The Anxiety Cure
If you have not heard, God recently gave me a sailboat, and by fall I hope to live aboard the vessel. I wrote about it in a recent blog post. As you read this, I am aboard the vessel, working my way home from St. Augustine, Florida, down the Intracoastal Waterway, across the Okeechobee Waterway, and north from Fort Myers to home. It will likely take a week to motor it home.
A strange thing happened the night I took ownership of the boat. In the process, I was reminded of a simple truth I’ll share with you today.
I purchased the vessel in an online auction through a charity. The boat was donated to the Christian ministry, and the ministry auctioned the boat. I was thrilled when I won the auction. As a bonus, all the funds I spent for the boat went to a Christian ministry. I made arrangements to drive to St. Augustine, Florida, to meet the donor and to inspect the vessel. Everything was better than it looked in the auction pictures, and soon I was driving home with the title and keys in hand.
I had dreamed of this day for many years, but honestly, I was a bit overwhelmed. The reality of owning a thirty-foot vessel settled in. Though I have some experience as a first mate aboard a charter sailboat, this was the first time I was responsible for everything.
At home, as I lay in bed trying to sleep, anxiety rose within me. The boat was four and a half hours away in a marina on the other side of the state. I couldn’t check on it. What if I didn’t close it up properly? What if I left a seacock open, and the boat was filling with water? What if it sank at the dock? What if the bilge pump failed? What if…?
I felt my blood pressure rising. Anxiety spread like a burning grass-fire within. But as the angst grew, God reminded me of an important truth. As he did, peace flooded the space where anxiety had swept in. A smile spread across my face. A restful sleep followed.
What made the difference? What was the truth God brought to mind? It was this: Anxiety comes when I take ownership of things that don’t belong to me. Let me explain.
I live with a stewardship mentality. I don’t own anything. The money in the bank is not mine. The house I live in is not mine. The car in my driveway is not mine. It all belongs to God. I take care of his things for him to the best of my ability. I try to steward his resources for him in a God-honoring way. It is all about God, not about me. Sometimes this means I give away large portions of the resources I manage, whenever God directs me to do so. What fun! It also frees me from the trap of loving things of this world.
Jesus spoke about this in his first major address to the throng of people who followed him.
Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also…. No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money. (Matthew 6:19-21, 24, ESV)
At this point in his speech, most translations insert a new paragraph before the following words. But I want you to consider with me a fresh way of looking at the words Jesus says next.
He continues by saying, “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?” (Matthew 6:25, ESV).
Jesus seems to connect anxiety with a misplaced heart. Whenever I see the phrase, “therefore,” I look to see what it’s there for. I look to see what it is connected with. In this case, it seems it is connected with the passage immediately prior to it. He teaches us to carefully keep our love in heaven and not on things of this world. He reminds us we cannot serve God and money. Then he says, “therefore I tell you, do not be anxious…”
It seems to me the vast majority of anxiety we face is related to a failure to observe this truth. We love things of this world. Something physical, like a house, car, or, in my case, a boat, can draw our hearts away from God. Even something we cannot hold in our hands, such as a relationship or physical health, can consume our thoughts as we struggle to maintain it. A sense of security, because of the money we have saved, can pull our hearts away from God. Fill in the blank. When we love things of this world, we fear losing them. Anxiety rears its ugly head and steals into our hearts. Instead of our hearts’ dwelling in heaven, they are here on this earth. When our hearts are misplaced, anxiety is sure to follow.
Consider also the words of David: “The earth is the LORD’s and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein” (Psalm 24:1, ESV).
According to Scripture, God owns all things. I may think I own something, but in the end, God can and will do whatever he pleases with the things he gives me to manage. I can choose ownership, or I can choose stewardship. The choice is mine. The consequence of taking ownership is that I bear the weight of responsibility for those things I think I own. If I am only the steward of God’s things, then my only responsibility is to manage his resources to the best of my abilities. I manage his resources as he directs me. How freeing this is! This attitude protects me from greed. It makes a significant difference in my attitude toward the things of this world. It protects me from misplacing my love for God on lesser things. My affection stays with God where it belongs.
As I lay there in bed with anxiety sweeping through my heart, I realized I had taken ownership where I should have had stewardship. Stewardship is the cure for anxiety. My heart stays solely on God. I love God with abandon. I steward what he gives me to steward. But at the end of the day, the “things” are not mine. I am just the First Mate, God is the Captain. It is his vessel. This way of thinking is so much easier.
I take care of God’s things to the best of my abilities. Knowing he is fully in control gives me rest. I am not in control. My wisdom is limited. His is unlimited. He is a far better owner than I am. I’m content to steward what he gives to me.
My friend, are you anxious today? Is something weighing heavily on your mind? Is it possible you have taken ownership where you shouldn’t? Try stewardship instead. Is your heart focused on things of this world, or the things of heaven?
Whenever we feel anxious, we should look to see if the cause is a misplaced affection. In a moment, anxiety ceases when we understand the difference between ownership and stewardship and place our hearts where they were always meant to dwell.
It is the cure for anxiety. Will you embrace it today? I would love to hear your thoughts on this. Please share your comments below.