Are You Encouraging or Obnoxious?
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.
Never stop praying... Whether it’s prayers of thankfulness or prayers of pouring out our anxieties to God; it doesn’t matter – practice constant prayer.
I have been around people who go to church who like to quote bumper stickers more than they do scripture, and it annoys me. Christians who say they are “blessed not stressed,” or “just trusting God” are actually living within their own amount of strength and will power, and their words are not helpful to the Family of God. It’s perfectly ok to admit when we are anxious, sad, lonely, afraid and scared (Read the Psalms, King David admitted it all the time!).
When someone is trying to be helpful to a person in need, it’s important to be considerate of that person’s situation. It is not helpful to make them feel spiritually inferior during their lowest point. However, it is helpful and beneficial for both parties to take the anxious thoughts of the one in need to God together in prayer. James recommends that we pray together with one another so we may be well – in every sense a person can be well! (See James 5:16)
Jesus was stressed. Do we realize this? Think about the description of him in the garden prior to his crucifixion. That is a description of full blown anxiety. Yet what was he doing? Praying constantly.
Then Jesus went with them to the olive grove called Gethsemane, and he said, “Sit here while I go over there to pray.” He took Peter and Zebedee’s two sons, James and John, and he became anguished and distressed. He told them, “My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.” ...Then an angel from heaven appeared and strengthened him. He prayed more fervently, and he was in such agony of spirit that his sweat fell to the ground like great drops of blood.
(From Matthew 26:36-38 and Luke 22:43-45)
Even after angles come down from heaven and minister to Jesus in his grief, his agony remained. How arrogant for anyone to think they have their anxiety licked.
Always be joyful... We have insight from Hebrews 12:2 to Jesus’ thoughts during this time. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. During this time, Jesus was also certain about what was beyond his suffering.
My Father! If it is possible, let this cup of suffering be taken away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine. (Matthew 26:39)
We know what is beyond our suffering as well, and therefore are able to look forward to this in the middle of bad experiences.
For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever! So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever.
(2 Corinthians 4:17-18)
When we have anxiety, telling concerned individuals that we are concentrating on things to be thankful for is way more honest than saying we’re not stressed because we incorrectly assume it’s a sin or sign of weak faith. We ALL most certainly are stressed, and God is not holding that against us. If you are a person on this planet, you are stressed. Saying that you’re not in order to look hyper-spiritual is foolish and it makes room for some kind of spiritual competition between the parties involved.
Why would Peter remind us to cast our cares on the one who cares for us if we weren’t supposed to be troubled by our cares? (See 1 Peter 5:7) We don’t need Christians to behave in an obnoxiously optimistic fashion. We need real people with real needs admitting honestly that they are trying to think of things to be thankful for during their distress. Lying and saying we aren’t stressed might cause others to think that God has abandoned some and favored others, and that is not the case. Life is hard. If Jesus himself was stressed, it is very annoying to be around Christians who claim that they aren’t, for they are fooling themselves and misleading others.
The solution is for us to do what Jesus did. Pray continually, ask others to just sit with you, and consider the joy that awaits all who trust in him. Ask faithful friends to remind you what comes beyond these momentary afflictions that do not seem light at the time. We need help making our thankful lists when we’re down not engage a competition of faith, and that is how we can truly help one another experience real relief.
Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus. (Philippains 4:6-7)
When it’s my turn to comfort someone in their illness, anxiety or low moment, help me be faithful to just sit and be with them, pray with them, and wait patiently and expectantly for YOUR relief. Thank you for showing me firsthand while Rob was sick in the hospital that just thinking about unrelated things to be thankful for miraculously helps an overwhelmed heart. I want to be an encouragement to others not an obnoxious Christian. Thank you for your Son showing us how to deal with our anxiety, and I pray in his name, amen.