Are you a warrior or a worrier?Essays, Featured — By M. Morford on October 22, 2012 at 3:23 am
Are you a warrior or a worrier?
It might just be an accident of language, but warrior and worrier seem to be mutually exclusive if not polar opposites.
A warrior, in any context, is disciplined, diligent, and single-minded.
Worrying is, at best, unproductive, but at its worst – and most common – it is corrosive beyond measure. It has the potential to poison relationships, justify destructive behavior on every level, and certainly impacts mental health and stability.
The Bible, human history, and common experience have much to say on the power and conflict of these two words.
Consider a well-built house: it doesn’t matter how strong and solid the supporting beams might be if they are rotted through or teeming with termites.
In the same way, it doesn’t really matter how strong, talented or gifted one might be – anxiety and worry will distort, pervert, and sap away any amount of strength.
Galatians 5:22 describes the fruit of the Spirit as love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Worry acts as a toxic cloud that neutralizes, if not poisons, each one of these.
In fact, worry leads naturally to the fruits of the flesh described in an earlier verse (Gal. 5:19). Anxiety drives us into desperation, self-deception, rage, resentment, and bitterness – and all of these spread like a social toxic waste leak (Acts 8:23) and can lead to continuing – if not ever-expanding trouble (Hebrews 12:15).
The irony for Christians is that Jesus specifically commanded us not to worry; in fact worry is the antithesis of faith. Jesus tells us not to worry about what we will eat, drink, or wear in the Beatitudes (Matthew 6:25-34 and Luke 12:22-29) not because worrying is inherently bad (though it is), but because worry is the ultimate act of faithlessness.
Just as it is indifference, not hatred, that is the opposite of love; the opposite of faith is not doubt (which is really questioning – sometimes fierce questioning) but the spiraling emptiness of fear, anxiety, despair, and depression.
We are called instead to live out a life that reflects a peace that passes any kind of measurement or comprehension (Philippians 4:7).
Scripture tells us directly in 2 Timothy 1:7 that fear and anxiety do not come from God – but, quite the opposite is an indicator of God’s grounding presence; strength, confidence and self-control.
Shalom (sometimes spelled Salem) is a common greeting in Hebrew (the Arabic equivalent is As-salamu alaykum). The literal meaning is closer to peace or well-being. This is the tenor of life we are called to and designed for. Our greetings to each other should be an inherent blessing. And contentment – in spite of circumstances – should be our default condition.
A common response is that our lives are too crazy and stressful to allow us to have peace. But Jesus reminds us in John 16:33, that no matter how much trouble we might be facing, God’s enduring peace is far greater.
CS Lewis, in his Great Divorce, writes of an eternity where Heaven is real and solid, while Hell is the formless, colorless, shadowy pale copy.
I think Lewis got this right; faith makes us real and solid, while our fears and lived-out faithlessness make us droopy, vacuous shadows who live out our two-dimensional slogans and religious clichés in ever-tightening circles of Christian conformity in fear – not of fear of the numbness and predictability that leads to the soul’s paralysis, but instead our fear is of the God who calls us ever-further, ever-deeper, and ever-on.
Faith threatens, or promises, to take us into territory beyond, sometimes far beyond the knowable and predictable – sometimes even further than we’d like to go.
Allow me to close with a prayer –
Please consume and burn to ashes
My obsessive self-consuming
Seething mess of fears and anxiety,
And cleanse me
To walk free and strong
In your undeserved presence.