My atheistic anxiety

I have a father.

There is something profound about that.

And really it should be spelled Father.

I’ve been anxious. Anxious about all sorts of things.

My anxiety is really a sort of fear.[1]

That’s where understanding I have a Father is so helpful. And understanding who my Father is…

When I’m anxious, when I fear, I am faithless. And Fatherless. A practical atheist.

I tell myself all sorts of lies: No one can rescue me. No one is looking out for me. I am alone, an orphan in a vast indifferent world.[2]

I often think and act as though I have no Father and I determine my own destiny. I act as though the buck stops with me—that if I don’t make it happen, then it won’t happen. I sometimes think and act like I’m my own little lord.

Sometimes my anxiety is atheistic. It takes no account of God. It takes no account of the fact that I have a good and able Father.

It takes no account of the fact that the LORD who made heaven and earth is my helper (Ps. 121:2). It takes no account of the fact that my shepherd who takes care of me is the Lord of the universe. The Lord is my helper so I do not have to fear. What can man do to me (Heb. 13:6)?!

I have a good Father. He is in control so I can sleep soundly, I don’t have to be anxious all night (Ps. 127:2). My Father says, “Come to me and I will give you rest” (see Matt. 11:28).

I have found when I cast my burdens on the Lord in faith that He sustains me (Ps. 55:22; 1 Pet. 5:7).

My anxious fears reveal a fickle heart. But God’s love is faithful and fierce. It prevails and preserves me even when I falter.

Questions for Reflection

  1. How do you know when you’re anxious? What are the signs?
  2. What are you anxious about right now? Can you recognize an area of unbelief that your anxiety may be coming from?[3]
  3. Is there a desire for control that is causing anxiety in your life?
  4. What would it look like to live by faith and trust in your good Father instead of worrying?
  5. Which anxieties do you need to cast upon God right now?

_________________

[1] Big caveat here: the word “anxiety” can cover a lot of things. Notice here I am referring to my own anxiety. People suffer from all sorts of forms of anxiety. I am not here talking about a medical condition. With that I understand I think it’s important to point out that not all anxiety is bad. Paul said, “The unmarried man is anxious about the things of the Lord, how to please the Lord” (1 Cor. 7:32) and he doesn’t communicate that that is a bad thing. And actually, it’s not bad that the married man is anxious about how to please his wife (v. 33). Paul also talks about being less anxious (Phil. 2:28) in the same letter that he says “do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God” (Phil. 4:6). Paul also talked about his unceasing anguish for all the churches. So, it seems anxiety itself is not bad. What can be bad, however, is what we do with anxiety. Or where we take our anxiety. Does it stay on us or do we cast it upon the LORD (see 1 Pet. 5:7)?

[2] See Edward T. Welch, Running Scared, 53

[3] I found Kristen Wetherell and Sarah Walton’s reflection questions helpful in their book Hope when it Hurts (see p. 38).

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About Paul O'Brien

I am a lot of things; saint and sinner. I struggle and I strive. I am a husband and father of three. I have been in pastoral ministry for 9 years. I went to school at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary but most of my schooling has been at the School of Hard Knocks. I have worked various jobs, including pheasant farmer, toilet maker, construction worker, and I served in the military. My wife and I enjoy reading at coffee shops, taking walks, hanging out with friends and family, and watching our three kid's antics. :)

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