I have heard various iterations of this theme dozens of times since it was determined that I would need a surgical procedure to address the debilitating nerve pain that intermittently shoots from the back of my throat down to the left side of my neck.
Well, as I write this post, that surgery is scheduled to take place in just twelve days. And guess what? I am anxious!
I worry that the neurosurgeon might have quarreled with his wife the evening before, not had a good sleep, been cut off in traffic on his way into the hospital… I worry that he might slip – just a fraction of an inch and my vertebral artery is cut, my dura is punctured, the nerves that control facial expression, articulation, or swallowing get severed… Will I have a stroke, will I keep my job, will recovery be painful…
And like Jesus, I have on many occasions asked God to take this cup from me. Even with tears (more times than a male Norwegian might want to publically acknowledge).
As Christians, you and I must aspire to be like Christ (1 Corinthians 11:1; Ephesians 5:1; Philippians 2:5). And this Christ-likeness involves such things as being hungry, weeping at friend’s funerals, and agonizing over upcoming trials. To never experience these things in a world that is subject to so much brokenness would mean that we have become something less than human. As Christians we should remember that it is in heaven that “every tear shall be wiped away.”
And so when people ask if I am nervous, or worried, or anxious I simply tell them, “Yes I am.” You see, the question for me as a Christian is not whether or not I experience very human reactions to very difficult or troubling developments in my life. Following Christ makes the most of my humanity, it does not erase it. The question should always be, “What I am going to do with my emotional reactions to life’s difficulties?” What will I do with my fear, my worry, my anger, or my anxiety…
Earlier this week one of my parishioners came into my office for our standing lunchtime meeting and with great enthusiasm opened his laptop and gave me a nickel tour of his Logos Bible Software program. Logos has an amazing collection of Bible study and commentary resources. He was showing me the Psalms, and at a click of his mouse button he was able to break them up into genre. Did you know that of the 150 Psalms in the Old Testament collection, the largest single category is that of lament?
God is apparently at least as interested in teaching his people how to experience emotional distress as he is in protecting them from all distressing experiences. And again and again in the Psalms he gives Christians a model for how to experience the darker moods of the human soul. The New Testament offers very clear guidance on this as well. In the next two posts, I will be discussing how to handle anxiety by considering Paul’s letter to the Philippian church. I hope you will tune in!
And I cannot thank you enough for your prayers for me and my family. Well over one thousand people have read my request for “Audacious Prayer” and that is in large case because so many of you have shared that post. Please let me know how I can be praying for you.
N.B. The picture is cropped from my fellow Norwegian, Edvard Bunch’s famed painting, “The Scream.”