It's a new year again. A few turns of the calendar ago I wrote about "Living logically." This January I wish to venture a few words on living consciously.
God loves me. That is good doctrine, and I subscribe to it. I would affix my signature to a Christian organization's statement of faith that has "God loves me" as one of its tenets. I have subscribed for decades-and been a wreck. What is the problem?
The problem is that I have spent very few moments of my life conscious of God loving me. A doctrine not actively believed in is as about as useful as an unplugged lamp. Christianity that is not conscious is a drag: We may get to heaven all right, but it will be a miserable trip. Jesus traveled light because He was doggedly "mindful of God" (1 Peter 2:19), committing everything they threw at Him into His Father's hands (v. 23).
Here is a human example to illustrate how profoundly the "consciousness" factor affects us: A husband and wife part in the morning for their respective jobs. That woman who is mindful throughout the day that a man out there loves her has a spring in her step. Everything that happens is colored by that love: Minor irritations are less irritating; insults may sting but not destroy; she has a generous spirit as the natural issue of substantial internal reserves.
In response to my "Quit worrying" essay (Nov. 5, 2011) I heard from a man about his own liberation from anxiety. Pastor Dick Robinson said that in the mind of the chronic worrier a constant background signal, flashing once a second, says "I must be in control, I must be in control." You might think it is "natural," but no: The mind under that kind of servitude is a mind that has at some point handed authority to the Enemy to set up shop.
How so? At some point a fear or discomfort led the child to make a decision to take control of his own life. That was all the invitation Satan needed to move in (just like in Eden). Authority is ceded, not stolen. That's Romans 6:16: "Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness?" Did we think God was kidding?
All of which would be just one more useless "neat insight" unless there is a way out. Praise God there is! Not a program on stress management. Not a lobotomy. But the Lord's own example to follow: "For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in His steps" (1 Peter 2:21).
By following Christ's example we enter into the center of His will. It is His own declared will that we be free of anxiety-dumping that lifelong gunnysack we had come to think of as part of our anatomy. We need to ask God three questions: "Lord, are You in control of the universe or aren't You?" "Lord, do You really love me?" "Lord, will You take care of me?"
If you, like me, have put more thought into your holiday dinners than into addressing dogged sin issues, the next part of the prescription may strike you as hokey or legalistic or a faddish technique. Please consider that a lifetime of freedom may be well worth an hour of your time: Go into your room, shut the door, and confess that you have taken control of your life and forgotten that God is in control. Be specific, naming times you can remember. Renounce the Enemy. Ask for forgiveness. Verbally receive forgiveness.
Picture God's hands cupped and extended to you-like the Allstate insurance logo, Pastor Dick Robinson says. Put everything you have been worrying about into His hands-your kids, your mother-in-law, your regrets, your thinning hair. Release it all to God. He loves you and will take care of you. Then swap stressing for thanksgiving all day long (Philippians 4:6).
Go out and have a different kind of new year.