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Five Ways Peace with God Changes Our Lives

Adapted from Andy Farmer’s Real Peace: What We Long for and Where to Find It.

That peace is hard to find shouldn’t be a surprise. Peace is the elusive human goal. We want peace. Really, we need peace, because we’re alienated from the one source of true peace in the cosmos—our creator God. And peace has come through the intervention of God in his own self-sacrifice—a divine atonement—that resolves the enmity between us and God. What does it mean for me, and for you?

We all have a story. What I hope you see is that all of our stories ultimately lead to the question of whether we know the Prince of Peace. That is the key to every human story. Religious people, irreligious people, spiritual or secular, we all need peace with God. When we have peace with God, it changes our lives. Here are five ways how:

Peace with God . . .

  1. . . . gives us ENDURING CONFIDENCE that things are the way they are meant to be between us and God.
  2. . . . gives us an ACCESS TO GOD by the Spirit that enables us to experience true peace in every trial of life.
  3. . . . has given us a PERMANENT PLACE in his community of peace that will shape the way we do life in a strife-filled world.
  4. . . . CREATES A PASSION in our hearts for his mission of peace among people who are still at war with him.
  5. . . . provides ENDURING HOPE that the peace we experience in part now will be all we know in eternity.

 

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May 22, 2013 | Posted in: Books,Fear and Anxiety,Joy | Author: Ted Cockle @ 9:04 am | (3) Comments »

A Challenge from John Piper in the New Year

“If our single, all-embracing passion is to make much of Christ in life and death, and if the life that magnifies him most is the life of costly love, then life is risk, and risk is right. To run from it is to waste your life.” — John Piper, Risk is Right

Comfort is an oftentimes acceptable and encouraged idol, even in the lives of Christians.

While it is true that Jesus’s yoke is easy and his burden is light (Matt. 11:30), that does not mean that we’ve been promised our best life now. No, this is a life in which we have been promised difficulty if we choose to follow Christ (Luke 6:22-23; John 16:33; James 1:2-4; 1 Peter 4:12-14). But this life is not without hope, and it is not without joy. Sometimes, we need a faithful brother or sister in Christ to remind us of the brevity and purpose of this life, calling us to something greater than the elusive American Dream. In Risk is Right, John Piper is that faithful brother.

If you’re stuck in a rut and can’t remember the last “courageous” thing you’ve done for Christ, or are in a season of life where everything seems uncertain, or just need a good kick-start to start living intentionally in 2013, Piper is writing to you:

“Are you caught in the enchantment of security, paralyzed from taking any risks for the cause of God? Or have you been freed by the power of the Holy Spirit from the mirage of. . . safety and comfort? Do you men ever say with Joab, ‘For the sake of the name, I’ll try it! And may the Lord do what seems good to him’? Do you women ever say with Esther, ‘For the sake of Christ, I’ll try it! And if I perish, I perish’? . . . .

“On the far side of every risk—even if it results in death—the love of God triumphs. This is the faith that frees us to risk for the cause of God. It is not heroism, or lust for adventure, or courageous self-reliance, or efforts to earn God’s favor. It is childlike faith in the triumph of God’s love—that on the other side of all our risks, for the sake of righteousness, God will still be holding us. We will be eternally satisfied in him. Nothing will have been wasted.”

 

Gospel Healing VS. Self-Help

The prevalence of sexual assault and abuse is staggering. Authors Justin and Lindsey Holcomb have written a timely and much needed resource for the church today called Rid of My Disgrace. One important topic they hit on is the difference between self-help (unfortunately offered to many suffering in our culture at large) and gospel healing (the message we all need to be prepared to share with friends, family, and people in our congregations).

Tragically, positive self-statements “have more impact on people with low self-esteem than on people with high self-esteem, and the impact on people with low self-esteem is negative.” The consequences are that positive self-statements are likely to backfire and cause harm for the very people they are meant to benefit—people with low self-esteem.

This rejection of simplistic self-esteem enhancement methods is not because we want you to continue in self-loathing, but because something better exists. To experience healing and freedom, your identity must be established on the work of Christ, not on the foundation of the shame and self-hate that frequently results from assault. Making a transition from a “victim” identity to an identity in Christ is offered in God’s redemptive work through Jesus. You need to know God’s statements and images about who you are, not self-produced positive statements or the lies being told to you by your experience of disgrace. Confronting your distorted self-image and having your identity reconstructed is not a chore you do but is the fruit of having faith in the person and work of Jesus.

What victims need are not self-produced positive statements, but God’s statements about his response to their pain. How can you be rid of these dysfunctional emotions and their effects? How can you be rid of your disgrace? God’s grace to you dismantles the beliefs that give disgrace life. Grace re-creates what violence destroyed. Martin Luther writes that “the love of God does not find, but creates, that which is pleasing to it.”One-way love is the change agent you need. Grace transforms and heals; and healing comes by hearing God’s statements to you, not speaking your own statements to yourself.

What grace offers to the victim experiencing disgrace is the gift of refuting distortions and faulty thinking and replacing their condemning, counter-factual beliefs with more accurate ones that reflect the truths about God, yourself, and God’s grace-filled response to your disgrace. This is an important point to highlight. We are all powerless to heal ourselves. Research shows that self-help statements have been found to be ineffective and even harmful by making some people with low self-esteem feel even worse about themselves in the long term. As a matter of fact, positive self-statements frequently end up reinforcing and strengthening one’s original negative self-perception they were trying to change.

As we explore the effects caused by sexual assault and how grace can heal them, it is helpful to look at the prayer of Psalm 13. It is a request for God to deal with our sorrow, distress, and disgrace with his steadfast love, in the hope that we may rejoice in salvation:

How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I take counsel in my soul
and have sorrow in my heart all the day?
How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?
Consider and answer me, O Lord my God;
light up my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death,
lest my enemy say, “I have prevailed over him,”
lest my foes rejoice because I am shaken.
But I have trusted in your steadfast love;
my heart shall rejoice in your salvation.
I will sing to the Lord,
because he has dealt bountifully with me.

Excerpt from Rid of My Disgrace by Justin Holcomb and Lindsey Holcomb.

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Facing the Painful Side of Redemption


Which is more painful? To live without hope or to catch a glimpse of hope only to have it disappear? Often, this is our experience on the eve of redemption. Certainly, God is not a fickle redeemer. He is faithful. But if we expect redemption to be mainly about comfort, we may be disappointed when—at least for a season—it brings more pain.

Or you may have come to God with a life that was a mess with sin and were relieved to find that he accepts you in Christ, just as you are. But in time, you were confronted with the reality that some of those sins from your former life still had a powerful hold on you. Some new Christians at this point are so discouraged they question whether they were ever saved at all.

Or you may have found that after years of harboring the pain of abuse in secret, it’s time to talk about it. You may have to revisit some painful memories or confront someone who has harmed you. The battle to decide to speak out is pain unto itself, intensifying the pain of the original abuse. Maybe you’ve made your secrets known, and your confidants, rather than comforting and protecting you, have hurt you further by suggesting that you keep quiet or have even blamed you for stirring up trouble by digging up the past.

You may have developed various means of dealing with what’s been done to you—self-protection, hypersensitivity, catastrophizing to grab others’ attention, never trusting anyone or depending too much on their affirmation, getting even, withholding yourself from others, becoming the aggressor, or self-medicating with any number of substances or pleasures. In short, you may have constructed a comprehensive manner of life for surviving apart from God (Eph. 4:22).

In delivering you, God wants to show you that this manner of life, which may be all you’ve ever known, is actually death. He wants you to walk away. But walking away from the only life you’ve known can feel like death. This is all very risky. It may feel like it’s getting worse before it gets better.

The grip of sin does not loosen easily. Chances are that your sin has been some form of refuge for you, some means of comfort. But that comfort was merely bait on a hook, and now you’re being reeled in, you’re enslaved. In delivering us from sin, God breaks the chains of slavery and beckons us to freedom. But faithful obedience is very costly; he calls us to abandon everything we have clung to in our sin, and pulling out the hook of false comfort can be very painful.

We have been bound in darkness; in redemption, God calls us into his light. This can feel like coming out of a dark cave into a midday sun—our eyes may hurt at first as they adjust to the light. How can we be so sure we know what the picture of redemption should look like, when we’ve been so blind?

Excerpt from Redemption by Mike Wilkerson. Learn more or download a sample chapter.

Worship, Fears, & Idolatry

Albert Pinkham Ryder's oil painting on canvas of Jonah. Reprinted by permission of Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington DC / Art Resource, NY (ART256201)

Albert Pinkham Ryder's oil painting on canvas of Jonah. Reprinted by permission of Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington DC / Art Resource, NY (ART256201)

In Surprised by Grace, Tchividjian gets to the heart of worship, fear, and idolatry:

What you choose to attribute ultimate worth to—what you choose to worship—depends on what you fear the most. If you fear loneliness, you worship relationships. You depend on them to save you from a meaningless life. If you fear not being accepted or esteemed, you worship your social network, the way you look, the car you drive, or the amount of money you make. You depend on these things to validate your existence. If you fear insignificance, you end up worshiping your career or your accomplishments.

Behind everything you worship is some fear that, without this person or thing, you’d be lost. We’re all worshipers—but God is the only reliable object of worship because nothing and no one extends these things like God does in the person and work of Jesus Christ.

According to the Bible, anything we worship—other than God himself—is an idol. Idolatry is centering our attention and affection on something, or someone, smaller than God. In fact, most idols are good things in our lives that we turn into ultimate things, things that take God’s place as we unconsciously depend on them to give our lives meaning and security.

Idolatry is trying to build our identity around something besides God. And this is not just a problem for non-Christians; it’s a problem for Christians too. Christians also are guilty of trusting in things smaller than God to give their lives meaning and significance. So, let’s not make the mistake (like Jonah does here) of thinking that idolatry is only a non-Christian problem.

(Modified excerpt from Surprised by Grace pp 120-121)