Three Gospels for Anxiety

This article originally posted August 25, 2014 at paultripp.com.

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I’m a planner by nature. I line projects up months in advance and systematically knock them down. I try to work quickly and efficiently through my day and get as many things done as I can.

I didn’t choose to operate with that mentality; God hardwired me to work that way, and by his grace, I’ve been able to use those gifts to be productive in ministry. At the same time, because of my sin, I have the tendency to get irritated, agitated, and anxious when things don’t work exactly according to my plan.

ANXIOUS CHRISTIANS

I know I’m not the only Christian that gets anxious. Maybe you’re a planner like me and struggle to give up control. Maybe you’ve had a really troubling past and are haunted by the hurt that you’ve experienced. Maybe you’re in a really difficult season of life and don’t see the light at the end of the tunnel.

As a seasoned biblical counselor, I know firsthand how many Christians struggle with anxiety. But more importantly, Jesus knows, and unlike me, he can provide the cure. In Matthew 6, Christ says, “Do not be anxious about your life” and provides us with 3 gospels to help us combat our daily anxiety.

1. The Gospel of Creation

“Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?” (Matthew 6:26-30)

When you’re struggling with anxiety, Jesus tells you to look around at creation. Embedded in the physical world are constant theological reminders that God doesn’t abandon the work of his hands. The birds of the air, the flowers of the field, and countless other living organisms point to the loving care of God.

If God would care that much for birds and flowers, how much more would he care for those made in his image? If God feeds and clothes animals and plants without an eternal soul, how much more will he provide for those covered by the costly blood of his Son? You have reason to rest because creation preaches to you a gospel of divine faithfulness.

2. The Gospel of Family

“Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.” (Matthew 6:31-32)

Unlike the pagan Gentiles, Christians have a heavenly Father who willingly, faithfully, and eternally takes on the burden of our provision. It makes sense that pagans worry, because they don’t have the assurance of divine provision, but Christians shouldn’t be anxious. We have a Father who knows exactly what we need and is in the process of delivering exactly what we need, exactly when we need it, and in the exact location where we need it.

Without knowing your story, let me try to make it clear: if you don’t have what you think you need right now, it’s because you don’t need it right now. For further explanation on this statement, I’ve written on whose job it is to define your need and the difference betweenneed and desire.

Anxiety belongs to the pagans; it doesn’t make sense for children of the Most High God to worry about life. But you and I think we know better than our Heavenly Father; we’d never proclaim this publicly, but many anxious Christians are anxious because they believe they’re smarter than God.

3. The Gospel of Kingdom

“But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow…” (Matthew 6:33-34)

The call to seek God’s kingdom is itself a grace, because it’s only when I seek God’s kingdom that I’m free from seeking my own. I don’t know if you’ve recognized this or not, but there’s a direct correlation between the kingdom of self and anxiety. Most, if not all, of your anxiety results when you’re attempting to sit on the throne of your life.

The most confident people I’ve ever met were those who rested in the provision and care of God. The most un-anxious believers I’ve interacted with were the ones who truly submitted their life to the will of their Father. Conversely, the most anxious people I’ve counseled were driven by earthbound treasure and forgetful of the gospel.

But let’s be honest: you and I are forgetful, too. We’re blind to the gospel of creation, we’re forgetful of the gospel of family, and we often outright ignore the gospel of the kingdom. No wonder we’re anxious!

Yet in our anxiety, Jesus doesn’t yell at us. He doesn’t throw up his hands and say, “Forget it! I can’t believe you fools would chase after the world instead of me.” No, in tenderness and patience, he chases after us one more time and connects us with eternal, unstoppable, and glorious grace.

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Paul David Tripp is a pastor, author, and international conference speaker. He is the president of Paul Tripp Ministries and works to connect the transforming power of Jesus Christ to everyday life. This vision has led Paul to write 15 books on Christian living and travel around the worldpreaching and teaching. Paul’s driving passion is to help people understand how the gospel of Jesus Christ speaks with practical hope into all the things people face in this broken world. Follow him @PaulTripp or read more at www.paultripp.com

 

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