From anxiety to ataraxia
When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought me joy. – Psalms 94:19
16 Who will protect me from the wicked? Who will stand up for me against evildoers?
17 Unless the LORD had helped me, I would soon have settled in the silence of the grave.
18 I cried out, “I am slipping!” but your unfailing love, O LORD, supported me.
19 When doubts filled my mind, your comfort gave me renewed hope and cheer.
20 Can unjust leaders claim that God is on their side– leaders whose decrees permit injustice?
21 They gang up against the righteous and condemn the innocent to death.
22 But the LORD is my fortress; my God is the mighty rock where I hide.
23 God will turn the sins of evil people back on them. He will destroy them for their sins. The LORD our God will destroy them.
Sadly, our days are often filled with dread, uncertainty, and widespread anxiety. The 21st century has seen the rise of unprecedented conditions that are eerily reminiscent of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse of Revelation 6:1-8. The menacing features that are predicted seem to parallel what going on right now in the world: political instability, violence, conquests, war, famine, and death. People are worried and filled with angst. Many are crying out, “Please help me.”
Where do we turn for help? It is totally natural for the people of planet Earth to look to the resources of planet Earth for help. One such resource is called Verywell Mind. Every year, more than 150 million people seek help and answers from them.
They counsel that the very first step that individuals must take this to ask themselves exactly what they are experiencing at the moment. They are to identify and label their feelings and thoughts as accurately as possible. A shortlist includes anxiety, panic, worry, fear, sadness, depression, grief, loneliness, anger, self-hatred, stress, shock, pain, hopelessness, helplessness, etc. However, merely identifying problems does not solve them.
Next, it is important to attempt to identify the probable causes for their feelings. The catalog of causes includes job loss, insecurity, stressful working conditions, dramatic events, financial stress, mental health issues, difficult relationships, moving to a new place, discrimination, bullying, harassment, loneliness or isolation, addiction, rejection, or neglect.
Identifying problems doesn’t solve them. It does however provide focus on what is wrong. This in turn offers a place to begin to address struggles and possibly overcome them.
Fear and anxiety are like lightning-fast antagonists lurking in the darkness. Such adversaries pounce without warning. In the blink of an eye, our internal emotions are supercharged and often overcome us. It is so easy to allow our anxious thoughts to multiply within us and simply overcome us. We are robbed of our contentment rational thought. We ultimately become numb and paralyzed or highly agitated and even shake with fear and dread. We feel helpless, powerless, and defenseless. We easily become incapacitated and paralyzed.
REFLECT & PRAY
During his troubles, David received no human assistance or help. It was the Father, and the Father alone, who gave him solace and support.
Father so often I pour out my heart to You. Take my inner turmoil and anxiety and transform it into ataraxia. Grant me Your peace.
Children of the King have resources that are not of this world. The Father is an ever-present comfort, even when our emotions bounce off the wall and our hearts zigzag in a thousand directions. The Father Himself desires to calm our anxieties. But even before that happens, He comforts us in our distress (Stanley).
We are given the privilege and opportunity to switch gears we can cry out to the Father we can go through the process of identifying our feelings and thoughts and their cause. Recalling and rehearsing them often provides a cathartic release.
But when we take our eyes off our problems and fears, and focus on the Father, something awesome often occurs. His serenity and peace often fill our souls and spirits. Before we know it we are moved to praise and thank the Father for Who He is and what He does. We begin to acknowledge what He does in our lives. This changes everything.
This is precisely what David did. The pattern is clearly seen in Psalm 94. David first spoke to the Father.
1 O LORD, the God of vengeance, O God of vengeance, let your glorious justice shine forth!
2 Arise, O judge of the earth. Give the proud what they deserve.
3 How long, O LORD? How long will the wicked be allowed to gloat?
Then David poured out his complaints, identifying his feelings and thoughts and their source (Psalms 94:16-23).
His lament is the Father’s invitation for us to do likewise. The Father transforms our fear, sadness, and helplessness into worship and praise.
“The book of Psalms is dedicated to followers of God actively talking to God. The psalms are full of the raw emotions of God’s people. Sorrow, joy, confusion, anger, desperation, praise, and lament can be read from beginning to end. The Psalms show us, God, as a personal God who relates to individuals with specific and personal concerns” (J.R. Hudberg).
Plain and simple, David’s emotions and thoughts are all over the map. He seeks comfort and protection from the only One Who can provide it. Consequently, he does not lose heart. Instead, he is strengthened to endure. When times are at their worst, and he is very low, rather than succumbing to his negative emotions, He recounts God’s greatness. He recalls that the Father has knowledge of all that people think, say, and do (Psalms 94:8-11).
The Father’s loyal love, hesed, is most important of all. Tragically, forgetful children of the King often forget how much they are loved. Recalling and rehearsing the Father’s magnificent love and loyalty allows the children of the King to forget their misery (Psalm 94:18).
As the children of the King, we can experience a total perspective transformation. We can see our present circumstances as opportunities for the personal growth of our spirit. When we experience and live out this paradigm shift, we draw ever closer to the Father. Trials and adversity and our reaction to them are an essential part of the Father’s child training curriculum. Whether we like it or not, at the moment of our rebirth, we were enrolled in His school for discipline
Rather than question the Father, challenge Him, and ask Why? Our response should be, “What would you have me learn from this experience?” We followed this up with another simple question, “What would you have me do?”
“God’s powerful kingship guarantees his final victory over all who oppose him, even if they Are members of his own people (who ought to have acknowledged his rule!). It is always worth being on God’s side” (ESV Notes).
© Dr. H 2022
One thought on “From anxiety to ataraxia”
I enjoyed reading your blog. I found it thought provoking and insightful. It is stimulating and requires you to focus or you might miss it. Initially, my interest was only to give it a quick read. As you know, in this day and age, we have so much that is required of us. 😊
I was challenged to do more because the content required and deserved a more serious effort. I made the transition and gave it my undivided attention. I found it relaxing as “this is what the Truth, The Word does for my soul.”
I enjoyed your effort to bring the proper context to the Scriptures. Your reflection provided a new and helpful perspective.