Thought for the Week - 14th October

Vanda Hopkin

Jeremiah 17: 5-13

Thus says the Lord:

“Cursed is the man who trusts in man
And makes flesh his strength,
Whose heart departs from the Lord.
6 For he shall be like a shrub in the desert,
And shall not see when good comes,
But shall inhabit the parched places in the wilderness,
In a salt land which is not inhabited.

7 “Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord,
And whose hope is the Lord.
8 For he shall be like a tree planted by the waters,
Which spreads out its roots by the river,
And will not fear when heat comes;
But its leaf will be green,
And will not be anxious in the year of drought,
Nor will cease from yielding fruit.

9 “The heart is deceitful above all things,
And desperately wicked;
Who can know it?
10 I, the Lord, search the heart,
I test the mind,
Even to give every man according to his ways,
According to the fruit of his doings.

11 “As a partridge that broods but does not hatch,
So is he who gets riches, but not by right;
It will leave him in the midst of his days,
And at his end he will be a fool.”

12 A glorious high throne from the beginning
Is the place of our sanctuary.
13 O Lord, the hope of Israel,
All who forsake You shall be ashamed.

Last week was Mental Health week. There was a lot in the media to bring to the forefront and take away the stigma of mental health issues.

As Christians, we can’t pretend that mental health problems doesn’t affect the church or Christians, because it does. There’s still an awful lot of stigma attached to mental health within the church at large. And while the world at large isn’t ashamed or afraid to talk about mental health problems, within the church it can still be something that we can be a little afraid to say and talk about. I remember someone telling me years ago that “Christians shouldn’t suffer from depression”. We know that Christians were never ever meant to suffer with mental health issues, but the fact is that Christians do.

More than a third of the population suffer with anxiety and worry. It’s become more of an epidemic in the UK than depression. Anxiety is on the increase for the world. So, because of that, it will also be on the increase for those within the church.

There’s all sort of reasons why people suffer with anxiety. It may be because their parents were anxious people and that has extended to them. It could be trauma as a child or an adult. It could be current problems that surround them, finances etc. It can get a grip so much within a person’s life that it can become debilitating.

Some anxiety and worry are natural. There are natural and normal worries, but I’m not referring to them. There is a time where it becomes debilitating. Where it grips us so much where we can no longer live a normal life, and we don’t have that life in abundance that God calls us to live in. It’s the devil’s hoof print. When Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden of Eden, all of nature went wrong. This is one of the things – mental health issues – that we would still be feeling after that.

What is it like to be suffering from anxiety? It’s like a noose around your neck. It tightens and tightens, and worries get worse and worse. A small, natural thing becomes a massive, massive issue in your mind. It tightens your arteries and parts of your body. You’re worried and tired. You can’t concentrate. You can’t sleep, you’re irritable. You have palpitation, sweats, and are trembling.

It gets a grip, and suddenly what was a good life that God has meant for each of us to have is not that at all. The wonderful thing is that we don’t have to live like that as Christians!

Corrie Ten Boom talks about worry. She said:

“Worry is like a rocking chair. It keeps you moving, but it doesn’t get you anywhere”

“Worry doesn’t empty tomorrow of sorrow, it empties today of our strength”

We worry and worry and worry. It keeps us awake at night. It keeps us from concentrating in the day. You can see in a person’s face and in their ways. They constantly worry about things that may happen or not. Suddenly, it’s emptied them of all strength and they’re fit for nothing. It takes away the personality of a person. It takes away the joy that God has meant us to have. It takes away the present because we’re worrying about the future. It takes away the future because suddenly we can’t do anything about it because we’ve worried ourselves senseless.

Anxiety and worry has been around since the beginning of time. Since Adam and Eve, through the Old Testament and New Testament. We can’t put on a brave face and pretend it’s not there. Very few people have not been touched at one point in their lives from this.

In Matthew 6: 25-32 we read:

25 “Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life,
what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body,
what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing?
26 Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?
27 Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature?
28 “So why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field,
how they grow: they neither toil nor spin;
29 and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory
was not arrayed like one of these.
30 Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is,
and tomorrow is thrown into the oven,
will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?
31 “Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’
or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’
32 For after all these things the Gentiles seek.
For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things.

This is God is saying to us not to worry. He’s saying to look at the birds, who He feeds and clothes. He tells us not to worry, as He will do that for us too.

People often look at these verses and claim them. But it’s not only these verses. We have to look at the verses that come before and after. There are times for us to be honest with God. There are times for us to go to Him and say “Lord, I need you to sort out this worry for me. I need you to take this away”. But this is a dual partnership. God doesn’t do what we can do. And we can’t do what only God can do.

The first step is for us to come to God and be honest to Him, and others if we need to, and say “I am a worrier. I am full of anxiety”. Let God show you. Be open to Him. Ask Him to show you your worries. We put on a mask because we want people to think we’re good, strong Christians. We have to be able to come to God to ask what is in our lives that is causing us to worry.

Often it’s the fear of something rather than the something itself is the thing that grips us. It’s a trick of the enemy. It’s a lie of the enemy. He binds us tightly so we cannot enjoy living here and now.

We hear a lot about mindfulness these days. It’s a very big thing at the moment. Thinking about here and now. It’s recognised by mental health experts. People are thinking and worrying about the future, and aren’t focussed on now. These new ideas, ways of coping, and new self-help methods have all been in the bible for 2000 years! These are not new things.

These are scriptural things that God talks to us about. He’s saying Christ Himself said:

“do not worry about your life”

“do not worry about tomorrow”.

He will look after us. But we also need to pay attention to what He says either side of these promises. In Matthew 6: 24 we read:

24 “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other,
or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other.

You cannot serve God and mammon.

Afterwards, in Matthew 6: 33-34 we read:

33 But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness,
and all these things shall be added to you.
34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow,
for tomorrow will worry about its own things.
Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.

God is saying that if we’re rooted and grounded in Him, and we’re walking on with Him in obedience, and loving Him and praising Him, we don’t have to worry about the future. He has us in His hands. Has He ever let you down up until now? No. Then do we worry that He’s going to let us down in the future?

I read something yesterday that really spoke to me. The person had written whether we worry about today, the future and all the material things? Yes we do. The person went to ask if we worry that God hasn’t got a place for us in heaven. As Christians, do we ever doubt that there is a place for us in heaven? We don’t. We never query that. But we query and worry about the things now. How many sleepless nights have you had worrying that you’ll get to heaven and God will say He doesn’t have a place for you. None, without exception. But we worry about earthly things, of things that really have no consequence. Yes, we have to eat and have money, but we don’t have to have the £38 million pound tiara that Eugenie wore in her wedding. We’ll have our jewels in heaven!

God says don’t worry. He will look after us. He will care for us. He will take us through. Providing we’re seeking first the kingdom of God.

In Philippians 4: 6-7 we read:

6 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication,
with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God;
7 and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding,
will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

Pray and ask God for what you need. He will give it to us. He will guard our hearts and minds. Worry, anxiety and all these things come from our hearts. They start in our heart and go on to our minds, and then into our bodies.

In the verse before we read:

4 Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice!

He wants us to make Him our centre. He wants us to praise and worship Him. Afterwards, we read:

8 Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble,
whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely,
whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue
and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.

He wants us to be content. There’s no need for us to be worried. We don’t need to worry about earthly things. We might want these earthly things but we don’t need them. He asks us to learn to be content with what He has given us. Contentment is a wonderful thing! The world doesn’t know anything about it. Everyone wants more, bigger or better. God doesn’t intend us to live like that. Be content with how you are. Be content with what He’s given.

A lot of anxiety can come from not being content, because we want so much else. We want things that God never intended us to have.

In 1 Peter 5: 7 we read:

…casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.

We can cast all our cares on Him. There’s not a care in the world that we cannot cast on Him. And He answers. He knows our frail and weak hearts. He doesn’t come to us asking “what do you want that for? Why are you being silly?”. He says for us to come because He knows who we are. He knows the reasons why. He will take us and hold our hand. He will cleanse every single part of us that needs cleansing. He will heal every single part of us that needs healing.

But we have to cast our cares upon Him. We were never meant to be carrying all our cares. It’s a load that we carry on our back like a backpack, and it pushes us lower and lower. He wants us to trust in Him. He died for this. He didn’t dies for us to carry this on our own. He died so He could carry it for us.

He asks us to humble ourselves under the almighty hand of God (verse 6). We need to be humble. Humble, and come before Him. Come before Him with our cares, with our worries, with our anxieties.

There is a help and there is a hope, and a future for us that He has. In Jeremiah 29: 11 we read:

11 For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord,
thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.

When we look back at those verses in Jeremiah 17:

7 “Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord,
And whose hope is the Lord.
8 For he shall be like a tree planted by the waters,
Which spreads out its roots by the river,
And will not fear when heat comes;
But its leaf will be green,
And will not be anxious in the year of drought,
Nor will cease from yielding fruit.

If we are not trusting in God, and if we’re not like those trees planted by the river, then we’ll get dry very quickly. What happens to a dry tree? You can see the leaves start to go brown, curl up and fall off. That’s how we were never meant to be. We were meant to live in the light, out of the darkness.

The enemy is a cruel master. The sooner we see him in this better. The sooner we see him trying to strangle our lives – the life that God has for us, the life that Christ came to give us, the life that Christ died on Calvary’s tree that we can have.

We can live a life of freedom and joy, with none of those bands around our necks, our limbs and our heads. All the anxiety headaches can go. All the shaking and the fear can go. Perfect love casts out fear (1 John 14: 8). We have nothing to fear. We need not be afraid of people, anxious about what others might say, or how others might react.

We were meant to be bold creatures of God! We were meant to be strong creatures of God! We were meant to be creatures knowing that we have a hope and a future, and God is on our side! When we are living in fear and anxiety, we are saying “I don’t trust you God”. We are saying to Him that He’s looking after everyone else but not us. He has the best for us – it might not be what we want – but if we want God’s best, then we go His way.

We have a wonderful future! We have a wonderful saviour that we can stand and say “I suffer from anxiety, and I’m not ashamed, but I have a God who can take that away. I have a God who can free me from every fear, no matter how long how it’s been in my life. I have a God who can free me. I can be free in Him”.

We can be free in Him today! We don’t have to wait. We can meet with Him now and He can free us from every single thing that would hold us back from living that life in abundance, from being the men, women and children of God that He has destined us to be. A wonderful, wonderful life.

Recognise that it’s a hoof print of the enemy. It doesn’t have to be a hoof print in our lives any longer. We can be set free from it. Wonderful freedom!

Be honest with God and ask Him to set you free.


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