Finding your refuge in God while the world seems to crumble
Finding your refuge in God
while the world seems to crumble
I was reading an article this week entitled “Born to choose: The Origins and Value of the need for Control”. It’s a secular scientific article that claims to give proof that “the need for control is biologically motivated”. From their point of view this desire to control our environments is so common in human life because we are born with the natural “biological” need to control.
Summarizing the scientific theories about the human need for control they say that the scientific community have largely come to a common conclusion which is that “the belief in one’s ability to exert control over the environment and to produce desired results is essential for an individual’s general wellbeing.” In other words, the more you feel that you have control over your life, the happier you will be. This makes me think of Frank Sinatra’s hit song from 1969 “I did it my way”. I suspect Sinatra was articulating something everyone instinctively crave.
They go on to say that “Struggles to increase or diminish control are believed to be at the core of anxiety and mood disorders, eating disorders, and substance abuse.” Now, this is where it gets interesting to me. This insight helps us understand why we Christians feel so anxious about our current situation. With everything happening in our country at the moment we’re all feeling uncertain about our future and we feel like we don’t have control anymore.
Professor Brooks from the Harvard Business school explains that there’s a difference between uncertainty and risk. Risk is when we know the possible outcomes and we’re able to assign values to them. Uncertainty is when we don’t know the outcomes. And when we don’t know the outcomes, we become anxious because we cannot control our environment. So, what we do to deal with our anxieties is we try to wrestle back control. We try to turn uncertainties into risk by trying to understand the problem and assigning probable outcomes to it. This gives us the illusion of control of course. The issue is, we don’t know the outcomes.
Think about it in context of the current uncertainty in South Africa. The pandemic is just starting in our country and we don’t know how many people it will eventually infect and kill – uncertainty.
We’ve gone into lockdown for three weeks but it looks like most other countries have had to extend their lockdown period from between one to three months. So, depending on the severity of the infection and mortality rate of the virus we might end up in a three-month lockdown – uncertainty.
The unemployment rate in the country is currently 29%. It is estimated that the USA unemployment rate will hit between 12-16% before the end of their lockdown period. That puts them back to unemployment rates last seen in 2010. South Africa might see rates as high as 35% before the end of our three-week lock down. What will happen if we have to go on a longer lockdown – uncertainty
Studies have found that unemployment is associated with an increased risk of suicides, heart attacks, petty crime, theft and homicide. What does this mean for South Africa – uncertainty.
South African investment grade is now rated junk and the Rand has devalued. How far will this go and what will be the outcome for the average consumer – uncertainty.
Because we don’t have control, we feel anxious. The way we deal with the anxiety is we try to turn these uncertainties into probabilities. If we can predict the future we feel as if we can control it. But this is going at it the wrong way. We’re creating illusions and then leaning on them.
Our desire to control our lives is enticing us to find refuge in lies. This time of uncertainty is revealing foundations. Perhaps Christian, God’s word to the children of Israel applies to you, 13 "For My people have committed two evils: They have forsaken Me, The fountain of living waters, To hew for themselves cisterns, Broken cisterns That can hold no water. (Jer. 2:13) Your anxiety reveals the fact that you’ve been trusting the broken cisterns of the false security of wealth. The comfort and riches and pleasures of life.
So how do you deal with uncertainty? I have two points that I think will help you.
1. Find your refuge in God
2. Make God’s agenda your ambition
1. Find your refuge in God
Knowing the source of our temptations is our desire to control our lives, the first thing to admit is that we don’t have control. We don’t know the outcomes and we don’t have to know. Admit that you don’t have control and recognise that God does. In Isaiah 46:9-10 God says "Remember the former things long past, For I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is no one like Me, declaring the end from the beginning, And from ancient times things which have not been done, Saying, 'My purpose will be established, And I will accomplish all My good pleasure'”
Resist the temptation to control your life by resting in God’s control. The Psalms call this finding your refuge in God.
8 O taste and see that the LORD is good; How blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him!
9 O fear the LORD, you His saints; For to those who fear Him there is no want.
7 How precious is Your lovingkindness, O God! And the children of men take refuge in the shadow of Your wings.
8 They drink their fill of the abundance of Your house; And You give them to drink of the river of Your delights.
9 For with You is the fountain of life; In Your light we see light.
1 God is our refuge and strength, A very present help in trouble.
2 Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change And though the mountains slip into the heart of the sea;
3 Though its waters roar and foam, Though the mountains quake at its swelling pride. Selah.
Listen to how David finds his refuge in God. He’s not scared by the thought of God’s control. He’s invigorated by it. It strengthens him. It shelters him from his fears and anxieties. It gives him a solid foundation. And it does that because of what he knows about God.
Psalm 34:8 O taste and see that the LORD is good
Psalm 36:7 How precious is Your lovingkindness, O God!
David finds his rest in God’s goodness and lovingkindness. It’s a intentional application of Biblical revelation to your situation. Finding your refuge in God is, by faith, applying what you know about God to your life.
2. Make God’s agenda your ambition
Our final observations come from Matthew 6:25-34.
This is our Lord’s way of dealing with the same topic of finding your refuge in God. In verse 25 He addresses the anxiety head on and says, “For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?”
“For this reason” refers us back to verse 24.
24 "No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.
You need to remember that during this crisis. You’re either going to be preoccupied with what you have or don’t have or you’re going to be occupied with God’s agenda. You won’t be able to do both.
And then Jesus says, “For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life”. What does Jesus mean by “life”? Based on what He says next its clear the Lord is thinking about life here on earth because He mentions things like what we eat and drink and wear. But Jesus is thinking of a more fundamental question. He’s not merely saying don’t worry about your physical needs.
The Lord is asking a fundamental question about meaning. “Is not life more than these?” Isn’t life about more than what you wear, and where you stay, and what you eat. Isn’t it about more than where your kids go to school, and what you drive and your net worth and how much you’ve got put away for retirement?
Jesus is speaking about what you occupy yourself with. He’s saying that life is about more than just the physical needs that we get carried away with. Life is about more!
Well, what is life about? What could be more important than our daily needs? Look down at verse 33 where He says, 33 "But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” Life is about His kingdom and His righteousness. This is an expansion on v 24. Serving God is about His kingdom and His righteousness. His kingdom is the promised kingdom He will establish under the earthly rule of Christ and His righteousness is the life that
corresponds to His kingdom. Jesus taught us to pray for these things in the Our Father. Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
That is what we are about. That’s what we work for and bring our children up for and plan our retirement around. This is what life is about. So while we admit we don’t have control over our lives we’re not paralyzed by this thought. Rather it sets us free to focus on what’s really important.
Now, the warning is that we can’t have it both ways. Either we’re going to live for what we wear and eat and drink or we’re going to live for His kingdom and His righteousness.
The Lord knows that we need the basic necessities of life. He’s not minimizing that. He wants to help us leave off trying to control our lives so that we can live for God. Guess what’s the one thing everybody is anxious about right now? What’s going to become of my savings, my income, my livelihood. What am I going to eat and drink and wear? Christian, Jesus says not to be like the world that’s getting in knots about these things. God will take care of you just as He has been all the time you thought you were in control.
To help you re-set your focus Jesus draws attention to God’s providence. In verse 26 He says, “26 "Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they? When He asks “are you not worth much more than they?” the Lord is saying something profoundly important about God. He’s not saying we are intrinsically worth more than the birds, He is saying that we are worth more to God than what the birds are. It’s like your pets and your children. You like your pets. They are important to you, but your kids are worth far more to you. Now, if God so faithfully cares for His pets, how much more will He care for you?
That sets you free to seek His kingdom and His righteousness. That sets you free to use your means to serve His agenda even in a time like our present crisis. He will take care of your needs. Jesus makes the same point in verse 28-30. God faithfully takes care of things that are far less valuable to Him than what you are. How much more will He not take care of you?
In conclusion then. The way to deal with your anxiety is to intentionally and by faith, find your refuge in God. Admit that you don’t have control and recognise that God does. And then set your ambition on God’s agenda. Seek His kingdom and His righteousness while He takes care of your needs. This will set you free from your anxious fretting over what is and what might be.