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A Righteousness by Faith #12: Focus and the loss of anxiety.

I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world. John 16:33

It seems nothing catches people’s attention like mentioning the word ‘anxiety’ because many are living with it or know someone who is. One anonymous writer described it this way: “Living with anxiety is like being followed by a voice. It knows all your insecurities and uses them against you. It gets to the point when it’s the loudest voice in the room. The only one you can hear.”

Last week when I wrote about “Fruit and the Loss of Anxiety,” I was surprised at the number of people who checked it out. My theme was about the harvest, but the title caught the attention of those who are struggling to cope with anxiety. The truth is, a lot of people are looking for relief from anxiety and the word itself is a magnet. People are on the lookout for any hint of a possible solution.

I know what it is to be dominated by anxiety, because anxiety is the by-product of damaged emotions caused by living in a world affected by the Fall. I am not just talking about emotions damaged by events that I can recall in detail—such as unjust punishment, abuse, or bullying. I include emotional damage that is hosted in a region of our minds whose origin we do not know, but live with every day of our lives. It builds up to overflowing at times and we find ourselves dancing to its tune, wishing we did not have to, but finding that we cannot stop.

Can you be honest with yourself? Your anxiety is an internally manufactured emotional response to your world. It dominates you because you have made it the focus of your reality. It has no real power—only the power you have assigned to it. And you may have assigned it such great power in your life that, when it speaks, you dance. Or cower. Or unravel.

Here are two truths all of us have to grasp. The first is that we focus on what we trust. If we trust the emotional lies that fill our minds with misdirection and fear, these become the crippling focus of our lives.

The second dovetails with the first. What we trust will have power over us. If we are crippled by anxiety, it is because we have ordered our lives around its lies. I am too weak to make it in life. Events and people are going to turn against me. I will not succeed. I will always fail. I am an unappealing person, unloved and a burden to others.

On and on goes the inner voice…

…Except Jesus says otherwise. “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” Righteousness by faith is not a one way street—all the expectations from God about how you live and think. Through Jesus, God is in the process of freeing you from anxiety and fear in the middle of living life in a world that hands out trouble like prescription drugs.

What God offers is peace from the anxiety that dogs you. But his reality will not do your anxiety to death until you decide to focus. Why? Because what we think either makes us a slave to our emotional damage or frees us from their tyranny.

Paul puts it this way to the Colossian believers. They have been misled by teachers telling them that peace and wholeness are attained by following a set of rules. He dismisses that thinking, replacing it with, “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.” Colossians 3:1-4.

Note the critical truth to Paul’s point: Christ is our life. He is not merely a Savior, keeping us out of Hell or calling us to some purpose. He is our very life. As such, he is the one we are to focus our minds on, as Paul directs. And it is this focus that moves us from trusting manufactured emotional truth to trusting real truth.

Keep reading. I have more to say on this.

-Steve Smith