On Fear and Anxiety: Reading Around Jeremiah 29:11
For the last several weeks since we entered what my friend calls this "curious season" with the disruption of the entire world by the coronavirus and all that has followed, I began to work through a reading list of Scriptures concerning the twin topics of fear and anxiety. You can find the list (or journal if you prefer) at lovegreatly.com if you are interested. I almost passed when the site introduced the subject, a new six-week Scripture focus that provides no commentary, only God's word. I have prided myself on not being overly fearful and for having overcome anxiety as a way of life.
The problem with my self-evaluation was the word "prided." It is never prudent to consider oneself above fear and anxiety. In this world where safety and security are held with idol status, I needed reminders from the "words of life" that my lack of fear must grounded in the truth. As the reading list began, I was challenged to trust God in new ways in a world turned upside down.
My plan is to share some of my reflections over the coming days as a way to encourage you to consider your own battles with fear and anxiety. If you can add to my thoughts then please add them to the comments so I can benefit from your insights and others can as well.
Fear of the Future
Meditation: Jeremiah 29:11
(also Romans 8:28, Revelation 1:17-18)
“For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for welfare and not calamity to give you a future and a hope.”
There is always a bigger narrative overarching the smaller stories we live. I call it the Big Story. The Big Story began long before we entered into it with our smaller stories. The Big Story takes in everything ---what is seemingly inconsequential as well as the hard things God is working out for the good of those who love Him. The Big Story is moving all of Creation to the end of the story where the final redemption of all things will be completed.
Someday the Big Story will end with the beginning of a New Story.
The Bible says God knows the end from the beginning. He never fears the future. He’s already been there. Jesus is the Alpha and Omega, the first and last. Every story includes Him as the main character since He is the One around whom all the stories revolve.
As I read the verses around the familiar and oft quoted verse in Jeremiah 29, I came upon this instruction in Jeremiah 29:7:
“Seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will have welfare.”
The people who received this instruction were living in exile. God's instructed them to pray for those who held them captive. They were also to ask the Lord's favor for the city they did not consider home. What a challenge when circumstances---calamity---comes and we are confronted with the instruction to pray for blessings on those who make our lives difficult, when we are caught in circumstances bigger than we are.
Today, I'm focusing my prayers toward those making decisions for life to resume as we are released from the restraints of the pandemic and its demand to “Stay Home.” I'm praying for the welfare of all our leaders, the ones I voted for and the ones I didn't. I pray they all will have wisdom to consider the welfare of others.
Life often offers the opportunity to do the opposite of what comes natural. It takes intention and God-given instruction for us to do otherwise. Our first inclination is to want a way of escape. We don’t want to accept what is. We want what we call “normal.” We aren’t that interested in praying for those holding us captive.
We must fight through anger and fear before we can submit to this principle God laid out to Jeremiah. We must trust in the eternal nature of God; trust his control over future outcomes, (which to our dismay, doesn’t necessarily consider our comfort); and, we must believe that the plan at the moment is not the end of the story. No matter the present circumstances those who have trusted Jesus find their future is secure in the unshakeable Kingdom of God.
Lord, I pray for our leaders today as they seek to pull us out of our “exile.” I ask you to give them wisdom to know what the plan should be. Give me peace to endure with a heart of trust. Help me to set new rhythms that focus on eternal matters more than present discomfort. Help me to trust you with the future, the one that seems to teeter on the brink of disaster as well as the one that is totally secure and anchored in Hope---His name is Jesus.