I've heard this said, haven't you?
There are 365 commands, exhortations, instructions in Scripture along these lines:
Be anxious for nothing.
Don't be afraid.
Fear not, for I am with you.
An admonition a day keeps the anxiety away, right?
God's told us, and we just have to obey!
Spoiler alert. Quoting a bunch of verses has not worked well for me, so far.
Part of the problem is just me: anxiety is one of my few well-honed skill-sets.
I'm so good at anxiety, in fact, that I can get anxious about trying to follow the "don't be anxious" commands.
It all spins into a nightmare of "I'm anxious! I can't stop being anxious! I'm a sinner! God's upset with me for being a sinner!"
Then I'm anxious about whatever I started with, plus the whole sinner thing.
Such is my expertise. Impressive, I know.
As Westley says in The Princess Bride, "Truly, you have a dizzying intellect."
Another part of the problem with "it's just sin, stop it" is that I know anxiety can be a chemical imbalance.
Sometimes "be anxious for nothing" works a lot better with some Zoloft on board, and sometimes all the quoting of verses just keeps people from help a lot longer.
So what is the way off the crazy train here?
Slowly, over time, I've come to believe that God's instructions are not intended to shame and to scold, but rather to guide and comfort and heal.
Instead of "anxiety is sin, stop sinning," here's how I'm thinking it works. (With the Zoloft, if you need it.)
The world is broken. God knows this. He was there when it happened.
Every single day in this broken world, millions of things will go wrong. The brokenness will slice at us in ways we never knew possible. And every time that happens, it's going to hurt. We'll get cut and we'll bleed. Many of us will panic just a tad when that happens.
God knows all of that, too.
(I love the verse that says "He knows we are dust." I am all for setting the bar low.)
I think maybe because God knows we are dust, He knows what's going to happen, He knows how that's going to throw us for a loop, THAT'S why there's a verse every day that says, "This is bad. This is scary. I understand that. I will never leave you alone. Fear not, for I am with you."
Those 365 verses are NOT because God is cosmically shocked and alarmed at my anxiety every single day, and wants to smack me down for sinning like this all the time.
All those verses are there because He knows what's going to happen: fear, anxiety, afraid-ness. Every blessed day of every blessed year.
He knows what's going to happen.
He knows it's going to happen a lot.
And He's ready to help: "Fear not."
"Fear not" is the hand that holds mine in the dark: "It's okay. I'm still here."
"Fear not" is an invitation to rest, to comfort, to healing, to hope.
"Fear not" reminds me that redemption still works.
It worked in the past on the old stuff, and it still works today on the new stuff, in ways I'm completely incapable of seeing or knowing right now. But God knows. Fear not.
"Fear not" is not about my sin.
"Fear not" is about the Love. And exactly how much I can trust it.