Hope For Anxious Hearts

My first 2 years as a Christian I was a ball of anxiety.

Every morning I awoke with a knot in my stomach and an invisible hand on my throat.  All day long I’d suck in shallow quivering breaths and exhale, trying to relax.  I was stuck in a job from Gehenna, clueless as to my future, my finances were a train wreck, and I was about as organized as an anthill after being blown up by an M-80.

I’d forget to do important things, like pay my taxes,  maintain my car.  One bitter January night I cracked the engine block on my first car, a blue Plymouth Fury.  For some reason I had thought I could substitute water for antifreeze.  So when I cranked up Ol’ Blue that night, I couldn’t understand why smoke began billowing out from under the hood.

I pleaded with Jesus regularly for peace, but was still anxious.  Then one day he gave me a picture of a tangled, knotted ball of yarn and spoke to my heart, “Mark, your life is like that ball of yarn.  You’ve messed it up, but I will sort it out, strand by strand, day by day, and eventually you will have my peace.”

You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you (IS 26.3).

God would sort it out. My job was to keep my mind stayed on him – on his character and promises in Scripture.  As I did this, mustering whatever faith I could, he’d provide peace.

Our circumstances scream things like, “You have no resources, no hope of a job! You’ll never marry.  Your teenager will never accept the Lord.  You’re doomed!”  If we keep our minds stayed on our circumstances, we’ll never find peace.

When life’s breakers threaten to swamp us, we must grab our minds by the scruff of the neck, make them look up and insist, “Behold your God: sovereign, faithful and loving!  Somehow he will provide for me, because he’s promised to meet all my needs according to his riches in Christ!”

When I began to do this, I started tasting God’s peace little by little, drop by drop, sip by sip.  Eventually the anxiety evaporated.

As my little boat continues to sail through the squalls of life, I still must anchor my mind on Christ, trusting him for my children, my church, and myself.  As I do he calms my heart.  Even when my cars blow up.  I really should start reading the manuals…

photo by today is a good day

  • http://finfamclassical.blogspot.com Chris

    Amen, Mark! I often ponder the fact that fixing our eyes on Christ is not rocket science, yet we have such a difficult time with simple obedience! Thank you for this excellent reminder.

  • http://reicheru.wordpress.com Rachael

    Thank you for this ~ I like the ball of yarn analogy. I can have anxieties about tiny things, and I can procrastinate from things and have those resting unpleasantly in the back of my mind. The yarn thing could apply to the latter if I dealt with one by one.

  • Wendy

    Very encouraging! I love the image of grabbing our soul/mind and giving it a good shake. Our pastor used this picture as we were singing a song that said “Arise my soul arise, shake off thy guilty fears”- Sometimes I begin to fear and doubt God’s provision. But I need to grab my soul and give it a good shake and preach scripture to it.
    Thanks for another great post!

  • http://www.worshipfulreader.blogspot.com Ron Reffett

    Hey Mark,
    Thank you for this today, I really needed it!! For some reason as of late, things have been so seemingly out of control. Starting last week, my wife fell and sprained her ankle, a friend showed up on our doorstep in a major crisis and our hot water tank blew up! all of that within a weeks time. I have a tendency to sway to the anxious side of things, very easily. As you said in your post I need to grab my mind by the scruff of the neck and as Jerry Bridges says, preach the gospel to myself. Even though the breakers seem larger than life and the circumstances seem like they will never be in your favor, the most important thing to remember in those times is that we are loved so much more than we could ever imagine and these light and momentary afflictions are being used in God’s ever capable hands to make us more like His Son.
    Thanks again for yet another encouraging word!
    Blessings
    Ron Reffett

  • Tom

    Just reading the title made me chuckle at another really apt word/thought!

    THANK YOU so much! (And thank You God!)

    I’ve had a relatively ‘tough’ couple of years – a season of being refined and going ‘through the valley’, and am seemingly coming to a new season, yet a period of lots of changes – including moving in with a couple from my church, leaving my job/trying to get a job/some direction/a vision/adventure, and with thoughts of wanting to get married but it not seeming likely, and probably some other things (all probably too much thinking from a 23 year old)…. lets just say things have been a bit interesting recently.

    But God is good, and keeps reminding me to look to Him, to find my hope in Him, to trust in Him, to remember the Gospel, etc.

    Your post is a great, and very apt, reminder to keep trusting in the God who is with me, who is my God, who will strengthen and help me and uphold me with His righteous right hand (Good ol’ Isaiah 41:10).

    Just reminded as well of two of my favourite hymns – “When peace like a river attendeth my way…It is well, it is well, with my soul!”, “My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus blood and righteousness…On Christ the Solid Rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand…”

    Anyway, I have rambled enough.
    Short version of my message: THANK YOU! :-)

  • Tom

    Haha….apologies for the long message I wrote. Didn’t mean to blab!

    My post also should have read “remind myself daily of the gospel…” not “Remember…” – of course I remember it! ;-)

  • http://www.theblazingcenter.com Mark Altrogge

    Hi Chris,

    You’re so right – it’s not rocket science. Thanks!

    Hi Rachael,

    Yep, one thing at a time. Thanks for your comment.

    Hey Wendy,

    I love that song too…Arise my soul arise, shake off thy guilty fears. Sometimes we need to talk sternly to ourselves! Thanks!

    You’re so right, Ron!

    We are loved more than we can imagine, and all our momentary light afflictions are producing an eternal weight of glory. Appreciate your comments!

    Hey Tom,

    Feel free to ramble! I appreciate your comments. Sounds like you’re in a stage a lot like I was around your age. And it also sounds like you are doing a great job of trusting the Lord, as challenging as it is. The Lord is going to provide for you Tom, as you continue to trust him. 5 years from now you will look back and be amazed at all he does for you.

  • Tom

    Thank you for the follow-up comments and the encouraging words!

    It’s a great help to have men and women of faith who have “gone before us” and lived through similar circumstances and situations that we are currently going through, and can testify to God’s faithfulness in those times. I really appreciate you, Mark, taking the time to write these posts and even follow up to the comments posted. :-)

  • http://www.asacrificeofpraise.wordpress.com emily

    Mark, thank you yet again. I’m sitting here in tears thankful that /od doesn’t see my tangled ball of yarn and just give up on me. When I took my car to the shop a few weeks ago I realized that I hadn’t changed or checked my oil in about 6 months. Yikes. I can relate to forgetting things. I am finding so much comfort in knowing that God has promised to keep me in perfect peace as I’m learning to focus my heart on him, not my circumstances. Thanks for the reminder. I needed this tonight.

  • http://www.theblazingcenter.com Mark Altrogge

    Hey Tom,

    You’re welcome. I’m grateful that the Lord would use our peewee efforts to encourage you. I’m grateful you take the time to read our posts and comment, too!

    You’re welcome, Emily!

    I’m glad to hear of another person who can forget to check the oil! God will never give up on you! He’s never given up on me….isn’t God good?

  • http://www.asacrificeofpraise.wordpress.com emily

    Mark, yeah, He is! I actually blew the engine on my first car because I didn’t regularly check the oil and it had a leak. Oops. I thought I had learned my lesson! Thankfully though, my current car was okay though it was beginning to struggle a bit!

  • beth

    …i still haven’t changed my oil yet.
    guess i should go do that…
    love you

  • http://www.theblazingcenter.com Mark Altrogge

    Hey Emily,

    I ruined a Eurovan engine a couple years ago by not using high octane gas, despite the manual saying to….. I’m really slow to learn the lessons.

    Bethi……………………….. yeah, I think you might want to do that too. Do it for Dad! Love you too, honey!