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Anxiety is defined as “a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease, typically about an imminent event or something with an uncertain outcome.” With all of the future uncertainty surrounding the corona virus pandemic, worry and unease are certainly something that is a very real experience. However, we can challenge anxiety and worry with prayer and the word of God.
James 4.13-17 – Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a town and spend a year there, doing business and making money.” 14 Yet you do not even know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. 15 Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wishes, we will live and do this or that.” 16 As it is, you boast in your arrogance; all such boasting is evil. 17 Anyone, then, who knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, commits sin.
Listening to James
The concept of “wisdom from above” (James 3.17-18) is the key that opens the door to understand the Book of James. James discourages any thoughts of the future that do not involve seeking God’s wisdom.
“Wisdom from below” (James 3.14-16) disregards God’s directions in planning. It is arrogant and boastful, because the wisdom-from-below-person believes their planning is better than God’s. James points out in chapter 3 that “wisdom from below” is also self-centered and selfish. It is as if we know what we want and don’t want God to interfere with our plans.
“Wisdom from below” thinking misses the fact that we can’t control an uncontrollable future. The corona virus pandemic has made that abundantly clear to us. We plan to have football games in the Fall. We plan to start the school year in August. We plan to begin worship services and small groups some time this summer. In all of these instances and many more, James is so right. “You do not even know what tomorrow will bring” (verse 14).
“Wisdom from above” is based on knowing and doing the will of God. This kind of wisdom seeks God’s direction and follows it on a daily basis. This way of living is characterized by mental and emotional qualities that will help us overcome the anxiety of the times.
Think about these the description of “wisdom from above” and consider what kind of an inside condition will produce. “But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without a trace of partiality or hypocrisy. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace for those who make peace” (James 3.17-18).
A Good Practice for All of Us
The writings of Alcoholic Anonymous has brought living one day at a time to the attention of society. Dr. Bob Smith, one of the founders of AA, spent one hour each day reading James or the Sermon on the Mount or 1 Corinthians 13. My guess is that Dr. Bob obtained the idea of “one day at a time” from this passage in James.
Many people who read my blog are in recovery. They will recognize the next paragraph. My appeal to the rest of my readers is to consider how these words apply to all of us, not just those in recovery.
Recommit Every Day
“Taking your recovery one day at a time means waking up and recommitting to the process every single day. This means that despite what stressful circumstances you may be facing in life, and regardless of what happened yesterday, you are making the conscious choice to carry on in your commitment to sobriety” (From http://www.burningtree.com).
A commitment to live one day at a time should involve a re-commitment to base our day on God’s “wisdom from above.” What if we didn’t go about our day until we settled our inside condition and committed to follow God’s wisdom in every situation? What if we sought to know God’s will and lived determined to do it? What if we made this practice as habitual as eating or brushing our teeth?
How does a choice to live by “wisdom from above” lessen anxiety and fear? I don’t want to minimize anxiety over the future in an age of corona virus. There are significant issues that can’t be ignored. Yet, we are never in a safer place than following God’s direction. The psalm writer knew this truth and said.
“He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High
Will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say to the Lord, ‘My refuge and my fortress,
My God, in whom I trust!’
You will not be afraid of the terror by night,
Or of the arrow that flies by day;
Of the pestilence that stalks in darkness,
Or of the destruction that lays waste at noon.” (Psalm 91.1-2 and 5-6)
The best way to make this Psalm a daily reality is to begin your day determined to live by the “wisdom from above,” God’s wisdom and his direction.
Throughout the day, you can pray “Your will be done” (Matthew 6.10) as situations that trouble you, cause anxiety and fear, or cause your self-will emerge.
Dr. Bill Bright, the founder of Campus Crusade for Christ (now called “CRU”), introduced many to the concept of spiritual breathing.
He reasoned like this:
Question: “How many take one big gulp of air and try to make it last for a week?”
Question: “How many people simply breathe in and out as they go about their day?
Question: “How many people take a big gulp of spiritual life on Sunday morning and try to live spiritually all week on that moment of spiritual life?”
Answer: “Too many.”
Treat your spiritual life like your physical life. Begin your day by getting connected to God and receiving directions from God’s wisdom from above. Throughout the day engage in spiritual breathing. The CRU ministry recommends spiritual breathing to look like this:
“Spiritual breathing (exhaling the impure and inhaling the pure) is an exercise in faith that enables you to continue to experience God’s love and forgiveness.
“Exhale – confess your sin – agree with God concerning your sin and thank Him for His forgiveness of it, according to 1 John 1:9 and Hebrews 10:1-25. Confession involves repentance – a change in attitude and action.
“Inhale – surrender the control of your life to Christ, and appropriate (receive) the fullness of the Holy Spirit by faith. Trust that He now directs and empowers you; according to the command of Ephesians 5:18, and the promise of 1 John 5:14, 15.”
Dear God, the issues of my life are enormous. I am often anxious and fearful for the future. Please help me begin living one day at a time by your wisdom and direction. Please show me how to breathe spiritually.