My goal is to always write from the heart and to incorporate professional knowledge and personal conviction. I have been very passionate and determined to write as much as I can on anxiety when it comes to the Christian faith. This picture of someone having a theology like a vending machine has been something that I have been thinking on for sometime. It hasn't been until now that I have been able to make a connection with that illustration and the very real issue of anxiety.
What do we know of vending machines? They're big metal boxes located in convenient places with a variety of snacks that are a quick fix and will temporarily fill you up. Provided you have the money, you usually have at least 10 different options to choose from. The commitment and price is low enough for many people to not think twice about purchasing a candy bar or bag of chips. After all, it's like what....a $1.25-$1.50 for chips. Nothing that's going to break the bank or cost you lots of time.
What do we know about anxiety? Anxiety can happen for many reasons which include divorce, drug use, abuse, chemical imbalances, improper body functioning, death of a loved one, loss of a job, etc. Anxiety can create feelings of despair, worry, hopelessness, thoughts of suicide. Anxiety can push people into isolation and loneliness. Often times good professional counseling and medication are required for stabilization.
So how does a vending machine and anxiety connect? Helping someone with anxiety, chronic anxiety is tough and there are no easy answers. It takes commitment and sacrifice. Unfortunately, many Christians adopt a "vending machine" approach to helping the person with anxiety. It is easy to give a verse out, pat yourself on the back and say,
"I did my Christian duty. If they don't change it's because they don't want to and aren't trusting Jesus enough."
Vending machine theology doesn't require heavy commitment. It requires minimal understanding of who Christ is, doesn't cost a lot in time and won't be all that sacrificial. This theological approach is not dissimilar from believing in magic tricks. Just say the magic words and you'll get the desired outcome and if no change happens, blame it on the individual you are carelessly throwing verses at. This approach is lazy, unkind, lacks grace and any understanding of what anxiety is and what the person with anxiety is going through.
As a believer in Christ, our duty is to love those who suffer all afflictions and walk with them for as long as we can. Don't just throw verses at someone with anxiety, be in their life, walk with them through their emotions, show them Christ in your actions and words. Be a student of God's word. Understand his character and promises. by doing this you'll be an incredible testament to God's power and grace and a blessing to those with anxiety.
Christian Bringolf MA LMHC
Anxiety is a disorder that seeks to control us, as I've said in previous posts. When emotional pain is present we would like nothing more than for it to go away. Many of us Christians may even pray, "Lord take this from me" or something like that. Its hard to imagine in a moment of great emotional turmoil that God is allowing it so that we may learn to trust in His good character and promises.
Sometimes our circumstances are caused by variables that we could not control and sometimes they are self-inflicted, which ever the case may be, it does not remove our responsibility and opportunity to draw close to Jesus. In the midst of difficult circumstances. The Bible is filled with examples and testimonies of lives that went through incredible pressure and stress. One of those lives was Joseph in the Old Testament. Let me ask the question, "What can we learn from the life of Joseph in the Old Testament"?
We know that Joseph was sold into slavery by his brothers. We know that he was accused of trying to seduce his master's wife. We know that he spent an unknown amount of years in an Egyptian prison without any knowledge of when he would be freed or if he would be executed.
Jospeh endured and suffered much at the hands of his family and almost anyone else he came into contact with.
What the Bible doesn't elaborate on is Joseph's thought process through all of his hardships. It doesn't detail how he was feeling after just being sold, by family into slavery. It doesn't talk about the hurt he may have experienced being wrongly accused of seducing Potiphar's wife. And the Bible doesn't talk about what Joseph's thoughts were while sitting in prison, awaiting his fate.
Joseph faithfully trusted in God in his circumstances for his life. This task must've been difficult, because there was no immediate relief. If I was in Joseph's situation I would be scared, anxious, nervous, fearful and distrusting of God...if I'm being honest.
Joseph's life serves as an example of how we can respond to anxiety with faith in Christ. Jesus may not deliver us from emotional pain, like we'd like but He won't leave us and will faithfully provide for all of our needs.
My hope is that anxiety will not be slavery, but allow you to respond to Christ's calling as an invitation to surrender and trust.
1 Thess 5:18
“give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”
Christian Bringolf MA LMHC
What Does the Bible Have to say about Anxiety?
Christians are not immune to anxiety. Simply asking Jesus to be your savior does not miraculously free you from stress and worry. This is why it's important to know and understand what God says regarding anxiety and what he promises.
First, I feel inclined to say that anxiety is a real psychiatric/medical disorder that affects millions of people every year, christian and non-christian. Symptoms can range from mild to severe. Anxiety exists, because we live in a fallen world that is sinful. Our world does not work as it should. It is completely possible for a Christian to have anxiety and not be because of choices they have made. It is important as a body of believers we understand this, that we have compassion on our brothers and sisters that suffer in silence. Anxiety does not carry the same consequences as a terminal illness; yet we should be just as sensitive.
For the rest of this piece I'm going to camp out in Matthew 6:25-34
“"Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?” “Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?” “And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?” “And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin,” “yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.” “But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?” “Therefore do not be anxious, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?'” “For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.” “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” “"Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.”
Over the years I heard the last portion of this scripture thrown at the brother or sister who is experiencing anxiety, as if saying don't be anxious about anything, relieves the anxiety. It's important as Christians that we not proof text and toss a piece of scripture at someone in pain and call it good.
First things first, Jesus says don't be anxious. In as much as that's a command, it's also an acknowledgement. Jesus knew you would be anxious and here He is acknowledging the pain you are feeling. Second, Jesus backs up his commands with promises by saying He will provide for all of our needs. I believe those needs encompass relational and emotional components. Third, Jesus uses birds and flowers to illustrate how He provides for us. I don't know about you, but I don't worry about how birds are going to take care themselves or how flowers will survive. They make very little impact on my day, yet God uses these pieces of his creation to illustrate his provision. If God can and does provide for birds and flowers, how much more will he provide for those that are made in his image? Kind of a rhetorical question:)
Fourth, Jesus gives you a focal point and that's him. Anxiety wants you to focus on what you can't control, thus creating more anxiety. Jesus wants you to focus on Him and how He is in total control. As a Christian, all of life should be centered around Christ anyway. Stress is going to happen because life is broken. Anxiety doesn't always have to be a bad or crippling thing, but a glorifying thing where you work out your faith in Jesus, grow in how you trust him and ultimately experience his strength and sovereignty more fully.
You can have anxiety for a myriad of reasons, but it shouldn't stop you from worshipping Christ.
The Bible teaches that anxiety is real, we will experience it; but we can trust in the promises of God that He will take care of our needs like he takes care of the birds of the air and the flowers of the field.
Next time you experience anxiety, I would encourage you to view it as an invitation to draw closer to Jesus.
Christian Bringolf MA LMHC
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