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Controlling Anxiety & Why You Can’t

Controlling Anxiety & Why You Can’t

My favorite way to solve anxiety is control.  Anxious?  Stressed?  Too much to deal with?  Just cross a few things off that list, get rid of that mess over there, cut off those people, get it under… control.  It makes perfect sense.  It seems so simple.  But it doesn’t work.  Why?  Because there will always be some new issue, demand or person to invade your control.  Oh, I’m not saying that good boundaries don’t help.  Those are very needed.  But in the grand scheme of things, if you’re relying on a smooth and controlled life in order to relax and not be anxious, you’re likely dreaming the impossible dream!
In James 1:2-4 we read: “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.”
This is not a statement of control.  In fact, it’s the opposite.  It’s somehow implying that the very out-of-control issues that come up in life are the things that we can count as joy.  Really?  This is quite difficult for me to understand.  But I do know this:
The most restful times in my life have ironically been when things have gotten so crazy that I knew I was completely unable to handle them and have had to just sit back and let God deal with it all instead.
It’s when the plane’s about to crash and you sit there and say, “Well, this is out of my control, so Lord, either I die or you bail me out!” There’s something about knowing the situation is humanly impossible where you kind of… let go.  Because you have to.  Because there’s no other choice.  And in that letting go can strangely come the greatest peace.
But while we can fathom trusting God in such great “emergencies,” the trouble actually tends to be the “smaller” things.  They’re that test you’re worried about passing.  That job you can’t seem to find.  The workload you can’t quite get a handle on.  Those finances that just won’t stretch enough.  That relationship you’re struggling to fix.  They are the things that are far enough out of control to cause anxiety yet close enough to make you think, “If I can just reach a little farther, do a little more, pray a little better… I’ll be able to handle this.”  Somehow though, you never quite make it.  Or briefly you do, only to have that delicate balance of control slightly tip out of reach yet again.
I remember a particularly intense time in my life.  I had three jobs, all of which I believed the Lord wanted me in at that time, and ones that required a lot of responsibility, thought, and planning.  It did not seem humanly possible that I would make it out of those months with a sane mind and a healthy body!  But interestingly, those became some of the most fun and peaceful months of my life.  I realized I HAD to let God do it – there was just no other way.  And He did it.  Day by day, hour by hour.  I finally let go of MY reputation, MY performance, and MY control.  And somehow, I was way more productive, effective, and happy at the same time.
It sounds like a great success story!  And I’d say it was. God worked a miracle in a time of necessity.  But sadly, it doesn’t mean I’ve “arrived” in the faith area.  There have been times when I’ve had a much more “manageable load” (and wisely so), but been MORE stressed instead of less!  How? I find that often, when the load seems a bit more controllable, I feel it’s my responsibility to control it. My trust decreases.  I feel I shouldn’t need so much help…
In this context, I think it’s interesting that 1 Peter 5:7 says “casting ALL your care [or anxiety] upon Him, for He cares for you.”  It doesn’t say some of your cares.  It doesn’t say the really big cares.  It doesn’t say the cares that are above the threshold of what you can handle on your own.  It says all.
So I wonder: What if I realized that control may cause anxiety, but it can’t solve it?  What if I quit “helping” God deal with my anxieties and stresses and actually “cast” them on Him instead?
It’s late today, I’m still in the office, and my to-do pile still looms over my head like the threatening cumulonimbus clouds outside my window.  I feel the weight of it…  But what will I do?  Stay on in hopes of making the pile a little more “controllable?”  Or will I instead stay in the hands of the One who hung the stars and offers an easy yoke for my heavy one (Matthew 11:29-30)?  “Casting ALL your care…”  It’s my choice to make.


The Haystack is awesome. Nuff said.

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