As someone who struggles with anxiety I’ve often been given the advice to ‘just trust God’ with my worries. But if I’m honest when I try to do this, I flounder. In moments of anxiety my mind is clouded by a thousand different thoughts and my heart becomes a frenzy of fear. When I try to ‘just trust God’ what I functionally do is attempt to muster up a sense of abstract trust in a distant deity, and, more often than not, it doesn’t work. I know I should trust God – that surely is the answer, so why doesn’t it work?
The skipped step – trust requires a transaction.
We love immediate results, the instant satisfaction of a ‘buy now’ feature. But real relationships don’t work like Amazon Prime. I can’t ‘just trust God’ with one easy click. To trust someone, I have to know them, to communicate with them, to transact with them. Trusting in God when I feel anxious requires a transaction between him and me to take place in that moment of fear. This is how meaningful change happens.
So what does this look like?
1) Slow down – hit pause on the carnage. Step back, stand still and ask God to help you talk to him.
2) Acknowledge your fear – there is something powerful about coming before God and naming exactly what it is you’re afraid of. Identifying what we’re afraid of often helps us see where exactly our hearts have derailed. Name your fear before God.
For me this morning it was ‘Lord I’m afraid of not knowing the details of my future, I’m afraid of things being out of my grasp, out of my control’.
3) Acknowledge your Sin – we are commanded to not be anxious about anything, occasionally our concerns are good, but most often when we find ourselves fearful, we do not have God in his rightful place. What or who has taken his place? What are you fighting for? What are you functionally believing would bring you peace if you could only achieve it? What lie have you believed about who God is or who you are? Name your sin before God, then seek his forgiveness.
For me it went like this: ‘Lord I’m sorry, I’ve believed the lie that I’m in the postion of Creator, not creature. I tried to be something you never designed me to be, I’ve tried to be all knowing (I know – stupid right?). I craved sovereignty over the details of my future, and when that proved impossible I grew fearful at my lack of control and I lashed out at others in my frustration. Father, forgive me.
4) Apply a specific truth – counter your fear with a concrete truth about who our God is. Don’t go for something too vague or general. Pick an particular aspect of his character which directly relates to where you are right now. What about his person speaks stillness to your soul? What about his work in Christ brings you the comfort you crave? Replace your fear of XYZ with the fear of God. Fill your eyes with him, stand in awe of him. Pray for his help to believe the truth. Then praise him for that truth.
Today for me I clung to the truth of Acts 17:26. ‘And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place’.
My God is perfect in his knowledge of this earth, perfect in his knowledge of me and my future and this means there will be no mistakes, nothing will get overlooked because the details belong to him. He even knows the house we’ll live in. He is good, and I can trust him.
Fear is the absence of trust in God, and meaningful trust that results in change requires transaction. For more worked examples of what transacting with God can look like see Psalms 51 and 73.
The concept of transacting with God is one taught by David Powlison amongst others at CCEF.