A Saying - Week of August 16th

By Judy Nichols

August 16, 2015

A friend recently posted a saying on facebook: "When thinking about life, remember this: No amount of guilt can solve the past and no amount of anxiety can change the future." While almost everyone would agree this is a true and pithy statement, it leaves way too much unsaid. If you happen to be dealing with a sense of guilt in your life or if you are one of those who is prone to worry, this little saying (if you think about it) will probably leave you feeling frustrated, confused, and inadequate.

Pop culture and psychology have dealt with the problem of guilt by doing away with sin. If there are no moral absolutes and nothing is truly an affront to God, then there is no need for anyone to feel guilty for anything. They also have tried to remove our responsibility for our misdeeds by blaming others. If we are victims of abuse or poverty or whatever, then our guilt really belongs to someone else. It’s not too difficult to see the mayhem this line of reasoning has produced in our society.

But if there are moral absolutes and there are behaviors that displease God and we violate them, then we are guilty and we should feel guilty. The conscience is that part of us that is our moral compass; it tells us both when we are on track and when we have deviated from God’s best (see Rom. 2:15). The liberating truth is that, when we recognize that we have sinned and that the responsibility lies with us alone, we are in charge. We can change; we can repent. The good news of the gospel is that "if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (1 John 1:9).

There is also the issue of false guilt, that is, feeling guilty for something that really isn’t our fault. A prime example of this is the feeling among many children of broken families that their parents’ divorce was somehow their fault. Or the sense of an abused person that they somehow deserved what they got and were unworthy of love. We have an enemy who is a liar and the father of lies (John 8:44). There is no truth in him (ibid.). He speaks his lies into our minds and hearts as he seeks to negatively interpret to us the unfortunate circumstances we endure. If we do not have the truth also spoken into us, we will believe these lies and carry a burden of guilt (not to mention a host of other social and emotional baggage). God’s word, the Bible, is the truth. Jesus Christ who said, "I am the way and the truth and the life" (John 14:6) promised to give the Holy Spirit to those who put their trust in Him. This Holy Spirit’s ministry is to "guide you into all the truth" (John 16:13). Jesus said to those who had believed in Him, "If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free" (John 8:31-32). Repenting of sin and knowing God’s truth: this is the only way to truly solve the past.

Worry is the thing we do when we know there’s really nothing else we can do about something. But if we’re honest, we will admit that anxiety is like a placebo; it makes us think it’s making a difference but in reality has no effect at all. At least, it has no effect on the situation we’re concerned about. Its only effect is on us and it is a negative effect. I’m not a medical professional to explain the physiological changes in our bodies when we worry, but I’ve worried enough to recognize that the knot in my stomach, the nervous energy (hand wringing, pacing, etc.), and the swirling thoughts are indications of some significant chemical changes in my body.

Jesus questioned his disciples as to why they should worry when they could not thereby add a single hour to their lives (Matt. 6: 25-34). The antidote, He said, is to seek God’s kingdom and His righteousness first and trust Him to provide everything else we need (6:33). He said if God fed the birds of the air and clothed the flowers of the field with splendor, then He would certainly also take care of them. Lest we trip over the idea that seeking God’s kingdom and righteousness is difficult or reserved only for the super-spiritual, I would define it simply as letting God occupy a greater portion of our field of vision than the circumstances at hand. God is big; our problems are small. Even our biggest need and most insurmountable obstacle do not compare to God’s infinite resources and power.

Paul wrote to the Philippians, "Be anxious for nothing, 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 comprehension, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus" (Phil. 4: 6-7). He’s saying not to worry, but to pray and ask – with thanksgiving -- for the things we need. There is nothing wrong with thanking God in advance for the answer to our prayer, but I think the focus of the admonition is more to recognize and believe that God is good, cares about our needs, wants to be asked, and has our best interest at heart, and to thank Him for that. If we truly believe this, then no matter what the answer is or when it comes or doesn’t come, we can know our future is safe in His hands. Anxiety is dispelled; peace reigns.

Anxiety does nothing for the future; it only makes the present miserable. Trusting in Christ, believing that He can and will provide for us, and asking Him to do it are the things that can change the future. Why not give it a try?

© Judy Nichols 2015

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