With the constant stream of crisis after crisis, it’s no wonder we are seeing mass fear and stress pervade our society. Combining this reality with the West’s movement away from faith and dependence on God, the consequences are becoming plain to see.
Drug overdoses have reached new record highs as people turn to substances for an escape, and an epidemic of loneliness and isolation has only increased as a result of COVID-19’s impact on our world. Stress and anxiety have become the norm.
What about you?
Are you overwhelmed by anxiety?
Two words of encouragement to the stressed and anxious
First, you don’t need to be ashamed.
Scripture is filled with stories of great heroes of our faith wrestling with fear and doubt:
- God’s call to Joshua was to “be strong and courageous,” which likely was an encouragement he needed in the shadow of the walls of Jericho.
- The disciples were also frequently afraid, whether it be from storms (Matthew 8:25), the Jewish leaders (John 20:19), or even of being associated with Jesus (Matthew 26:74).
Yet Jesus continually demonstrated his love, compassion, and peace to everyone who needed it (John 14:27).
He desires to do the same for you.
Secondly, the world may have trouble, but our hope is not found in this world (1 Corinthians 15:19).
Instability creates anxiety, so it’s critical that we place our hope in a kingdom that will never fail (Daniel 7:14). The reality is that the future of Ukraine is not promised. The future of Russia is not promised. The future of the United States is not promised.
Yet God has promised that even though the kingdoms of this world may rise and fall, the kingdom of God will last for all eternity.
Will you place your hope in his kingdom today?
Who is truly blessed?
If you’re enduring low-level anxiety or a pervasive sense of stress, pause to consider the difference between the stress-inducing way of our culture and the burden-lifting way of our King.
A few weeks ago, I was reminded of our culture’s impact in my own life as I was preparing a teaching on Matthew 5, which includes a famous section of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount called the Beatitudes.
I had a moment of curiosity as I prepared where I began to wonder what would happen if the message of this passage was turned upside down.
I experimented by trying to write down the opposite of what Jesus called “blessed.” What I came up with caused me to pause because this new and upside-down version felt earily similar to the reigning values of our culture today.
Blessed are the self-sufficient,
for they will climb the ladder of success.
Blessed are those with thick skin and no regrets,
for they won’t appear weak, needy, or dependent on anyone.
Blessed are the bold,
for they will conquer any challenge, no matter who or what is in their way.
Blessed are those live by their own personal truth,
for they will never have to be corrected or change their mind.
Blessed are those who judge and cancel others,
for they will always feel morally and intellectually superior.
Blessed are the carnal in heart,
for they won’t need God.
Blessed are the fighters,
for they will tear down anyone who disagrees with them.
Blessed are those who are praised, celebrated, and honored by many,
for they have reached the pinnacle of success.
Blessed are you when people love you, envy you, and follow all of your social media accounts. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in this life, for in the same way they celebrated all the other important people who were before you.
What kingdom defines your life?
There is no doubt that the values of our culture vary dramatically from the values of the culture of the kingdom of God. The world will continue to tell us that blessing is found in our strength and our success, yet Jesus tells a different story.
The question remains for us: Which values will we live by?
Which beatitudes will we choose to define our own lives by?
Let us today, prayerfully and humbly, ask the Lord to help us shine brightly in a world that desperately needs the peace and blessing that only God can provide.