Putting Anxiety in its Place

May 16, 2014 § 2 Comments

As my own anxieties are uncovered lately, I’ve been trying to uncover what really makes me worry, aside from the circumstances of life that at times can seem very heavy. What exactly puts me in a position where I feel I must worry about them? This thinking has resulted in the discovery that, for me, my thinking informs and dictates my emotional response to life’s trials.

Chewed Pencil with path

There’s a lot to be said about the important roles of both your head and your heart and the connection between the two. But what has really helped me is the understanding that what I feel ultimately comes from what I think, so what I think about a situation critically determines whether I will worry about it or not.

Living as a Christian, I have a responsibility to think differently about anxiety than the world does. The world shares certain Biblical principals about anxiety, such as the wisdom of Jesus in Matthew 6:25/Luke 12:25, asking, “who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life?” In a practical sense, worrying never helps anything, and most people can get their minds around this.

But what the world does not readily consider is the role of God Himself plays in our anxiety. We have promises in Scripture that speak directly to our worries: The Psalmist wrote “Cast your cares on the Lord and He will sustain you…” (Psalm 55:22), and Peter later taught believers to Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:7)

Considering that God wants us to trust Him with our anxieties, I have to humbly consider that my anxious self is not giving Him my trust. Maybe it’s because I don’t feel His presence at times. And if I don’t “feel” God, I need to examine how I “think” about Him. He hasn’t gone away and I know this. If I get my thinking right, I can let what I know about God’s control over this world direct how I feel about my control over the world. If we know God is there and cares about us, that should steer our emotions. If our mind is preoccupied with God and less on our own problems, our attention will be on God and how He promises to deal with our problems.

That’s what we can know about God, but what can we know about our anxieties?  “In this world you will have trouble, but take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33) Jesus promises we will have trouble in this world, but thank God, they are isolated and temporary. We only deal with them “in this world,” a natural world reeling from the corruptive effects of Adam’s sin, effects that are both physical and mental. There will be no trouble in the next world for those who claim Christ as Lord, so take heart. God is bigger than whatever you are facing. Our anxieties will not win; they lie in defeat at the foot of the cross. “Our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.” (See the rest of 2 Corinthians 4).

Garden_called_Gethsemane_Wallpaper_gs7a2We don’t ignore our problems, but can look at them through God’s eternal lens. This doesn’t mean we completely detach our emotions from responding to the present reality of trouble. God doesn’t even appear to do that. The man Jesus knew anxiety, revealed in His appeal to the Father in the Garden of Gethsemane on the eve of His crucifixion: “’Father, if You are willing, take this cup from Me; yet not My will, but Yours be done.’ An angel from heaven appeared to Him and strengthened Him. And being in anguish, He prayed more earnestly, and His sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.” (Luke 22:42-44)

Sweat blood lately? The stress Jesus felt was real, but even more real was the knowledge that His Father’s will in saving us from all that is wrong in the world must be done. His anguish and death would, after all, make life and peace available to us all.

Everyone’s anxieties are different, and getting to the right understanding of our worries in light of God’s sovereignty won’t look the same for everyone. For many, medication and counseling are necessary steps. The destination, ultimately, is our right thinking about God and His control, which determines whether anxiety will control us. The culture we live in often confuses thinking with feeling, but we need to be clear about the distinction, and that what we know ultimately guides how we feel. And know the truth: Whatever our circumstances, God knows, God cares, and God rules. That should help us put our burdens in their rightful place, on His shoulders—not ours.

(Related post: Whoa, Feelings! Are We Losing Our Minds Over Emotion?)

 

How Could Adam and Eve Sin Before ‘Knowing Good and Evil’?

September 25, 2012 § 28 Comments

Genesis 3 says that Adam and Eve didn’t know good and evil before they sinned. How could they be held morally responsible for sin without the knowledge of good and evil?

The text in question is from Genesis 3:22, where, following Adam and Eve’s sin in the Garden of Eden, “the Lord God said, ‘The man has now become like one of Us, knowing good and evil.’” (NIV)

The Hebrew term for “knowing” in this verse (also in verse 5) is not unique to this passage or chapter; it’s the same word “yada” used elsewhere, some 960 times in the Hebrew scriptures. “Yada” can mean to learn, to perceive, to discern, to distinguish, to know by experience, to recognize, to consider, to be acquainted with, and other fairly ordinary definitions of the word listed in Hebrew lexicons (Strong’s #3045). But, there is no particular sense of “knowing” indicated in Genesis 3.

So what meaning of “knowing” is intended? I think the definition “to know by experience” best fits this usage of “knowing”. Imagine what life would have been like for Adam and Eve. At the end of the description for each day of creation, God’s calls His creation “good” or “very good.” (Gen. 1:4,10,12,18,25,31) Adam and Eve knew the “good” that God had made for them, but they would probably not have had the mindset to identify it as good. God knew good and evil; Adam and Eve knew only good, because they had experienced only good. For Adam and Eve to say “all that God has made is good” might mean they would have to understand a distinction between good and evil. They had witnessed or practiced nothing with which to contrast good. Before their own sin, no evil had been known to them in the experiential sense.

Does this mean they didn’t know right from wrong before they sinned? I don’t think so. God tells Adam in Genesis 2:16-17: “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.” God’s command no doubt informed Adam that there was a specific standard and that a deviation from the standard was possible. He would have been innately aware of God’s moral law, being created in His image, but here he received a specific moral directive. He was also taught about the presence of something called “the tree of knowledge of good and evil.” Adam may have inferred the existence of “evil” as 1) something that was tantamount to deviation from God’s law or directive, and 2) something he was to avoid knowledge about. (Related: Good Ignorance: Handling the Knowledge of Evil)

From that deduction, Adam would have known of evil only as a vague concept, or a theory. Similarly, the consequence God warned Adam about—“you will certainly die”— for disobedience wouldn’t have been fully understood without experiencing death in any of God’s creatures. But he would have perhaps recognized it as a potential ending to what God had provided, a consequence Adam naturally would want to avoid.

I suppose before the fall Adam would have knowledge of evil as someone like myself has knowledge of the President. Do I know the President? Well, I know who he is, and I know about him, but I don’t know him personally. If I met the President, I would know him in a very different sense than simply having heard of him or read about him. When Eve and then Adam in turn disobeyed God’s command, they came to know sin first hand. They had experiential knowledge of both good and evil.

I think it’s fitting and nothing approaching revisionism to say that Adam and Eve knew good because it was all they truly knew, and that they knew only of the potential of evil at Creation, but came to know evil by experience when “their eyes were opened” (Gen. 3:7) following their acts of disobedience to God.

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