Yesterday I discussed whether the making of resolutions was even right. Today I will try to show how the concept of resolution-making (basically the biblically mandated deciding to “put off” something or “put on” something) applies beyond the more obvious bugbears of smoking, overeating, drinking, and chronic tardiness, and to more internal frontiers.
If you have had success in the areas of smoking, overeating, drinking, and chronic tardiness, you may find that you still have a problem with anxiety. You may be thinking that you simply have to put up with that one because it is more internal and therefore more intractable, and that you need to wait passively till God sees fit to change you. You may have been told that in church.
But did God come to help us with outward behaviors only? Did he say we have to apply cooperative effort to stop swearing like a sailor but not to stop being anxious? Are we to expect the eradication of outward and visible strongholds only, or may we also have confidence regarding the putting to death of deep inner sins like anxiety?
“He comes to make his blessings flow far as the curse is found,” right? Can we put the highest construction on that Christmas carol’s declaration and take it to mean not only a geographical range but also a personality range? How far is “the curse found,” after all? It is found not only in foul language, but also in private fear?
If I can make a New Year’s resolution to stop sleeping with my boyfriend, I don’t see why I can’t make a New Year’s resolution to stop being anxious. I have heard the sentiment in Christian circles that even if we get rid of some of the external sins, we will always have the unholy internal dispositions until we die and get cleaned up in the blink of an eye. But why? Where in Scripture does it say that Christ’s grace is for external and not internal sins?
Let me get to the point: Is it possible to choose joy? May I go forth from this first day of the new year and decide to put off anxiety and choose joy? Or are we saying that we have a cooperative part in putting to death foul language, but have no cooperative part in putting to death anxiety?
When I look at my own existential experience, I see that anxiety is actually chosen. A person may have coddled anxiety for so many years that he will swear to me that it is not a choice but just the way he is, and that he can do nothing about it. But it was an epiphany to me that when I am full of anxiety, I have chosen to be anxious. This raises the obvious question: Why would anyone in his right mind choose anxiety over joy?
SAFETY. You heard me. Self-examination reveals to me that for years I chose anxiety over joy because in some perverse way it feels safer to keep returning to what I know than to venture out on Christ’s invitation and command to abandon anxiety and choose joy. This is the dog returning to his vomit: It makes no sense to keep going back to what has always made you sick, but it’s what you know.
If you are an anxious person—if anxiousness is such a well-worn rut in you that it just feels like part of your personality—try taking Jesus at His word and choosing trust over anxiousness. Start with Matthew Chapter 6 and read it for once as a doable command rather than an untouchable ideal. The grace is waiting.