn’t help me grasp the reality of it. Perfection seems so far-fetched. With growing children, challenging marriages, ongoing responsibilities, and a life that seems more chaotic than calm, life seems harder than ever. God’s love being perfect sounds nice, but what does that actually mean for my life?
I love pizza. I love music. I love a good cup of coffee and a good book. I love walking down the beach and hiking over mountains that make me, and my problems feel comfortingly small. But my love for these things is entirely based on what they give to me. Not that they always deliver a perfect experience. Sand gets stuck in places we’d rather not. Books can have boring chapters. Coffee gets cold. But ultimately, I love these things because they bring me pleasure. They add to my life and do something for me. If they begin to fail me, I won’t love them as much. If I order a disgusting pizza with gross toppings, not cooked all the way and this becomes the consistent nature of pizza in my life, I’ll easily stop loving it.
God’s love is not like this.
God’s love is not convenient, nor based on what we can give him or what we do for him. It’s not based on how much pleasure we bring him in a moment. It’s not dependent on how well we read the Bible or what we know about him. It’s not about what we do for him or how much we volunteer. God’s love has nothing to do with us and everything to do with him.
That’s what makes it perfect.
While I am a recipient of this love, I’m not actually all that lovable. I know my own “bad moods” and my own grave thoughts. I sin often, but he even sees my sin more clearly than me. And that’s just it. His love is perfect because it doesn’t rely upon what I do, how I think or what I feel. God loves us because it’s his perfect nature to love (1 Jn. 4:16).
And his love always seeks what is best for us as the recipients. 100% of the time. No matter what.
God’s love proves itself in Christ’s work on the cross.
Again, this is good news! Christ’s death on our behalf wasn’t our choice. It’s an unchanging fact of history that solidifies our reality. We don’t have to fear judgment because, Christ! We don’t have to be weighed down by guilt because, Christ! We don’t have to wonder about our significance because, Christ! God chose to give up Christ just as Christ chose to give up himself. In fact, Christ willingly took the most intense anxiety in history in the Garden of Gethsemane. He took the suffering and entrusted himself to the Father. When he did this, he became a sympathetic advocate for those who experience anxiety. All for love.
God’s love casts out fear because it’s a sure thing. It’s a non-negotiable answer to anxiety because when we know we’re loved by a perfect Father we get to rest in the bigger reality of God’s character and Christ’s work.
Anxiety is hard; God’s love is stronger.
Cancer is awful. Financial hardships are real. Friendships can have conflict. People make terrible decisions. Children go wayward, and hurricanes happen. But nothing can separate you from the love of God in Christ Jesus, even when your feelings tell you otherwise. Our world tells us that if we feel it, then it’s true. This is fake news. My kids feel things all the time that reflect their limited understanding of the world. They don’t know everything, and they can’t understand as much as I do. They don’t have the wisdom to make wise choices or form emotions consistent with a mature understanding of the world. This is what parenting is for. With God’s help, my job is to remind my children that my love for them requires that I don’t let them into harm’s way. I’ll protect them as much as I can; and their heavenly Father will also do so, just perfectly.
Perfect love casts out fear and soothes anxiety, not because it takes our worries away, but because that kind of love gives us the courage to look pain and suffering in the face. It reminds us that even when today is awful, there will be a better day in the future. Even when trauma is real, there’s a God who draws nearer. Even when it feels like he’s silent, we can trust that he’s not. Even when our earthly world is crumbling, there’s an eternal battle with a sure ending.
So, let’s work to remember:
For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:38-39
But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8
But you, Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness. Psalm 86:15
Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. John 15:13
Know therefore that the Lord your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commandments. Deuteronomy 7:9
Want some practical help with your anxiety? Join our Anxiety Counseling Group starting today!
Questions for Reflection:
- Where do you lack in understanding God’s love for you?
- How can you grow in knowing about God’s love?
- Where do you subtract the reality of God’s character from your everyday experience?
- What are some practices you can begin in your daily life to remind you of God’s kindness and goodness?
- Do you confess your anxieties to Christ?
- How does beginning to understand and trusting in God’s love for you transform your anxiety?
- What are some daily rhythms of remembrance you can incorporate in your daily life?