Anxiety seems to be in the air all around us. I was watching the news last night and anxiety, depression, and feelings of loneliness are on the rise not only here in the United States, but around the world. In the aftermath of COVID19, many are struggling with mental health issues.
I’m no stranger to anxiety. I’ve shared before that it has been a battle for me. However, I have learned to respond to the invitations of Jesus to diminish my anxiety.
As I was reading this past week in the Gospel of Mark, I was reminded that Jesus understands our anxiety and meets our needs along the way. In Mark 6:30-56, we are reminded of 3 invitations that Jesus offers to us in our anxiety.
He Invites Us to Quiet Rest. “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest” (Mark 6:31). The disciples were likely stressed out. We read previously in the chapter that John the Baptist had been beheaded. If you had a friend beheaded, that would certainly contribute to your anxiety. On top of that, the disciples had been busy ministering. When they report to Jesus all they had done, He invites them to experience quiet and rest. This invitation is still open for us today. We live in a noisy world. News reports, Zoom meetings, and the pressure to perform even during the pandemic creates angst in our minds. Jesus invites us to silence. There, as we enjoy His presence in the quiet, we find rest for our souls.
He Invites Us to Remember that Little Is Much in His Kingdom. After the disciples have enjoyed some quiet rest, they are once again surrounded by crowds of hungry people (Mark 6:34-37). We might not be surrounded by people who are hungry for food, but we are surrounded by people who are hungry for hope. As the disciples look at the needs of the people, they feel anxious and overwhelmed. Then Jesus asked them a profound question, “How many loaves do you have?” (Mark 6:38). In other words, what resources are available to you? You know the rest of the story; Jesus takes the 5 loaves and 2 fish – a tiny offering – blesses it, breaks it, and gives it away. There was more than enough to satisfy the need. The truth of this story is profound. When we place little in the hands of Jesus, He multiplies it and provides more than enough. Steve and I have experienced this. Last year, we experienced a job change that resulted in losing half our salary. Did we have some anxiety? You bet. Yet, as we continued to press into Jesus, God has provided in miraculous ways. Friend, here’s what I know: you can trust God’s provision! The same Jesus who took the 5 little loaves and 2 small fish and provided food for thousands, is the same God who can take your little and provide enough to satisfy your needs. Little is much in God’s Kingdom and God delights in surprising you with how He meets your needs.
He Invites Us to Trust that He Is with Us. After the feeding of the 5,000, the disciples get in a boat to go across the lake to head to Bethsaida. Jesus needed time alone with the Father (I love the way Jesus practiced self-care by spending time alone with the Father). Later, a storm blew up and Jesus sees across the lake that the disciples are “straining at the oars” (Mark 6:48). Ah, ever felt like you’re straining and just not getting anywhere? I sure have. Jesus chooses this moment to walk across the water. The disciples see his image in the dark and completely freak out – believing that Jesus is a ghost (Ah, I love the disciples’ irrational fears! I guess they make me more understanding of my own irrational fears!). Jesus speaks comfort to them, reassuring them that it is Him, and then He gets in the boat with them. Here’s the thing: when the waters of life are rough… when you’re straining at the oars… when you feel like you’re not getting anywhere, remember – Jesus is in the boat with you! When the problems of life pile up, I remind myself often, “Jesus is in the boat with me!”
Friend, you may battle anxiety until you die. However, Jesus invites you to learn to enjoy quiet with Him, to remember that He provides for your every need, and to remember that He is in the boat with you.
If you wrestle with anxiety, I recommend reading Psalms for the Anxious Heart. This tiny devotional has been helping many discover the peace that passes understanding.