Some suffering is unnecessary. Suffering that we bring on ourselves through our sin and brokenness means that if our actions change, our suffering can change. But not all suffering is “unnecessary.” How do you handle the suffering you cannot avoid?
Do you ever feel like God doesn’t care? Someone says, “God is good.” And you respond, “All the time!” And yet part of your heart isn’t tracking. If God really cared, wouldn’t things be better? What do you do when you feel like God doesn’t care?
Jesus and His disciples are in the boat on the Sea of Galilee. The wind and waves are about to take them out. The disciples are in a panic. Jesus stands up and with a word calms the storm. And then He has the audacity to say to them, “Why were you afraid? Why were you afraid when I was with you?” (See Mark 4:40)
Why were you afraid? We were about to be dead! Didn’t you see?!
No wonder the disciples were astonished.
You may be in the same place now. Circumstances and your own mind make it seem as though fear and worry is the only option. You pray, but your head is still afraid and anxious after you pray.
I’ve been asked by several people recently, “Why doesn’t God heal me from my anxiety?” “Is anxiety and fear something a person can ever really get past?” “Why don’t my prayers take care of my fear and anxiety?”
I understand the question. I’ve been there. Only God knows every detail of your genetics, mind, and circumstances, etc., and He deals with each person individually. But from my own personal experience and from what I read in God’s word, “giving up” is what’s NOT an option. You don’t have to succumb to a life of fear and anxiety. There are too many promises of a sound mind, too many directives to “fear not,” too many stories of people (including me – and Peter) who have truly put fear and anxiety in their rear-view mirror forever to say that you have to be stuck there.
Of course you worry when there’s no money in the bank, no food in the house, no immediate prospect of adequate income, and the only phone calls or mail you receive are creditors asking for money. God knew we would worry about material things. And His word has a lot to say about it.
Maslow’s hierarchy of needs begins with the basics: food, water, shelter, clothing, and safety. Human beings cannot survive without those needs being met.
And God knows that.
I know what it’s like to worry about material thing. Some years ago I moved from one state to another. My new medical license was delayed, and for a period of six months I had no income. None. I remember what a struggle it was to go to sleep at night while worrying about bills and basic necessities – until I learned these principles.
Matthew 6 became very meaningful to me during that time. Since God knows you and I have need of these material things, we don’t have to worry about them. (Matthew 6:32) Jesus says repeatedly, “Don’t worry about it!”
Jesus is not advocating denying our need for food and shelter. But giving in to worry about it is neither useful nor godly.
Here are three things to know and three things to do when you wrestle with worry about material things.
Is it magic? Is it “mind over matter?” Does faith mean white-knuckling it with positive thoughts and affirmations? What do you do with negative realities such as ISIS, your spouse’s infidelity, or your doctor speaking the dreaded word “cancer”? Is positive thinking compatible with both reality and Christian faith?
That may seem a difficult question for some. There are preachers who teach that speaking (or even thinking) something negative will bring it to pass, and that the only Christian response is to exclusively think and speak positive things. And then there’s the positive thinking “movement,” where the message seems to be that if you visualize something good long enough and often enough it will come to pass.
Research is abundant that our thoughts and words do have enormous power.
Athletes, entrepreneurs, and others rely on positive thinking to achieve extraordinary results
The risk with these ideas is that they imply your mind can control anything. And that’s a distortion of the truth. There is truth here, but it’s not the whole truth.
The Stockdale Paradox may help put this into perspective. When faced with extraordinary challenges, it’s important to “Retain faith that you will prevail in the end regardless of the difficulties, and at the same time confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they may be.”
Our minds are powerful, but they are not all-powerful. But here’s the truth: