MESA WOMEN: Setting The Table | Finding Truth in the Anxious Wild
After gathering notes for more than a month, then researching and writing daily for a week, I was weary. This blog was just not coming together. My frustration began to show in the writing itself - not at all what I wanted to offer to you, ladies.
Thankfully, God was gracious with me. I had set my alarm to go off early so I could squeeze in more writing before work. Glancing at my email, I saw a weekly devotional waiting. I considered ignoring it, the way I did the week prior, but I opened it instead. From the first two words, I knew God was speaking...
You see, truth is key to the content God laid on my heart for this month. Intrigued, I read on. Words filled the screen, all about the love of God and our difficulty seeing it when faced with challenges. Here is one gem among many:
"Do not rely upon your accomplishments, your achievements, your pace in a day to give you what is lasting. These things will not calm your heart and settle your anxious thoughts. You cannot achieve peace. You are given it. It is a gift you accept and receive–or a gift you ignore or reject. And in the choice–to accept or reject peace, you accept or reject me.” - FLAG Messages
While these words were written for many, they spoke to me so specifically I found myself thanking God instead of imploring Him for help...something I had been doing for days. He was calling me to wait on Him! I’m still trying to accept His peace because I want you all to be blessed so much, but His words of truth are now in my head and heart as I take on the devotional’s exhortation to “Relax now. Be gentle with yourself. Be kind. Let [his] love cover all the raw places.”
Now, we dive in...
As I listened to June’s “Setting the Table” podcast, I loved it, but my worries about what to write began there. This month, Renee Dallas and Ava Oleson dive deep into the topic of anxiety. It’s intriguing, informative, and frankly a hard act to follow. But as I mentioned above, God is faithful to inspire us. We just have to let Him!
In a nutshell…
For some, anxiety is always healthy, providing needed motivators and warnings. For others, it’s a steady undercurrent of concern or linked to specific triggers. Then, there are those who find it truly debilitating. Anxiety disorders are very real and they are the most common form of mental illness in the United States. In these cases, those suffering often need outside help - a support group, counseling, therapy, or medication. By no means do I want to ignore or discredit the power of such tools. When they are warranted, God uses them for our healing. If you ever need that support, please feel empowered by it. God is taking care of you!
Anxiety has always been in my life. However, I’ve become more aware of its extent in recent years. I have always been detail-oriented and wired to anticipate potential problems. As a harmonizer, I want everyone to be safe and happy. Potential threats cause me to look for solutions before issues even arise.
Eventually, I came across the concept of “High-Functioning Anxiety” (not a medical term, but a popular cultural term). A lightbulb went off for me. My conscientious habits often stemmed from anxious desires to get my work right, to be understood, and to not disappoint myself or others. Ever since this realization, I have been trying to grow in this area.
However, in 2021 anxiety took on a whole new role in my life. My little brother passed away suddenly, in his sleep, just before Easter and his 28th birthday. I experienced devastation unlike any I’ve known before. The all-powerful God I’d always known to be good didn’t prevent the unthinkable. He allowed a tragedy that seemed utterly cruel and senseless.
I now feared for the safety of my remaining loved ones. If my husband was too quiet while sleeping, or he ran late coming home from work, I held my breath until I heard him exhale, or until he walked through the door. I have always been a jumpy passenger, but I became even more anxious on the road. If I heard a siren, I’d immediately pray that it wasn’t anyone in my family…then for those experiencing the emergency.
Over time, and with God’s help, my high-alert feelings have (mostly) waned. But, I have a newfound kinship with those navigating the wilderness of anxiety.
Where do we turn when anxiety attacks?
“Cast all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you” (1 Pet. 5:7).
I have heard verses like this countless times since I met Jesus as a child. I wasn’t at all jaded then. But now, deeply steeped in grief, tried and true verses felt like a slap in the face.
Why should I draw close to the one who could have stopped it all? Why should I trust that He would take care of me and the anxiety I’d cast on Him? Hadn’t I earned the right to worry? I finally admitted to myself, for the very first time, that I felt betrayed by God.
Deep down, though, I knew these verses cut deeper because I still believed in them. Perhaps it would have been easier if I could renounce them. Instead, I had to reconcile them with my suffering.
Scripture is not wrong, but it can feel wrong.
When I finally pulled myself back to scripture, I found that these familiar verses had lost more than impact. They’d lost context too.
“Cast all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you” was written to elders and young men in the persecuted church, just before Peter urged them to “Be sober-minded and alert. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in your faith and in the knowledge that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kinds of suffering.” (vs. 8-9)
Peter did not separate anxiety relief from suffering. He affirmed that no matter how deep and personal our pain is, we are not abandoned to it. We have Christ and others who understand these dark depths. We also have an enemy determined to destroy us. He would like nothing more than to see us reject our faith, becoming bitter, neutralized threats instead of warriors empowered by Christ.
As I read this, something shifted. I felt angry, but righteously so, as I hurled a “How dare you?!” at the enemy. I cannot give the devil credit for the death in my family, but I can despise his delight in our suffering. For the first time in a long time, I began to feel held and supported. Communion with God began to feel intimate again - all because I finally got out of scripture’s way, allowing God’s Word to work in me.
I moved on to another verse.
“Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.” (Phil. 4:6)
Easier said than done, right?
Well, this verse directly precedes “Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.” Next, we read “Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable.”
Paul understood that we cannot fully comprehend God’s peace. It also protects our hearts and minds because frankly, they need protecting! The things He calls us to do may not make sense. We may not feel like approaching God in prayer and thankfulness while weathering painful or anxious storms. But when we do, we invite heavenly healing and perspective to break apart our anguish.
Whatever you are going through, I urge you to join me in embracing the power of scripture - even if you are hurting. Those “cliche” verses are actually powerhouses, so let’s not drain them of their victory.
“For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires.” (Heb. 4:12)
Whatever is true...
For me, studying scripture illuminates the importance of truth. Whether we feel anxious about the past, present, or future, our relationship to the truth is the culprit.
We ask ourselves so many questions…
What is true?
What could be true?
What might become true?
We make statements, too…
The truth hurts.
I’m living my truth.
You can’t handle the truth.
The societal concept of truth has changed over the years. In 2016, Oxford Dictionaries’ word of the year was “Post-Truth”, describing the movement away from absolute truth. “You do you and I’ll do me” became a way of life. In 2021, the Washington Times reported that 54% of 2,000 Americans believed that “all truth is subjective and there are no moral absolutes.”
The widespread trend of manifesting takes this even further. By definition, "manifest" means “to make evident or certain by showing or displaying.” In the original Greek, it’s phaneros: “apparent, clear, visible”. The goal is to present proof. However, the trend of manifesting “is the practice of training your brain to stay in a positive space so that good things can happen.”
Many believe this capability is godlike. Article after article claims that people can manifest a spouse, a pregnancy, even a baby’s gender. I sincerely wonder what happens to people when the pregnancy never happens, or tragedy strikes and all the positive thinking in the world cannot bring a loved one back. Without Christ, what hope do they have? What purpose can they point to?
In a world with no absolute truths, it’s no wonder that anxiety is on the rise.
Healthline released an article in 2020 exploring the concept of “Purpose Anxiety”, defining it as “the anxiety we feel when we don’t have a sense of purpose but are all too aware that it’s missing.” They explore a variety of ways to diagnose yourself with it and reduce it in your life - all of which involve looking inside yourself and your own efforts for the answers.
I am so grateful that as Christians, our absolute truth and purpose are found in God himself. He intentionally inspired the Bible (2 Tim. 3:16-17)1, establishing why we should look to Him for answers. He equips us through the Word and despite all my wrestling, I cannot walk away from that.
GOD is truth
“I am the light of the world. If you follow me, you won’t have to walk in darkness…” - vs. 12
“If you knew me, you would also know my Father.” - vs. 19
“And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” - vs. 32
“So if the Son sets you free, you are truly free.” - vs. 36
“I tell you the truth, before Abraham was even born, I Am!” - vs. 58
By contrast, he also establishes who our enemy is:
“He was a murderer from the beginning. He has always hated the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, it is consistent with his character; for he is a liar and the father of lies.” - vs. 44
Alḗtheia is the Greek word for “truth” here. “Not merely truth as spoken; truth of idea, reality, sincerity, truth in the moral sphere, divine truth revealed to man, straightforwardness.”
Jesus is truth – reality. We cannot run away from him, nor should we. Our questions don’t threaten God. He can handle them! He is faithful to heal despite our resistance.
I spent over a year wrestling with absolute truth. I never wanted to fight God and never expected it. But, it happened. I knew the truth yet still clung to my pain, afraid to truly heal. Now, real healing is happening - but only step-by-step. Even now, when grief crashes in and anxiety, anger, or irritability take over, I am tempted to blame God for the impossibility of the miracle I crave.
He didn’t break this world, though. He mends it. He comforts us amidst darkness (2 Cor. 1:3-4). He provides for us, even when we resent Him (Ex. 16:11-12). He sees every tear we cry (Psalm 56:8) and knows exactly what we need, even before we ask (Matt. 6:8).
God is still sovereign, no matter how badly we're hurting. All good things come from Him (James 1:17) and they haven’t stopped, even when our eyes can only see darkness.
Friends, God wouldn’t entrust the fight to us if He wasn’t going to equip us (2 Cor. 9:8)! He wants to fortify you because this world is indeed broken and continually challenging Him. Please, let Him work in you! In our greatest joys and darkest days, let us together hold onto truth.
- Visit our Mesa Women webpage.
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- 2 Timothy 3 is full of truth about this topic, answering questions like: How do we respond when those without Christ are “always learning but never able to come to a knowledge of the truth?”
- James 1: Another chapter filled with beautiful relevance.
Anxiety is real. Thank you Lord that you are the one who can hep us mend our minds! Give us courage, inner strength and wisdom to seek out you and others to aid us!
Amen to all that, Sharon! <3
Just discovered “The Blog” on the Mesa App. Don’t know how I missed this before but so glad I made the connection today. Love your writing, Liz. So insightful!! I look forward to reading more.
Just wanted to encourage you to keep writing. You may never know how or when a message is received or whether your message came across as intended but I believe that’s something the Holy Spirit works out so right message gets to the right person at the right time. At least that’s how your words blessed my heart today. You said it well, “Words filled the screen, all about the love of God and our difficulty seeing it when facing challenges...” Your words, from this message and others you’ve written, were my gem of the day. Thank you.
Thank you Pam for sharing your thoughts on this... We're so glad that you found it and that it blessed you.
Pam, this makes my heart so happy!
Thank you for sharing such kind, insightful words.
God knew we both needed encouragement! It really is all about saying "yes" to Him and letting Him lead.
Be sure to check out our podcast too: mesa.church/women!
Liz, thank you so much for the time and research you devote to writing this blog. The piece on anxiety was just what I needed today! Yes, Pastor Sharon is right on, “anxiety IS real!” I could not have made it through the past 3 years without knowing God and having
Thank you for taking so much time, thought and research on this subject that haunts us all from time to time (or all the time for some.)
One would expect to be past those anxious thoughts by the time they reach my age (90), and I expected to be free of anxiety by now, too, and have a great storehouse of scripture to turn to since I’ve read through the Bible every year for at least 30 years. But that old liar hit me yesterday with the thought that I no longer have a purpose other than a few household chores. Where does my value come from if I am so limited now in strength and energy? What a lie from the pit of hell? But I struggled with it all day! Even the four cups we’ve been studying are based on what we do: know God, find freedom, discover purpose and make a difference. That gave me no comfort.
And then my daughter reminded me that even if I were the only person on earth, Jesus would have willingly died on the cross to pay for my sins which separate me from Him. What amazing value He gave me! How can I respond to that? - not by any works or money I can give Him. Like Mary, I can choose to sit at His feet and just be in His presence.
Lord Jesus, I choose to spend my time listening to Your Voice and responding to Your Love with love for You and Your Word. I have nothing else to offer. Thank You for opening Your arms to me.