(Photo by Ryan McGinnis)
A message of Sunday, July 18, 2021 for Akron Alliance Fellowship Church, Akron OH:
Each of us has gone through seasons or periods of life where things seem to be—for all intents and purposes—out of sorts. This is more than just the realization that you ate something that doesn’t agree with you. I’m referring to more of a change in your emotional state, and these are largely situational and can be environmental in nature. This covers everything between anxiety to even situational or clinical depression, which can lead to even greater issues, including the desire to self-medicate your pain.
There is not necessarily a reasonable explanation—or even any explanation—to determine why these situations occur. They can, in fact, take place without warning or without anything to see where they’re coming from; nevertheless, we experience these times of discomfort. It’s when things just aren’t going well.
What events cause us to feel this type of discomfort? Most often, we would answer this question by recounting significant events: a death in the family, a loss of employment or even an unexpected move of your job or where you live. All of these would have an impact on us, but let’s not forget the things that take place in and around us that are far from monumental. While these things are not life-changing in themselves, they still create unsettling feelings: uncertainty, a lack of clarity and a desire for answers to what is going on. Take, for example, when your computer that you always rely upon to boot up and work suddenly stops working. Can you fix the computer’s issue or does it need to go to the store for repairs (if it can be repaired)? This can be an extremely uncomfortable and unsettling moment, especially if you need to get some work done. How about your cell phone? A number of us no longer have land lines at home. When it stops working, you wouldn’t be able to call anyone (unless you borrow a friend or neighbor’s phone), and you won’t find a payphone anywhere. What about your car? Your reliable car that has now become unreliable, and imagine the stress that comes from not knowing whether or not the car is going to start up when you really need it. How about when one of your pets gets sick? Of course, there is also the additional possibility that your computer, your phone, your car, and your pet may involve a significant financial contribution to make things right again. Money has a way, all by itself, of compounding your unsettling circumstances (especially if you don’t have any). Each of these are examples that are hardly life-changing by nature, but they are still very unsettling.
What are we talking about here? We’re talking about life.
Life has an ebb and a flow within its series of events that we all must deal with in some way or another. Life can be exhilarating at times and exhausting at others. Life is sometimes uncomplicated and other times unbelievable. It can be full of happiness or fraught with humiliation.
Even more unsettling about these events is that God allows each and every one of these things to occur. That fact, in itself, can make this even more unsettling.
Here are some realities about your unsettling moment experiences:
- These occurrences may have nothing to do with whether or not you are in fellowship with Jesus Christ.
- God does not play favorites; therefore, you’re not exempt from these experiences (Galatians 2:6).
- They invariably are all learning experiences.
How do you respond to life’s changes and unsettling moments? Do you allow these changes to bump you from your normal routine or do you retreat to an area where you believe you can escape from trouble? In contrast, do you remain firm in your resolve to push through what is happening and learn from the experience?
The act of pushing through is not just about using psychology or positive thinking to move forward. In fact, unsettling moments require much more than being convinced that everything will get better. We need to come to grip with the reality that, as God is in control of everything that occurs in our life, He allows all events to take place in spite of how it affects us.
Matthew 5:44-45 CSB
44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be children of your Father in heaven. For He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.
Note that God is giving each of us the fact of life that He will allow things to happen to us for two very important reasons:
- For us to seek God in everything–whether things are going well or not.
- For us to learn and develop Christlike responses in all circumstances.
First, seeking God in everything is very important in your personal development as a believer. It is a change from what used to happen when you did not know Jesus Christ.
Deuteronomy 4:29 ESV
But from there you will seek the LORD your God and you will find him, if you search after him with all your heart and with all your soul.
Romans 12:2 ESV
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
Jesus is giving us the ability, through the Holy Spirit, to respond to life’s events in a way where we are less likely to take offense or take things too hard, and in more of a way where we are humble and acknowledging God’s presence. He wants each of us to react not in our own flesh, but in the power of Christ. This in no way means that we won’t be hurt, upset or feel stress and tension; in fact, we certainly will experience all of these emotions when things are unsettling.
Here is where we need to make a distinction between the word “stress” and the word “worry.” God knows that we tend to stress out when we experience unsettling events, but God does not want our stress to evolve into prolonged worry. God is concerned about this state of worriedness by His people because, according to Scripture, worry is the exact opposite of faith. Please note here that while God’s Word reminds us that we will experience difficulty and stress in life, there is a great alternative to worry, and that is to rest in our faith in Jesus Christ. Many bibles have a header over the following passage entitled either The Cure for Anxiety or Do Not Be Anxious:
Matthew 6:25-34 ESV
25 “This is why I tell you: Don’t worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Isn’t life more than food and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the sky: They don’t sow or reap or gather into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Aren’t you worth more than they? 27 Can any of you add a single cubit to his height by worrying? 28 And why do you worry about clothes? Learn how the wildflowers of the field grow: they don’t labor or spin thread. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was adorned like one of these! 30 If that’s how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and thrown into the furnace tomorrow, won’t He do much more for you—you of little faith? 31 So don’t worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ 32 For the idolaters eagerly seek all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be provided for you. 34 Therefore don’t worry about tomorrow, because tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”
The Greek word for worry used in this passage is merimnao (mer-im-nah’-o), which means to be over-anxious, distracted, or pulled in different directions. This is the polar opposite of faith.
This is important in that we are all tested as to how we trust God in difficult situations. We will fail this test when we take matters into our own hands. We can fall by the wayside when we allow life’s stresses to take the focus off of Jesus Christ.
God wants us to seek Him first as He promises to provide a measure of what we need to overcome life’s unsettling events. He does not want us to worry simply because you can’t worry and have faith at the same time.
As the faith of a believer is necessary in salvation, it is critical in the ongoing development of our relationship with Jesus Christ.
Ephesians 2:8-9 HCSB
8 For you are saved by grace through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is God’s gift—9 not from works, so that no one can boast.
Hebrews 11:6 HCSB
Now without faith it is impossible to please God, for the one who draws near to Him must believe that He exists and rewards those who seek Him.
The word “impossible” has a finality all its own from a human perspective. We should be thankful and eternally grateful that we serve a living God where “all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26). We are to dwell on God’s goodness in our faith that He will keep every promise He has ever made to us. Here is one of them that we are to embrace as we overcome life’s stressful moments:
2 Corinthians 5:6-9 ESV
6 So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, 7 for we walk by faith, not by sight. 8 Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. 9 So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him.
Seeking God in everything is essential to overcoming unsettling events and in the growth and progression of our faith.
Finally, our development of interpersonal relationships also receives the benefit of our trust in Jesus Christ. We respond much more favorably to those persons who have hurt or betrayed us because we have a better response in Christ than those who are in the world. We also have a more humble approach because we know that without Jesus Christ we would be condemned on our own unrighteousness.
1 Peter 5:4-7 ESV
4 And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory. 5 Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” 6 Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, 7 casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.
We are more humble when we seek Christ; therefore, we are much more likely to be forgiving and merciful, because we are living in a Christlike manner. Don’t miss the opportunity for ministry to others as your positive and compassionate responses of patience and forgiveness will go a long way during life’s unsettling moments. We always should be mindful of treating others in the way we would want to be treated. This will suppress a slew of destructive comments before they come out.
2 Corinthians 2:5-11 CSB
5 If anyone has caused pain, he has caused pain not so much to me but to some degree—not to exaggerate—to all of you. 6 The punishment by the majority is sufficient for that person. 7 As a result, you should instead forgive and comfort him. Otherwise, he may be overwhelmed by excessive grief. 8 Therefore I urge you to reaffirm your love to him. 9 I wrote for this purpose: to test your character to see if you are obedient in everything. 10 Anyone you forgive, I do too. For what I have forgiven—if I have forgiven anything—it is for your benefit in the presence of Christ, 11 so that we may not be taken advantage of by Satan. For we are not ignorant of his schemes.
Satan aims to ruin our fellowship with Jesus Christ along with our testimony before others. If successful, it can have devastating, if not lasting results. There’s only one successful way to avoid being manipulated by Satan:
James 4:7-10 NLT
7 So humble yourselves before God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8 Come close to God, and God will come close to you. Wash your hands, you sinners; purify your hearts, for your loyalty is divided between God and the world. 9 Let there be tears for what you have done. Let there be sorrow and deep grief. Let there be sadness instead of laughter, and gloom instead of joy. 10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up in honor.
When we seek the Lord, we are stronger and more resilient in Him at all times, and especially those moments when things are not going our way. Our challenge is to live a consistent life for Jesus. When life’s events are unsettling to us, we are not to shrink back in fear. Jesus settles the unsettling moments with His peaceful presence.
John 14:27 ESV
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.
We have so much to learn from our experiences, and Jesus is ready and willing to teach us in order that we can be a witness and testimony to others. For all of this, He loves us in an amazing way!
Copyright © 2021 Melvin Gaines.