Guest Post by David Dunham
A Note from Bob: You’re reading a guest post by David Dunham. Learn more about Pastor Dave by reading his bio at the end of this post. And read his post to learn more about fighting fear.
Jim and Kevin were both anxious, but for seemingly very different reasons. Jim was lazy and eventually his neglected responsibilities caught up with him. Kevin, on the other hand, worked a high stress job with a boss who insisted on micromanaging everything. Despite their differences, the Bible has help for both of their anxieties. The Bible presents us with four unique frameworks for confronting fear.
The Vigilance Framework
The Vigilance Framework asserts that there is such a thing as constructive concern. Bob Kellemen helpfully unpacks this concept in his book on anxiety. In Anxiety: Anatomy and Cure he picks up on God’s command for Adam and Eve to “work and keep” the Garden (Genesis 2:15). The Hebrew word here means “to keep vigil.” It’s a constructive kind of concern that calls on the first humans to keep watch over the Garden.
God created us with the capacity for constructive concern, but sin corrupts it. Anxiety is vigilance that has become stuck. It is always on guard, always on edge, always scanning and looking for danger. Anxiety invites us to stand frozen in uncertainty.
“What will I do?” “Where can I go?” “How will I solve this?” “What is going to happen next?”
Vigilance, on the other hand, invites us to act in faith, to know the God who calls us and empowers us to take certain levels of responsibility.
The Vigilance Framework can be a great help to some anxious people. It reminds them that their anxiety has a constructive alternative. It invites them to use the emotional energy of their fear and apply it—in faith—to work. There are levels of responsibility that we have and ought to act upon. This can be an encouragement and help to some anxious people, especially where anxiety arises from irresponsibility.
The Manna Framework
The Manna Famework offers a different perspective on our anxiety. Ed Welch develops this idea in his book Running Scared, where he borrows from Exodus 16. When God provides manna for the Israelites to eat, He gives them an important qualifier to go along with it:
“And Moses said to them, ‘Let no one leave any of it over till the morning’” (Exodus 16:19).
In other words God provided manna for today, but Israel would have to trust Him to provide it for tomorrow.
Anxiety lives in the future. It worries about tomorrow and looks for grace today to face tomorrow’s troubles. God always provides grace for today, but He does not promise us grace now for future challenges. We must trust Him to provide tomorrow’s grace when tomorrow comes. For some anxious people the Manna Framework invites them to see God’s faithfulness today and trust in it for the future.
The Humility Framework
The Humility Framework suggests that anxiety is far more arrogant than we realize. Anxiety in some comes from a conviction that we ought to be able to control our world, that we ought to be able to achieve perfection, that we shouldn’t make mistakes. Anxiety can expose our own over-confidence, perfectionism, or control.
Peter makes this case when he writes to Christians who are being persecuted—an anxious scenario if ever there was one—and tells them to “humble themselves” (1 Peter 5:6). He urges the suffering Christians to submit themselves under the mighty hand of God.
Sometimes anxiety is stirred up in us because we are trying to take responsibility for things beyond our control. The solution is to humble ourselves under the loving lordship of God Almighty. The Humility Framework and paradigm can help us to see our own audacity and learn to surrender to God what we cannot control.
The Kingdom Framework
Finally, a Kingdom Framework exposes what we rely on. What we fear often reveals what we love and what we put our hope in. Far too often we become anxious because we have put our trust in the small kingdoms of our own making. We trust in jobs, possessions, comforts, and other earthly things. We don’t just appreciate these things, we hang all our hope and joy on them, and they can’t bear that weight. Jesus warns us about treasuring the wrong things.
Most of us know Jesus’ sermon on anxiety (Matthew 6:25-32), but those words are sandwiched between two statements about the kingdoms we serve. On the front end, Jesus tells us not to “lay up treasures on earth” (v. 19) and to evaluate whom/what we are serving (v. 24). On the back end he tells us to “seek first the Kingdom of God” (v. 33). The section in the middle directly speaking about anxiety is connected to kingdoms. The kingdom you trust in, the kingdom you treasure, the kingdom you serve, will either invite confidence and security or it will cultivate fear and uncertainty. God’s Kingdom is forever and those who trust in it will never have to fear its failure.
The Kingdom Framework challenges our anxiety by asking us to evaluate what we love. If my treasure is insecure or unstable, if I put too much hope in earthly things, then I will become anxious. The solution is to trust in and treasure a better and more secure kingdom. The solution to anxiety in this paradigm is to “seek first the Kingdom of God.”
God’s Rich, Robust Word—Help for You
Each framework answers a specific manifestation of anxiety. We may fear because we trust the wrong things, we try to seize a control that doesn’t belong to us, we don’t trust God to provide, or because we have been negligent in our duties. God’s Word is big and can treat each manifestation of anxiety with truth, hope, and help. Where your anxiety has a spiritual cause, whatever that cause might be, God has an answer. While Jim and Kevin are anxious for different reasons, the same God has help for both of them. He has help for you too.
Join the Conversation
In your life and ministry, how could you use any or all of these 4 frameworks for fighting fear?
Meet Pastor Dave
Dave serves as Pastor of Counseling and Discipleship at Cornerstone Baptist Church in the Detroit metro where he also directs a biblically-based addiction recovery ministry. Dave earned his M.Div. from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Dave blogs, reviews books, and provides resources at Pastor Dave Online.