By Barbara Rainey
Watching differences turn into divisions in our country over recent years has made me anxious. I wish I had an on-off switch for this constant malaise, this undertow, but alas I only have a dimmer.
I know enough of my Bible to know anxiety is not what God desires. Jesus taught in the Sermon on the Mount, “do not be anxious about your life …” (Matthew 6:25). Paul was equally clear, “do not be anxious about anything … (Philippians 4:6).
But how do I conquer anxiety when fractured relationships have been an unwelcome and painful part of my life? Walking on eggshells is not God’s desire for any one-on-one relationship or any national community. In our one imperfect family we have experienced sibling and extended family differences that became divisive. It’s a miserable, sad, lonely experience.
This topic is not theory to me.
My sister-in-law and her aging mother have a significant rift in their political views. They’ve learned to not talk about it. And that’s how most of us choose to deal with difficult topics or people or situations. Avoidance.
But not all disunity can be avoided. Divorced spouses must create a détente of some kind for their kids. Divorced family members sometimes do the same. Business and political difficulties are either successfully met head on, compromises discovered, or unpleasant consequences result.
This year the pandemic, racial tension, subsequent civil unrest, and coming election strife have combined to create a national and even global atmosphere of widespread deep anxiety. Wearing masks hasn’t helped us feel more closely connected either. And God has not magically solved any of these issues as I wish He would.
Yet, even as we all live in the middle of this instability, stability is possible because …
God is never idle.
He is always alert, engaged, intentional and listening.
He is always purposefully at work.
I’m not a prophet, so I will not speculate on what God might be doing or saying to the world or any one individual in this present turmoil. But I am a follower of Jesus. So I must ask Him about the anxiety I feel. About the divided walking-on-egg shell relationships I must pursue and not avoid.
God, what are You saying to me in these circumstances?
What do You, Jesus, want me to learn, to change?
How do I create détente and peace? Paul wrote, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone” (Romans 12:18).
Here is what He’s been saying to me about how He wants me to manage anxiety, pursue unity with others and trust Him more: (Printable version of this list at bottom of post)
His ways are not my ways. As Isaiah 55:8 says, “ … neither are your ways My ways, declares the Lord.”
His way is sovereign and slow. Eugene Peterson writes, “Our compulsive timetables collide with God’s leisurely providence.” I want the pandemic solved and the economy fixed so I can trust my world again. God wants me to trust Him in the middle of this present chaos.
His way is love. My way is to solve disunity by persuasion, convincing another, proving who is right. God is asking me if I’m willing to choose love for someone unlovable who is not willing to change? See Luke 6: 27-38. I’d rather walk away and live in a safe bubble. But I will follow Him in this discomfort.
God has been loving rebellious people since Eden. Millions are alive today benefitting from God’s amazing world and generous grace but who have no thoughts of Him. Romans 3:11 says, “no one seeks for God.”
If I am to be like Him, I must learn to love even those who reject my love, who refuse to admit wrong and be reconciled. It is the way of Jesus, who loved Judas even though He knew betrayal was coming … who was rejected by all as He went to the cross to purchase my life and yours even though we too did not seek Him first. I must ask Him to give me His love, to love through me, for I cannot love like He does on my own.
His desire is for my heart … more of it … all of it … fully His. God has called me and is calling me to be like Him. 1 Peter 1:16 tells us, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” Ephesians 5:1 says, “… be imitators of God.”
He knows I hurt and feel anxious. But as Eugene Peterson says, “God feels our pains but does not indulge our self-pity.” He knows self-pity is destructive. He reminds me to give thanks and trust Him while I wait for His working.
His longing is for unity among His children. It is mine too as a parent. Jesus prayed for this oneness before He was crucified in John 17 and David expressed the same longing in Psalm 133:1, “how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity!”
Unity, a dissolving of differences, the creation of oneness, is only possible when we surrender to Christ, and give up our tightly held positions of comfort and control. Tim Keller posted this statement on Facebook about his recent chemotherapy: “He is giving us more of His sensed presence, more freedom from our besetting sins, more dependence on His word—things that we had sought for years, but only under these circumstances are we finding them.” Might our world-wide sufferings of 2020 be His means of deliverance from besetting sins for us too?
A.W. Tozer wrote, “Has it ever occurred to you that one hundred pianos all tuned to the same fork are automatically tuned to each other? They are of one accord by being tuned, not to each other, but to another standard to which each one must individually bow. So one hundred worshipers met together, each one looking to Christ, are in heart nearer to each other than they could possibly be were they to become ‘unity’ conscious and turn their eyes away from God to strive for closer fellowship.”
Jesus Himself came to abolish “the dividing wall of hostility” … making peace … and reconciling us “to God in one body through the cross” (Ephesians 2:14-16).
The solution to all the divisions and disunity in our families, our nation, our world is surrender to His higher way. Each of us living “under God” will create families, communities, and a nation indivisible. And that surrender, resting under His authority, will erase our anxiety. I have experienced renewed hope for and peace in relationships as a result of surrendering to His ways over my ways.
What is God saying to you?
What work does He want to do in your heart and soul?
Will you join me in greater surrender to Christ? No matter how hard it is now, in the middle or in the days to come?
For more on this topic, be sure to read: