We have spent this week going over the aspects of fear, worry and anxiety. It is time to look at the heart that drives these issues. The heart is the immaterial inner man and is comprised of your thoughts, beliefs, desires, will, soul, emotions, and so on. It could be called the place we make decisions or the control center of your being.
The heart is mentioned over 500 times in Scripture so we know it is important. Scripture says that Mary treasured things in her heart, stored things in her heart. We know people ponder in their hearts too, and deceive in their hearts. Proverbs 23:7 says as a man thinks in his heart, he is.
What you determine in your heart is what guides your actions. If you determine to worry, you will act out in a worried manner. If you think fearful or anxious thoughts, you will, as we learned earlier have a reaction of fear in the body. There is no escaping the connection between the heart as a motivator and how we respond and act and react to situations of life.
Therefore, it is important that we look at what God’s Word tells us to do with the heart to overcome fear, worry, and anxiety.
The 3 thieves in thinking that feed fear, worry, and anxiety are:
- “What if” thoughts about the future
- “If only” thoughts and regrets from the past
- “I should/should not have” regrets about my actions
The heart that fears is often paralyzed by the unknown. People who struggle with depression often say they are fearful. Those who deal with these issues often fear not ever getting better or being too far gone to get a grip on themselves. Others fear that something in their past will come back to haunt them, and it becomes a way of life to worry about that day when they are “discovered.”
The heart that worries is also paralyzed by what is known combined with what is unknown. They struggle with “what if” thoughts. This person takes part of reality and mixes it with the unknown future and makes conclusions based on projections into the future.
“What ifs” can be positive (What if I get that promotion) or negative (What if I lose my job). Depending on the projections, our thoughts take us down a path that leads to rejoicing and happiness or to sorrow, fear, and even depression.
The heart that is anxious is a combination of both positive and negative thoughts, and is ramped up with adrenalin. When your thoughts are based on “what if” you will find no peace. You will find anxieties about the future (What if the worst happens) and discontentment in the present (What if I had this or that? Wouldn’t I be better off?)
We can take any situation and forecast either joyful or terrible outcomes. The danger is that what if thoughts are not based on what is true and real, therefore they violate Philippians 4:8. The Lord instructs us to keep our thoughts grounded in today (Matt 6:34, 6:32b-33).
Another thief is to have those if only-thoughts about the past. We all have regrets about the past, some more than others. You may believe that your past actions have altered the course of your life forever. You may believe that because of what you have done God would never use you or want you. This is very common thinking of women who have had abortions, and people who think they have committed a sin they fear will “revoke their salvation” or at the very least will keep God from using them.
Paul had quite a bit to say about that.
I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength to do his work. He considered me trustworthy and appointed me to serve him, even though I used to blaspheme the name of Christ. In my insolence, I persecuted his people. But God had mercy on me because I did it in ignorance and unbelief. Oh, how generous and gracious our Lord was! He filled me with the faith and love that come from Christ Jesus.
This is a trustworthy saying, and everyone should accept it: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners”—and I am the worst of them all. But God had mercy on me so that Christ Jesus could use me as a prime example of his great patience with even the worst sinners. Then others will realize that they, too, can believe in him and receive eternal life. 1 Tim 1:12-16 NLT
Maybe you have a past that is less than honorable. In this sin sick society in which we live, it becomes harder to refuse the seduction of the pleasures of the world. Many have fallen prey before trusting Christ, and after and have repented and changed their way and life. Those memories are sometimes hard to live with, and the pain of the life you once lived may be vivid.
Paul gives us an incredible testimony! He forgot what was behind him (if only) and truly put on the cross and remembered it no more, except to tell us for the glory of God what he had once been.
YOU can do this too! You who worry about your past and live in fear of discovery or shame can put it on the cross and remember it no more. In doing so, you come to a full acceptance that you have been completely cleansed by the blood of Christ and are completely justified in the sight of God. It is to reckon yourself dead to that way of life and alive to the new life you have in Christ (Rom 6:11)