DO YOU KNOW WHAT TO DO WHEN PRAYER MAKES ANXIETY WORSE?
- If God doesn’t want something for me, I shouldn’t want it either (Philip Yancey)
- When you’re all alone, in the dark, walking through the valley of the shadow of death, you will also find God in the valley (Brandon Cox)
- Meditating on your anxieties will not lead you to peace (Kevin Halloran)
- Worrying is carrying tomorrow's load with today's strength- carrying two days at once. It is moving into tomorrow ahead of time. Worrying doesn't empty tomorrow of its sorrow, it empties today of its strength (Corrie ten Boom)
- People become attached to their burdens sometimes more than the burdens are attached to them (George Bernard Shaw)
- If we give thanks so that God will bless us in return, our transactional commercialism defeats the purpose. It makes us the creator and God our creature. It puts God under our thumb rather than on our throne (Jim Denison)
TEXT: Mark 5: 21 When Jesus had again crossed over by boat to the other side of the lake, a large crowd gathered around him while he was by the lake. 22 Then one of the synagogue leaders, named Jairus, came, and when he saw Jesus, he fell at his feet. 23 He pleaded earnestly with him, “My little daughter is dying. Please come and put your hands on her so that she will be healed and live.” 24 So Jesus went with him. . . .35 While Jesus was still speaking, some people came from the house of Jairus, the synagogue leader. “Your daughter is dead,” they said. “Why bother the teacher anymore?” 36 Overhearing what they said, Jesus told him, “Don’t be afraid; just believe.”37 He did not let anyone follow him except Peter, James and John the brother of James. 38 When they came to the home of the synagogue leader, Jesus saw a commotion, with people crying and wailing loudly. 39 He went in and said to them, “Why all this commotion and wailing? The child is not dead but asleep.” 40 But they laughed at him. After he put them all out, he took the child’s father and mother and the disciples who were with him, and went in where the child was. 41 He took her by the hand and said to her, “Talitha koum!” (which means “Little girl, I say to you, get up!”). 42 Immediately the girl stood up and began to walk around (she was twelve years old). At this they were completely astonished. 43 He gave strict orders not to let anyone know about this, and told them to give her something to eat.
Jairus, a Synagogue ruler, coming to Jesus when his child was seemingly past all hope of recovery must have been his last hope. How relieving it must have been to have Jesus listen to him. That ray of hope was quashed however, while still in the presence of Jesus, actually walking with him. What Jairus feared, had already taken place- ‘Your daughter is dead,” they said. “Why bother the teacher anymore? Think of how the hope that had built up, was crushed. What do you do, when you are not only in the presence of Jesus but in conversation with him, then, what you feared most just happens. Death of a loved one as happened in Jairus’ case, loss of a job or trade opportunity, cutting off chances of binding deteriorating relationships, and so on. Martha and her sister Mary (John 11) had a similar experience, when they sent for their friend Jesus, whom they knew could reverse the imminent death of their brother, but he took his time and their brother, Lazarus, died and was buried. Both sisters seem to have been so disappointed that they were unable to hide their disappointment. “Lord,” Martha said to Jesus, “if you had been here, my brother would not have died. 22 But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.”; When Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” Jesus' speed was to blame for the misfortune. When the discouraging trends of the present drive us on our knees, and we have the fear that the change desired may not happen and the worst could happen, what does one do?
WHAT TO DO WHEN THE WORST HAPPENS WHILE IN JESUS’ PRESENCE
When situations seem out of control, there is only one place to find rest, in Jesus. In prayer, we focus our mind on what Jesus says, surrender the fears to God and replace them with peace.
Be honest with yourself – We all have a certain amount of anxiety that our inmost longings may not be met and our nightmares may actually come true. Those feelings of concern should be grasped and directed instead of having the feelings direct us. The pain one is not willing to face and transform, turns into anger which is then transmitted to others. Job was honest with himself when the hard reality was all he had. ‘Job got up and tore his robe and shaved his head. Then he fell to the ground in worship’ (Job 1:20). Remember the real apprehension is whether God is enough even if one is thrown into the furnace or lion’s den which are both involuntary death sentences. What a person chooses to see in the mind becomes a ray of hope.
Remain on God’s side however hard the reality is – When one goes to God, there is an expectation of a better outcome. Whether prayer can ease anxiety depends on the personality of God one believes in. Anxiety can be described as a thin stream of fear trickling through the mind. If encouraged, it cuts a channel into which all other thoughts are drained. To the people whose view of God is one who is angry, vengeful and difficult to please, prayer tends to increase their anxiety. To go to God in prayer while deep down you view Him as unresponsive and not fully in charge can lead to anxiety related disorders. Having knowledge of God, whose nature is love, gives one secure attachment to Him. ‘For the Lord is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations’ (Psalm 100:5). To know the Sovereign, loving God means that in the face of fear, one remains anchored in the Lord, not because of what one can control, but because God is in control. Jairus, the ruler of the Synagogue, is likely to have known that truth because he remained with Jesus in spite of the disturbing news from home.
Listen to Jesus –While bad news increases in our interconnected world, it is more severe when it is personal. Jairus, who had gone to Jesus because of the worsening and unrelenting condition of his only daughter, was told that she was gone. When what was feared, prayed and fasted about does not show signs of improving, instead it is getting worse, what do you do? The voice that has been whispering doubt becomes louder. Jairus had a choice to join the mourners who were doing what was best considering to them the girl had died, but Jairus choice was to keep in step with Jesus. Jesus' word to Jairus was, ‘Don’t be afraid; just believe’. That is the message to anyone who wonders whether there is a need to keep hope alive anymore. Jesus' message is so important because one’s life normally moves toward their most dominating thoughts. Jairus was caught in a situation where the loving community support of mourners was amused by Jesus saying the girl was not dead but asleep. He kept with Jesus and followed him which made him not look so wise before the mourners. It is when what was feared becomes a reality that you look like you actually were trusting in a world of your own making, and not the God who is sovereign over it all. That is the time to remain where Jesus is, and refuse to listen to self, peers, relatives , who mean well, but do not have ability to raise the dead.
Relinquish expectations of entitlement and allow God to be God – Shadrack, Misheck and Abednego did. ‘If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us[c] from Your Majesty’s hand. 18 But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.”(Daniel 3:17-18). That is what Job did when his fears became a reality. He said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised.” (Job 1:21). Jairus could have claimed that as a religious leader, he had a right to have his daughter healed. He seems to have patiently waited on Jesus who got distracted by the crowd that included the woman with an issue of blood. The situation was hopeless and Jairus’ only hope was in Jesus Christ. Like the hymn writer said, ‘Nothing in my hand I bring, simply to Thy Cross I cling’ should be the attitude of anyone whose situation seems to have gotten beyond hope.
It is not possible to explain the anxiety that arises when those who know Jesus as Lord to whom nothing is impossible, run to him in their hour of need, and are assured that He has heard, only to have a situation they were praying for worsen. It is possible for the desperate heart to be tempted to doubt His love and care which can either increase stress levels or determine to remain where Jesus is. That is what Jairus did. To choose to seek remedy elsewhere is to allow the enemy to come in to steal, kill, and destroy (John 10:10). It is a severe test when one has experiences of being rejected, unanswered or otherwise unsuccessful at the throne of mercy. It is disturbing and debilitating and can lead to more frequent and severe symptoms of anxiety-related disorders. The real danger is that in a state of anxiety one sees a more unreliable God because the person is insecure. Mattie Jackson Selecman who lost her husband before their first wedding anniversary says, ‘If we believe in an almighty, all-powerful God, which I do, we are selling ourselves short and underestimating His divine nature when we don't pray bold prayers for healing. But if we don't couple His ability to answer our prayers with His authority to choose how He will do so, we diminish who He is as Lord and are left, at best, disappointed and at worst, determined He can't be as good as He says He is.’ ( Lemons on Friday: Trusting God Through My Greatest Heartbreak, 2021). The challenge of continuing to believe for a miracle when all indications are that it is not forthcoming is real. If your need has been communicated to Jesus, refuse the temptation of having a transactional relationship that treats God's word and power as instruments to be used for our purposes. To pray so that God will meet our needs or worship on Sunday so God will bless us on Monday or read the Bible so its insights will help us succeed in life is a transactional relationship that does not result in people being astonished at who God is. Like Jairus, keep in step with Jesus once you have made your concern known to Him. The pressure to succumb to the numbing paralysis of anxious thinking and self-indulgent fretting should be rejected as one walks through the situations in life that induce fear. How are you making your emotions not slave to your circumstances and freeing them to remain in step with Christ?
‘Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus’ (Philippians 4:6-7)