Friday, September 11, 2009

Respectable Sins - Anxiety & Frustration (Ch 8)

Respectable Sins, Jerry Bridges

Chapter 8 - Anxiety and Frustration

In this chapter Bridges addresses both anxiety and frustration.

Bridges states that anxiety is sin for two reasons:

1. It is a distrust of God. "If I give way to anxiety, I am, in effect, believing that God does not care for me and that He will not take care of me in the particular circumstance that triggers my anxiety of the moment" (p64)

2. It is a lack of acceptance of God's providence in our lives, "we tend to focus on the immediate causes of our anxiety rather than remembering that those immediate causes are under the sovereign control of God." (p64)

He says that we should pray about the situations that cause us anxiety:
it is appropriate to pray for relief and for deliverance from whatever circumstance is triggering our anxiety, but we should always do so with an attitude of acceptance of whatever God's providential will may be and a confidence that, whatever the outcome, God's will is better than our plans or desires (p67)

Bridges briefly looks at worry as well, categorising "worry with more long-term difficult or painful circumstances for which there appear to be no resolution" (p67). His method is still the same though, trust in God and his providential care.

His treatment of frustration is similarly brief, "frustration usually involves being upset or even angry and whatever or whoever is blocking our plans" (p69).

I must say I found this chapter a little too simplistic. Most of the examples in it (eg. planes running late and computers not printing) were a little trite and they downplayed the serious worries, anxieties and frustrations that some people face (although he did refer to one serious type of worry - the long-term care of disabled children).

He finished the chapter with this:
Both anxiety and frustration are sins. They are not to be taken lightly or brushed off as common reactions we have to difficult events in a fallen world. Can you picture Jesus ever being anxious or frustrated? And whatever in our lives is not like Jesus is sin. (p70)
As I read this, I thought - yes, I think they are situations where we see Jesus anxious or frustrated. Surely in the garden of Gethsemane, where Jesus prayed 'for this cup to be taken from me', there is anxiety about what he know he is about to face. He does rely on God's will ('yet not my will, but yours') - however, he was certainly intensely troubled about what he was about to face. (interestingly Bridges did refer to this and Jesus' being anxious on p67, so in some ways has contradicted himself anyway). And there are times when Jesus seems frustrated at people's lack of faith or understanding (Luke 9:41 "O unbelieving and perverse generation,"Jesus replied, "how long shall I stay with you and put up with you?").

I guess in the end what matters is our response to things, and mostly our responses of anxiety and frustration are because we are not in control of everything and we would really prefer to be so. Even if I found the chapter a little simplistic, I don't think Bridges is giving a simplistic solution. He is right in saying that in all areas of our lives, we must turn to God in prayer and through his word and be willing to let him work according to his will.

And for those of us for whom anxiety is a prominent feature of our personality (and it certainly can be mine), I think it is helpful to ask ourselves why we are anxious: Is it because we want to be in control? Do we not really trust God and his will? Why not? We don't want to be too simple in a statement of "Let go and let God", however for many of us who struggle with anxiety, we probably need to go further towards that sentiment than we have been previously willing to do so.

Some bible verses to remember:
Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. (1 Peter 5:7) *

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. (Phil 4:6) *

So do not worry, saying, `What shall we eat?' or `What shall we drink?' or `What shall we wear?' 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. (Matthew 6:31-34)

Some things to think about:
1. What causes anxiety and/or frustration for you?
2. Will you pray to God about these things and allow him to work them out according to his will?
3. Can you trust him enough to do so? What prevents you from trusting God?

On Monday: Chapter 9 - Discontentment.

Later note:
Please look here to see some further notes regarding anxiety made after this post.

* these will be the two I will try to learn from this chapter

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